Since 1997, I have represented hundreds of injured workers in Iowa and unfortunately many have had me review there case after they reached an agreement with the insurance company. If you decide to not have a qualified Iowa Workers’ Compensation lawyer review your case there are at least 5 risks you are facing and they include:
1. Letting the time limits expire. Iowa’s workers compensation laws have specific legal requirements for a worker to provide notice to the employer of the work injury (usually it is 90 days from the date of when the injured worker knew or should have known that they sustained a work related injury subject to some exceptions). Other time limits commonly referred to as statutes of limitations also apply. These set time limits for either having a petition on file with the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner or having your case settled in writing. I always recommend that any worker sustaining a permanent work injury to have their case reviewed by an Iowa work injury lawyer within 18 months of the work injury. For example, sometimes the employer will pay short term disability or weekly wages instead of work comp. benefits which does not extend the statute of limitations. Also, even though you may have received medical care and treatment paid for by your employer or their insurance company this does not mean that the amount of time you have has been extended.
2. You will not be correctly paid for your work injury. As an example, many Iowans do not understand that there is a significant difference between an unscheduled member injury (also known as an industrial disability injury) like an injury to a shoulder, back, neck, brain, etc. and a scheduled member injury like an injury to an foot, leg, arm, hand, eye, etc. Iowa’s workers compensation laws treat these injuries in a very different manner when it comes to payment for permanent disability. An example is an injured work who sustains an injury to their leg and has permanent lifting restrictions of no standing for more than 30 minutes at a time will usually receive much less compensation than an injured worker with a back injury and the same standing restriction. As with most things, there are exceptions such as if the worker previously sustained a scheduled member injury (thereby possibly qualifying for the Iowa Second Injury Fund) or has a medication condition like CRPS- chronic regional pain syndrome that qualifies as an industrial injury.
3. It is possible that you will not receive the full amount of compensation that you should. For example, if you are required to miss work to attend a medical appointment then you should be paid your normal hourly rate while you are off work. Also, it is common for the insurance company not to tell you that you should be paid roundtrip mileage to and from your medical appointments, pharmacy trips, etc. Another common problem is insurance companies paying the wrong weekly rate. If you are unable to work due to your work injury, then you should be paid a weekly check known as TTD. The amount of the check is known as your weekly rate. In our experience in more than 50% of the cases the insurance company pays the incorrect weekly rate. As an example, the insurance adjustor may not include the overtime hours or premium pay such as shift differential. If your injuries are permanent and say you are owed 100 weeks of benefits then even a difference of $25 per week adds up to $2,500.
4. Agreeing to a settlement on the phone with the insurance adjustor or signing settlement documents for the insurance company to send your check for the impairment rating. Some insurance companies will tell you that you must sign settlement documents before they will send you your impairment rating. Iowa law requires the insurance company to pay your impairment rating without signing settlement papers subject to a few exceptions. Before you agree to a settlement on the phone or sign away your case which could cost you thousands of dollars, it makes sense to at least speak with an Iowa work injury lawyer about your case.
5. Along the same lines is just accepting what the insurance company agrees to pay you. It is a common practice for the insurance adjustor to send a letter at the end of medical treatment when the doctors have said they have nothing more to offer (also known as MMI- maximum medical improvement) with an explanation of the benefits they have paid usually broken down between temporary and permanent. Often, they will list the amount of the permanent impairment rating, include a copy of the doctors’ report and a check for permanent benefits (if they have requested a rating and any are owed). The letter will usually explain what additional money they will send. It is a common, but costly practice for injured workers to just accept that what the insurance company says is correct. I have had hundreds of clients meet me with a copy of that letter. Over the years I have obtained millions of dollars for my clients that they would not have received if they had just accepted what the insurance company told them they were owed.
Many Iowans are beginning to realize that if they have sustained a work injury that they need to look-out for themselves as the insurance adjustor is not there to protect them or even tell them the truth. If you would like to learn more about Iowa work injuries including 7 Deadly Mistakes and how to avoid them then request a copy of our book that we offer at no cost because we have seen too many injured workers who did not learn about Iowa’s workers comp. laws until it was too late. Finally, you can learn about Iowa’s Workers’ Comp. laws in the comfort of your own home with no obligation or risk.