Like other workplace injuries, a clavicle fracture, or broken collarbone, as most people call it, qualifies for benefits under Iowa’s workers’ compensation laws. Workers should receive the time off necessary for the injury to heal before returning to work, and workers’ comp will pay for any medical treatment necessary to care for the injury.
Overview of Clavicle Fractures
Clavicle fractures often happen from trauma. For example, a worker can fall hard on his or her shoulder or an object can fall onto an outstretched arm, resulting in a fractured clavicle. Workers usually know immediately that their collarbone is broken. Symptoms of the fracture, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), include pain, sagging shoulder, inability to lift the arm, a grinding sound when lifting the arm, swelling and a bump forming over the break.
These fractures are often treated non-surgically. The shoulder is wrapped and/or the arm placed in a shoulder sling, and the patient may receive medication to treat the pain. With time, the collarbone will heal. Physical therapy can begin after the bone begins to heal to build up strength in the arm. The wrap or sling should induce the bone to rejoin in correct alignment. A "malunion" of the two ends is a complication that may require surgery.
Severe cases of clavicle fractures, like when the bone protrudes through the skin (compound fracture), may require surgery. Screws and plates are inserted above the bone to hold the bone in its natural position as it heals.
Regardless of whether surgery is necessary, it can take three months or more to return to normal activities. Recovery depends on the patient as well as the severity of the fracture, and patients should discuss this with their doctors.
Workers’ Comp Benefits after Fractured Clavicles
Workers compensation provides disability, medical benefits and physical therapy coverage for injuries that are the result of a work accident or work condition. Medical benefits are available for as long as needed to treat the injury.
Disability checks are set at 80 percent of the employee's average weekly spendable earnings for temporary total, permanent partial and permanent total disability. At some point during the recovery, the doctor may determine that a worker can return to "light-duty" work with restrictions on the amount of weight he or she can lift and activities he or she can perform. Workers’ compensation pays two-third of the difference between the wage a worker receives on light duty and his or her pre-injury wage.
Workers should learn more about the types of disability benefits to get a better idea of the type benefits to which they are entitled.
Disputes About the Ability to Return to Work
A worker may be told by his or her doctor to return to work before the worker feels ready. If a worker feels rushed in returning to work or feels he or she cannot perform the light duties assigned, then the worker can file a petition for alternative medical treatment with the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner (IWCC). Medical records, doctor's testimony and the worker's testimony can help prove that it's too soon for the employee to return to work. Workers in this situation may hire an attorney to represent their interests.
The attorneys at Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines are strong advocates for their injured clients. You can contact our office at (888) 435-9886 or contact us via our online form to schedule a consultation with a lawyer at our firm.