As an Iowa Workers' Compensation attorney I hear many common questions from my clients about our sometimes complex workers' compensation laws.
I have provided some frequently asked questions and their answers. Please keep in mind that every case is different and the questions and their answers assume that an Iowa worker has sustained a work related injury.
Q: Is my employer and/or their insurance company responsible for the medical expenses caused by my work injury?
A: Yes. They are responsible for paying for all medical care necessary to treat your work injury. This includes medical care and treatment, whether therapy, surgical, hospital, nursing, diagnostic testing, physical rehabilitation or pain management. Also, you are entitled to be reimbursed at the rate of $.585 per mile effective July 1, 2008, for all mileage you incur going to and from doctors' appointments, physical therapy visits, obtaining prescriptions, etc. However, keep in mind that under Iowa law your employer and/or their insurance company generally have the right to choose your doctors and other medical providers.
Q: Am I entitled to cash payments if I am unable to work?
A: Yes. While you are healing and unable to work, you will receive cash payments to replace your usual earnings. The amount of your payment is based upon your earnings prior to your work injury.
Q: Once I am done treating, if I don't make a full recovery does my case end?
A: No. If your work injury causes a permanent injury (meaning that you are not back to 100%), then you should receive compensation for your disability. The amount owed is determined by the nature of your injury (ie. neck, back, hand, shoulder, etc.), your earnings prior to your work injury, your impairment rating, and other several other factors.
Q: What does it mean to have a permanent impairment rating?
A: This is a number that is assigned to your injury usually based upon the AMA Guides to Permanent Impairment which is a book written by a group of doctors from throughout the country. If you have a scheduled member injury (hand, arm, leg, foot, eye, hearing loss) then generally the impairment rating is the main factor in determining the amount of money you receive for your permanent disability. Whereas, if you sustained an unscheduled memer injury (back, neck, shoulder, brain, mental health, nerve injuries such as CRPS- Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome or RSD- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or respiratory and circulation injuries like occupational asthma or Reynaud's syndrome) then your impairment rating is only one of many factors including your ability to work, lifting and activity restrictions, lost wages, etc. There is a significant difference in the amount of compensation you are suppose to receive between a scheduled member and unscheduled member injury.
Q: If I Do Not Agree with the Company Doctor's Impairment Rating What Can I Do?
A: At some point in your treatment the doctors will say that you will not make further improvement, also known as reaching MMI- maximum medical improvement. Then the doctor should determine what, if any, permanent impairment rating. If you disagree with the impairment rating, under Iowa Code 85.39 you have the right to have an IME- independent medical examination. The IME will be conducted by a doctor that you choose who will provide his/her opinions concerning your permanent impairment rating and restrictions. There are several doctors that I can recommend depending on the nature of your injury.
Q: What is the Second Injury Fund?
A: If you previously sustained a scheduled member injury (arm, hand, leg, knee, foot, eye, etc.even if the injury did not occur at work, and then sustain a scheduled member injury that is work related you may be entitled to industrial disability under the Second Injury Fund Act of Iowa. Please keep in mind that prior medical conditions such as arthritis, carpel tunnel, vision loss, etc. followed by a scheduled member work related injury may qualify you for Second Injury Fund benefits. If you think that you may qualify for the Second Injury Fund, give us a call and we can help you determine if you qualify.
Q: Do all Attorneys who Advertise that They Handle Workers' Compensation cases have the same skills, tools and experience to handle your case?
A: No. Any Iowa attorney can advertise they handle workers' compensation cases even if they have never represented a single injured worker. One thing to look for is if the attorney advertises "practicing primarily in workers' compensation". If the attorney advertises "practicing primarily in workers' compensation" then the attorney completes a minimum of 15 hours of CLE- continuing legal education hours per year involving workers' compensation and spends at least 40% of their time practicing workers' compensation law. Another thing is to ask the attorney for a list of some of the cases they have handled, results they have obtained for their clients and testimonials from former workers' compensation clients to find-out the attorney's track record.
At IowaWorkInjury.com you will find a FREE Book that I offer entitled "Iowa Workers' Compensation- An Insider's Guide to Work Injuries". Why offer a Free Book? Over the past 11 years I have represented hundreds of Iowans injured at work and too many have made mistakes costing them thousands and thousand of dollars. However, quantities are limited.