It’s disheartening when injured Iowans come into my office and they are either past the deadline for filing a workers’ compensation claim or they have already settled their work comp case and are unhappy with the result.
If you have truly settled your workers’ compensation claim, it’s very difficult to “un-do.” But often, injured workers think they have settled their claims when they really haven’t. Here are a few examples of how this could occur.
Sometimes, the insurance company has merely paid you what you are initially owed in permanent disability benefits based on an impairment rating assigned by a doctor. When you get a lump sum check from the insurance company, or the insurance company tells you that it’s done making payments to you, it may seem like that is all you are owed—but that is very rarely the case.
The workers’ compensation insurance company will typically pay the minimum of what is owed and hope the insured worker “goes away.” They aren’t exactly up front about your right to seek additional compensation because that will mean more money out of their pocket. Don’t assume that because the insurance company is done paying you that your case is “settled.” Settling an Iowa workmans’ comp case is much more complex than accepting voluntary payments.
When injured workers call and say their case is settled, I typically ask them, “Did the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner approve your settlement?” If the answer is “no,” then the case probably isn’t settled.
In order to officially settle a case, certain settlement paperwork must be signed by the injured worker and then submitted to the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner for approval. Be careful though – even if this formal step hasn’t been accomplished, you should not to agree to anything verbally, through email, or other written communication that can be construed as an agreement to settle your case.
Even where no formal documents are submitted to the commissioner, the insurance company may argue it had reached an agreement with you based on things you said or wrote and try to enforce that settlement in front of a judge.
There are different kinds of settlements in Iowa’s workers’ compensation law. Some settlements close the right to any future medical and cash benefits forever. A different type of settlement keeps the medical and cash benefits open. Some settlements offer a combination of the two.
How you settle your case dictates what rights you have to work comp benefits in the future. For example, if you left your claim open, you may be able to “reopen” your claim if either your physical or your financial condition has worsened due to your work injury. This is known as a “review re-opening” claim, and you will likely need the help of an experienced Iowa workers’ compensation attorney for this type of claim.
If you aren’t sure whether you settled your workers’ compensation case, or what kind of settlement you have, call RSH Legal today at 1-800-433-0283.
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