Are You Settling Your Iowa Workers’ Compensation Claim Too Soon?

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Posted by Emily Anderson

After you’re injured at work in Iowa, navigating the workers’ compensation system can be extremely stressful.  It’s natural to want to get this difficult process over with and move on with your life.  In most cases, you don’t get a second chance to settle your Iowa workers’ compensation claim — so you have to do it right the first time.

It’s important to note that not all work injuries result in a settlement.  If you do not have a permanent work injury, the insurance company may not even approach you about a workers’ compensation settlement.  On the other hand, some work injuries have permanent, lasting effects.  These are the types of injuries that the insurance company wants to settle.  Here are six questions to ask yourself before you settle your Iowa work comp claim:

1. Have you been released from medical care by your doctor?

If you are still being treated by a medical doctor or physical therapist and the insurance company approaches you to settle, resist the urge to accept.  Your injuries need time to heal.  It’s not uncommon for an injured worker to receive temporary relief from a medical procedure – even a surgery – only to have the pain return months down the road.  You need to allow yourself time to heal.

You also need to know how your injury is going to affect your ability to function in the future, because this will impact the value of your settlement.  If you settle before you have a clear picture of what the future holds, you can short-change yourself.

2. Will you need medical care for your work injury in the future?

Many insurance companies try to close out your right to medical care as a part of any settlement.  If you have ongoing medical care needs from your work injury, or you will need care in the future, like another surgery, closing out your right to this care too soon can be risky.

Also, your settlement cannot shift medical costs from the workers’ compensation company to Medicare.  Certain precautions have to be taken when settling a case where you will need additional medical care due to your work injury.  These precautions can include placing money in a special account to cover any future medical care.  If you don’t take these precautions, and you attempt to have Medicare pay bills related to a work injury, Medicare could deny your coverage.

3. Are you back to work for the same employer?

Major changes to Iowa’s workers’ compensation law went into effect on July 1, 2017.  Work injuries that happen on or after that date are subject to new laws.

One major change is that if the employer offers the injured worker employment after a work injury at the same wage, the new law imposes a major cap on the amount of permanent disability benefits that are owed to the injured worker.

However, if the employer terminates the employee in the future, the case can be re-opened and the injured worker could see additional workers’ compensation benefits.  This is called a “review reopening.”  A review reopening in this context can only be brought if the initial claim was resolved properly—either through an “open file” settlement or by a decision from a judge.

 4. Are you receiving Social Security benefits?

The law says you can only receive so much compensation in workers’ compensation before it affects the amount you receive in Social Security Disability payments. This is called a “Social Security offset.”   There are ways to settle your work comp case to reduce or even eliminate this offset.  Special language needs to be included in the settlement documents.  In order to protect your Social Security Disability benefits, you should contact an Iowa workers’ compensation attorney before you settle your claim.

5. Has Medicare, Medicaid, or private health insurance paid for any medical care related to your work injury?

In the case of Medicare and Medicaid, the law says they have a right to be paid back for any medical care they paid for that is related to your work injury.

Private insurance companies may have a right to be paid back, but that largely depends on how your workers’ compensation case is settled, and the language of your health insurance policy.

You want to avoid a situation where you think you are receiving a fair settlement, but in actuality, you end up with very little in your pocket after paying your health insurance carrier.  This is where a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney can help. Your attorney can collect the necessary information to determine what is owed, and negotiate with different health insurance providers to get more money in your pocket.

6. Are you confident the settlement amount the work comp insurance company is offering is fair?

This is likely your only shot to get fair compensation for your work injury.   The insurance company has a duty to handle your claim in “good faith,” but in our experience, that doesn’t mean they voluntarily pay what your injury is worth under Iowa law.  Insurance companies ultimately want to make money – not lose it.  Keep this in mind when considering whether what the insurance company is offering is “fair.”  It doesn’t hurt to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney before settling your claim.

Not all Iowa work comp cases need an attorney—but some do. If some of this information is difficult for you to understand, or you would like more insight on this topic, contact RSH Legal at 1-319-774-1783 and get a free, no-obligation, personalized case evaluation today.

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