Work Injury FAQs

Basic Answers to Work Injury Legal Questions

Workers’ compensation is the type of insurance that typically covers workers who are injured while doing work for their employer. Most states require employers to carry workers’ compensation coverage if they have employees. 

Workers’ compensation benefits essentially include payment of your medical bills (including prescriptions and mileage), payment of benefits if you are off work for a period of time, compensation for any permanency, and other benefits particular to certain situations.

For effective legal representation regarding your workers’ compensation claim, contact Valentine Law Office, P.C. today. Count on our 25 years of legal experience to represent your best interests.

Responses to Work Injury FAQs

My employer told me that I had to report my injury within 24 hours or it wouldn’t be covered by workers’ comp. Is that right?
Under Iowa law, you have 90 days from the date of your injury to report it to your employer. Regardless of what your employer tells you or what you read in your employee handbook, you have 90 days. That does not mean you should wait to report any injury. If you believe you have sustained a work injury, the best time to report it is right away. Fill out a written incident report and give it to your employer. Keep a copy of the report for yourself.

If I know I was hurt on the job, why is the insurance company denying my workers’ compensation claim?
As is true with most disputes, there are two sides to every story. The insurance company is entitled to investigate your claim and decide whether they will accept or deny it. If it is determined by a deputy commissioner (that is the title given to the judge who hears your case) that the insurance company had no good reason for denying your claim, you will be entitled to penalty benefits.

I’ve heard that, at some point, I’ll get a rating from a doctor. What is a rating? And how does the doctor figure out what the rating should be?
A rating is a number that the doctor comes up with to indicate the level of physical impairment you sustained as a result of your work injury. The doctor generally determines your rating when he or she decides that your condition is stable and not likely to change. 

Doctors calculate ratings in a variety of ways. Realize that once the company doctor provides a rating, you are entitled to select a doctor of your own choice to provide another rating.

Am I going to be under surveillance by the insurance company or my employer? 
Some insurance companies use surveillance frequently. Other companies rarely use it. Though it’s certainly an invasion, they are entitled to secretly watch you in public. If you were legitimately hurt at work and live within the restrictions provided to you by the doctor, it doesn’t matter because they won’t see you doing anything you can’t or shouldn’t do.

The insurance company wants me to sign a waiver to release all my medical records. Do I have to do that?
Under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation System, once you claim a work injury, the insurance company is entitled to all of your medical records since birth. Use extreme caution when signing any form provided by the insurance company. Read the form in its entirety to be sure you are only signing a medical waiver and not closing your claim. 

If you have doubts about signing any form, contact legal counsel immediately.

How does a prior injury affect my current workers’ comp claim?
It depends. Your physical condition before your work injury certainly is relevant to your current claim. If you were hurt at work while performing your job duties, you have a legitimate workers’ comp claim and no prior injury is going to change that. 

If you have sustained an injury in the past, particularly to the same area as your current injury, be sure to talk about the past injury in detail with your attorney. After reviewing all the medical records, your attorney will be able to give you a better idea of what, if any, impact a previous injury will have on your claim.

How come the weekly benefits checks I’m getting are so much less than my usual paycheck? Don’t they have to pay me my full wage while I’m off work?
In a word, no! Workers’ compensation benefits provide a maximum of 80% of your usual wages. The rate at which your benefits are paid is based upon the wages you earned before your injury. Accordingly, any raises you receive after your injury are not considered in calculating your benefits.

When should the insurance company start paying me benefits?
Benefits are due if a work injury has kept you off work for 4 days or more.

The insurance company sends my benefit check to my employer, which forces me to drive to my employer’s place of business to pick up my check. Why can’t they just mail the check to me directly?
Upon your request, the insurance company should agree to send the benefit check directly to you. If they refuse to do so, contact your attorney and discuss the situation with them.

Is the insurance company supposed to pay my medical bills related to my work injury?
As long as you are getting treatment from the “authorized treating doctor,” all bills should be covered. The “authorized treating doctor” is the company doctor, the doctor that the employer tells you to go see, the doctor that you get approval from your employer to go see, or any doctor that the company doctor refers you to. 

If you go to the doctor of your choice without getting proper approval, you may end up being responsible for the cost of that treatment.

The doctor has me off work and I’m not receiving any workers’ comp benefits. I need money to pay my bills. What do I do?
This situation is faced by lots of injured workers. Unfortunately, most insurance companies don’t care about your credit rating. If any of your bills are medical bills related to your work injury, bring them to the attention of your attorney immediately. 

Since no two situations are exactly the same, discuss the options that may be available to you with your attorney.

The insurance company has denied my claim, and I need to see a doctor. I don’t have health insurance or any money to pay the doctor. What should I do?
It is critical to your health to get the medical treatment that you need. It is also important to your workers’ comp case to have a medical record that supports your claim. You need to make it your top priority to get medical care if you need it.

