3 Things to Know When You Settle Your Back Injury Workers’ Compensation Claim in Iowa

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Posted by Tim Semelroth

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Attention! Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation laws changed July 1, 2017. This article’s information may be out of date. Visit our Workers’ Compensation Page for more information.

Getting Iowa workers’ compensation benefits for a back injury suffered on the job can be difficult.  Determining the types of benefits you are entitled to can be a challenge.  Add on the fact that your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company may not provide these benefits in a timely manner, or at all, and it’s no wonder most people feel as though they’ll never get the back injury settlement they deserve.

First, let’s discuss why work injuries to the back are complicated to settle in the Iowa workers’ compensation system.

Body as a Whole Injuries and Industrial Disability in the Iowa Work Comp System

There are two types of workers’ compensation injuries in Iowa law: scheduled member injuries and “body as a whole” injuries.  A back injury is known as a “body as a whole” injury.  “Body as a whole” injuries are valued differently in the workers’ compensation system.  To determine how much your back injury has affected your ability to earn, an industrial disability analysis is used.

A variety of different factors go into figuring out how much compensation you are entitled to for a back injury.  These factors include:

  • Your functional impairment rating: a doctor’s rating on how much function you have lost in your back because of your injury.
  • Your permanent restrictions: these restrictions are assigned by a doctor after you are evaluated for any limitations in lifting, pushing, standing, walking, and other physical activities.
  • Your motivation to find work: if you are not able to return to your old job, the analysis will consider whether you have done a thorough job search to find other work. If you are motivated to work, this will be reflected in the analysis.

These are just a few of the factors that go into determining your industrial disability.  As you can see, it’s not a black or white decision.  There are a number of different things about your workers’ compensation claim that can influence this analysis.

Insurance companies also know this, and they will do their best to minimize what they pay you for your back injury.  Most injured workers do not know what they deserve under Iowa law, which means the insurance company can easily offer unfair settlements.

If you settle your case without speaking with a workers’ compensation attorney first, you may receive less compensation for your back injury than you deserve.

You Can Still Receive Iowa Workers’ Compensation Benefits For a Pre-Existing Condition

Another reason work injuries to the back are difficult to get proper compensation for is because of how common a back injury can be.  The insurance company will likely argue that your back pain is a result of a pre-existing condition, not a work injury.

This is where having an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can make a difference. A pre-existing condition does not mean that a worker is not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  Under Iowa law, an injured worker can receive workers’ comp benefits whenever a work activity:

  • Aggravates a back injury
  • Accelerates a back injury
  • Worsens a back condition, or
  • Reveals an underlying or pre-existing back condition.

Your claim very well may be covered.  It depends largely on the medical evidence, especially the treating doctors’ opinions of your injury.  A workers’ compensation attorney can properly question a treating doctor and help you get a fair settlement for your work injury.

Insurance Companies Usually Only Offer to Pay the Impairment Rating for a Body as a Whole Injury

As we discussed before, if you have suffered some permanent disability from your back injury, an industrial disability analysis should be done in order to determine what benefits you are owed.  Often, an employer’s insurance company will attempt to pay you only for your functional impairment rating – which is usually less than what you deserve.

Industrial disability findings often consider much more than just your impairment rating.  The insurance company is lowballing you when it offers a settlement based only on your impairment rating.  An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will do an independent analysis of your claim and make sure the insurance company isn’t short-changing you.

The Iowa workers’ compensation system can be confusing, especially if you suffer a “body as a whole” injury.  Hiring an Iowa workmans’ comp lawyer to help you navigate the system and negotiate a fair settlement is a good idea.  If you have questions about your Iowa workers’ compensation case, contact one of our attorneys at 1-319-774-1542.

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