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Iowa Workers’ Compensation Claims: Determining How Much a Shoulder Injury Is Worth

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Posted by Emily Anderson

Image of an old woman with a hurt collar bone

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 This article’s information may be out of date.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.

State law regarding Iowa workers’ compensation claims is complex. Injured workers often need an attorney that specializes in work comp claims to get the settlement they deserve. For instance, in Iowa, there are three types of work comp benefits—medical benefits, temporary disability benefits to help replace your wages while you are healing from a work injury, and permanent disability benefits if you have a permanent injury.

Industrial Disability and Your Ability to Earn

A shoulder injury is considered an injury to the “body as a whole.” How much you receive for a body as a whole injury depends on your level of industrial disability resulting from the work injury—in other words, what the work injury has done to your ability to earn.

If you have a temporary flare up, you may only be entitled to medical care benefits and temporary benefits if you are off work or on reduced hours. If you have a permanent injury, then you are entitled to permanent disability benefits equal to your industrial disability.

Body as a Whole Injuries Are Subjective

An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate the Iowa workers’ compensation claims system to determine a realistic settlement amount. How much you are entitled to for a body as a whole injury, like a shoulder injury, is not a black or white calculation. Instead, it involves weighing several different factors to determine your industrial disability. Some of these factors include:

  • Your functional impairment rating. This is a rating calculated by a doctor. It is discussed more below.
  • Your permanent restrictions. These restrictions are assigned by a doctor or physical therapist after a functional capacity evaluation. The evaluation checks if you are limited in how much you can lift, push, pull or how often you can sit, stand, walk, etc.
  • Your work history. What kind of work have you done in the past? Can you still do that work now?
  • Your educational and training background. This considers what your education and training allow you to do for work. If you don’t have a certain type of education, do you have the capability to acquire new skills?
  • Whether you were able to get back to work after your injury. Could you return to the same employer? Was the work accommodated work or your regular job?
  • What you are earning now, versus before the work injury.
  • Your age.
  • Your motivation to find work. If you weren’t able to return to your old job, have you done an aggressive, documented job search to find other work? Are you motivated to work, or can you not find work because you don’t want to?
  • Your workers’ compensation weekly rate of pay. This rate is based on the average of what you were making leading up to your injury.

Functional Impairment Rating versus Industrial Disability

While they both come in the form of a percentage, your industrial disability and your functional impairment rating are two very different things.

functional impairment rating measures the loss of function to a particular body part. Doctors use a big green book called the AMA Guides to Impairment to help them assign a functional impairment rating.

An industrial disability represents the loss of your ability to earn due to a work injury. All of the bullet points above involve determining your overall industrial disability. A functional impairment rating is only one piece of the puzzle in determining the percentage of industrial disability for the Iowa workers’ compensation claims process.

The more limited you are in terms of your ability to work after a work injury, the higher the industrial disability.

Insurance Companies Use Shady Tactics to Only Pay for Functional Impairment

Unfortunately, it’s all too common for work comp insurance companies to try to pay an injured worker only the functional impairment rating instead of the overall industrial disability. An Iowa workers’ compensation attorney will work to help you avoid this and get the settlement you deserve.

Once your industrial disability percentage is determined, it is multiplied by 500 weeks. That total is how much you are entitled to in weekly benefits. For example, if it is determined you have sustained a 50% industrial disability, you would be entitled to 250 weeks of benefits under the Iowa workers’ compensation claims system.

If you are totally disabled – meaning you can no longer work due to a work injury – you are entitled to lifetime permanent disability benefits. Again, industrial disability is not black and white. It involves gathering the right evidence to support your claim for industrial disability.

Shoulder Injuries and Disability

In general, shoulder injuries rate low. This means that the way the AMA Guides to Impairment instructs doctors to rate the shoulder injury typically results in a lower impairment rating. If you’ve received a shoulder impairment rating, you’ve probably thought to yourself, “That number looks low, given the amount of pain and loss of function I still have.”

That’s probably true—but it’s okay. The other factors that go in to determining industrial disability are more telling than your impairment rating—especially your permanent physical restrictions, whether you’ve returned to work, and if you haven’t, whether you’ve done a documented job search for other work.

Because the amount of compensation you are owed for a permanent shoulder injury is not a black or white proposition, know that the insurance company will try to minimize how much it pays you for your injury. Learn more about work comp claims by requesting our free Law Guide to Iowa Workers Compensation Claims. We also recommend getting an experienced Iowa workers’ compensation attorney on your side. Call us today at 1-319-774-1542 to make sure you are getting fair compensation for your injury.

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