Do I get paid for the time I miss from work to see the doctor?
Yes. Iowa law provides that if you have returned to work, and are required to leave work for an appointment with the authorized doctor, you are entitled to your regular wage for the time missed, minus any deductions normally taken from your paycheck.

I received notice that my medical bills are being sent to a collection agency. What do I do?
You need to get any bills related to your work injury to your attorney as soon as you receive them. We will then be in contact with the provider to let them know that the bill is in dispute with the workers’ comp carrier. 

Medical bills in dispute are not subject to collection. Unfortunately, bills unrelated to your work injury are not similarly protected.

I don’t like the company doctor. Can I see someone else?
You cannot have your care transferred to another doctor just because you don’t like the company doctor. However, if the company doctor is over 50 miles away or other treatment is indicated, you may be successful in getting your care transferred. 

That decision is something that you should discuss with your attorney. If anything particularly disturbing occurs between you and the company doctor, you should let your attorney know what happened as soon as possible.

Why do I have to go to the doctor that the insurance company picks? Won’t that doctor be favorable to the insurance company?
Iowa law says that since the insurance company is paying for it, they get to pick your doctors. It is common for us to see the same insurance company using the same doctors for their opinions. Don’t let that concern you too much. 

If specific concerns come up regarding the treatment you are receiving from the authorized doctor, be sure to address them with your attorney.

Does the case manager or nurse hired by the insurance company to monitor my case have the right to attend my doctor’s appointments with me? 
No. In fact, you should not let anyone associated with the insurance company attend your actual appointment with the doctor. The nurse may talk with the doctor before or after your appointment, but should remain outside the room during your actual appointment.

The doctor released me to go back to work but I know I won’t be able to do my old job. Should I go back to work?
If the doctor releases you to work without restrictions, you need to go back to work and attempt your old job. 

If your restrictions won’t let you do your old job, ask your employer if there is other work available that would fit your restrictions. 

If the doctor doesn’t give you any restrictions, but you know your injury will prevent you from doing your job, make sure the doctor understands what it is that you do. Sometimes by describing your work activities, the doctor becomes aware of things that would be harmful to you and adjusts the restrictions accordingly. 

Remember that any restrictions you receive from the doctor are not just work restrictions, but are life restrictions. If you can’t lift more than 10 pounds at work, you should not be lifting more than 10 pounds at home.

If my doctor has released me to go back to work, should I go back? Won’t that hurt my workers’ compensation claim?
Once the doctor releases you to return to work, you should do so. If the doctor gives you any restrictions, you should make sure that you work within the restrictions provided. 

Returning to work will not hurt your workers’ compensation case. To the contrary, if you don’t return to work, it will look like you don’t want to work and that is the worst thing you can do — not only for you personally but also for your workers’ compensation claim.

I’m looking for a new job. Can prospective employers ask me about my workers’ compensation injury?
It is illegal for a prospective employer to ask you about work injuries in the interview process. However, once a conditional offer of employment is made, an employer can require you to pass a physical. During the course of the physical examination, it is appropriate for the doctor to inquire about past injuries.

I’m worried that my employer will make my life miserable when I go back to work. Can my employer do that?
Unfortunately, Iowa law does not require your employer to be nice to you. However, evidence of your employer treating you differently due to your work injury would be relevant at the time of your workers’ compensation hearing.

My doctor has released me back to work with restrictions. I am doing my best to work within those restrictions, but my employer often asks me to do things that are outside of my restrictions. Should I say anything?
Yes. When your employer asks you to do something that goes beyond your restrictions, you need to let them know that what they are asking you to do is against the doctor’s orders. If your employer persists in violating your restrictions, call us at 515-955-5544 so that we can address any problems with your doctor.

I have been released back to work, but I am in pain every day while working. Should I tell the doctor that I need to be off work because of my pain?
Generally, it’s not a good idea to tell the doctor that you want to be taken off work. You do need to tell your doctor about any pain you are experiencing. Be specific. 

If certain duties at work seem to cause greater pain, make sure to tell the doctor that. Keep in mind that it is common to experience some pain, especially upon first returning to work. The important thing is to let your doctor know what hurts and what causes it to hurt.

If I quit my job to work somewhere else, will that mess up my workers’ comp claim?
If you were injured at work while performing your job, you have a workers’ compensation claim. Nothing will change that. A change in jobs may affect the value of your workers’ comp case depending on the reason for the change:
  • Are you changing jobs due to your restrictions? 
  • Because of the way your employer is treating you? 
  • For better pay? 
If you are considering a change in jobs, you should call your attorney to discuss how the change you are considering may impact your workers’ comp claim.

I’m afraid of losing my job if I file a workers’ compensation claim. Can I be fired for filing a workers’ comp claim?
It is unlawful for your employer to fire you for exercising your right to pursue a workers’ comp claim. Unfortunately, just because it is unlawful does not mean it does not happen. If you feel you have been terminated due to your workers’ comp claim, call your attorney to discuss the matter further.
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Valentine Law Office, P.C.
809 Central Avenue, Suite 415
Fort Dodge, IA 50501
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