While every year hundreds of Iowa workers' sustained work related injuries, what is perhaps more tragic is that many of them compound their injuries and make common costly mistakes. The mistakes listed below are based upon our experience and discussions with many judges and other Iowa work injury lawyers.
First and foremost in order to bring a claim, you have to notify your employer. Some employers have policies that require you to notify them within 24 hours, but Iowa law provides that you have up to 90 days of when you knew or should have known that your medical problems were caused by your work. However, it is always best to report your work injury right way, but if for some reason you suspect, but do not realize a condition is work related until many weeks have passed then you still need to report the injury.
As an example, if you are sent to a specialist, he asks you about your job and then tells you that he thinks it is work related, then you need to report that information to your employer right away and request medical care.
In any injury case one of the most important things is your medical records. If you do not bother going to a doctor to seek medical care or treatment then you will have no medical records and probably will not have a case. Workers' compensation cases are very medically driven and after you report your work injury you need to ask for medical care. Generally, your employer and/or their insurance company will send you to their doctor, but you need to go and tell the doctor, the nurses, physical therapists and other people all of the problems you are having due to the work injury. Also, if they deny your claim then you need to seek medical care and treatment on your own.
If your doctors recommend physical therapy and exercises at home, then it is important that you follow through with the treatment. Likewise, if you are going to miss or need to reschedule an appointment please contact your medical provider as soon as you know. Entries in your medical records of "No Show" can damage your case and cost you money. Also, if the insurance company doctors say you are as good as you are going to get, but you are still having problems then your treatment should not end.
You are always free to seek medical care and treatment on your own using your health insurance, Iowa Cares or your own money. Also, keep in mind that Iowa Code Section 85.39 requires the insurance company to pay for a one time second opinion after their doctor has provided you with an impairment rating. It is very important which doctor you select to do your independent medical examination and you should obtain a recommendation from a qualified Iowa workers' compensation lawyer.
If you have sustained a permanent work injury, then often the insurance company will send you a letter saying what they are going to pay you. Usually, this will be the impairment rating only. Note: under almost all circumstances the insurance company should send you a check your impairment rating without requiring you to sign settlement documents before they pay you.
Keep in mind that usually some of the money owed will be paid weekly. It will depend upon how long it has been since you received a weekly workers' compensation check and how many weeks of benefits they owe you. Also, if you have an industrial disability injury (for example a shoulder, back, neck, brain, mental health caused by a physical injury, CRPS, RSD, etc.) then the impairment rating is probably only part of what you are owed.
Also, keep in mind that if you have sustained a scheduled member injury (for example injury to your arm, hand, foot, leg or eye) then you may be owed compensation under the Iowa Second Injury Fund and signing settlement documents can result in that claim being lost.
Before you talk settlement and certainly before you agree to any numbers, you should learn about your rights under the Iowa Workers' Compensation System. If you or a loved one have been hurt at work, we offer a book at no cost, risk or obligation which explains how to avoid the other deadly mistakes and reveals the Iowa Injured Workers Bill of Rights. We offer the book at no cost because since 1997, we have seen firsthand too many injured Iowans make costly avoidable mistakes.