How Does an Iowa Workers’ Compensation Claim Work?

This section will present an overview of how Iowa Work Comp claims move forward.

Step 1: The injury

Most injuries that occur while you are on the job qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. If you have any questions or concerns about whether your injury entitles you to receive work comp benefits, please be sure to call our office.

Many work comp injuries are the result of a single incident such as a fall or being struck by an object. These types of injuries are the easiest to identify as a work comp injury.

In other cases the injury develops gradually over time as a result of cumulative trauma or repetitive stress. If the cumulative trauma or repetitive stress is from your job, then you are also entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Finally, many on-the-job injuries are the result of an aggravation of a preexisting physical problem. Under Iowa law if your employment substantially aggravates a preexisting condition you are still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Step 2: Time limits that must be followed

Iowa law requires that you give your employer notice of any workers’ compensation injuries within 90 days of the date of injury. Figuring out what qualifies as the date of injury can be particularly difficult in cases involving cumulative trauma, repetitive stress or aggravations of preexisting conditions.

Additionally, while verbally telling your employer about a work injury can satisfy the notice requirement, it is best to provide written notice of the injury. Please contact our office if you have any questions or concerns about satisfying the requirements of providing notice of your injury.

In addition to the initial notice requirements, Iowa law also requires that you file a petition for any workers’ compensation injuries within an additional time limit. A petition is the legal document that is filed with the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner and which starts the work comp litigation process. If you were never paid weekly benefits for your injury, then the workers’ compensation petition must be filed within two years of the date of injury.

If you were paid weekly benefits for your injury, then the work comp petition must be filed within three years of the last date of payment of weekly benefits to you.

In cases involving injuries to multiple body parts the employer sometimes accepts some of the injuries, but denies other injuries. In such a situation the employer may pay you weekly benefits, but those weekly benefits only apply to the accepted injuries. Therefore, you can end up with a situation in which the petition time limit for your rejected injuries is two years from the date of injury, and the time limit for your accepted injuries is much longer and is three years from the last date of payments. In this “mixed” situation you need to obtain a lawyer in time to comply with the shorter of the two time limits.

Step 3: Rejected claims

The work comp insurance company may reject your claim for any number of reasons. If the insurance company rejects your claim, that does not rule out the possibility that you are actually entitled to receive benefits. However, you will have to hire a lawyer to file a petition on your behalf. Our lawyers regularly analyze rejected claims and come to the conclusion that the rejection was improper. In those situations, we frequently are able to obtain medical care and money for our injured clients.

Step 4: Accepted Claims

In other situations the work comp insurance company will accept your claim. If a work comp insurance company accepts your claim it should take the following steps.

The first step is that the work comp insurance company should provide medical care for your injuries.

Second, if you have to be completely off work you should be paid healing period benefits. If your injuries allow you to work, but with reduced earnings, then the work comp insurance company should pay you temporary partial disability benefits.

When your condition has reached maximum medical improvement the workers’ compensation insurance company should obtain an impairment rating concerning your injuries. The insurance company should then pay you voluntary permanent partial disability benefits based on that impairment rating.

If the insurance company does not take any of these steps you should contact a lawyer.

After the insurance company has told you how much voluntary permanent partial disability benefits it will pay, that is a good time to contact our law firm to determine whether you are actually entitled to additional permanent partial disability benefits beyond what the insurance company has agreed to pay you. Our law firm represents many clients where the insurance company has agreed to pay some amount of permanent partial disability benefits. We handle those types of cases by not taking any attorney fees out of the benefits that the insurance company has promised to pay. We only receive attorney fees out of whatever additional benefits we can obtain for our clients.

Step 5: Litigation leading to settlement or trial

We prepare the case for each one of our clients to have it ready to go to trial. In most of our cases we hire expert physicians to provide medical opinions concerning causation, the extent of injuries, and the necessary work restrictions. In many cases we also hire vocational experts to give an analysis of the significance of the injury on our client’s ability to work.

The litigation process generally involves written discovery between the parties. We also prepare our clients for depositions (formal interviews) by the defense lawyers and attend the depositions with our clients.

Our litigation approach does allow us to settle many cases on good terms. However, if we are not able to obtain a settlement that fairly compensates our clients, we take the case to trial and through as many appeal stages as necessary.

Please contact our law firm if you have any questions about how Iowa workers’ compensation claim work, or any questions about your specific case.