Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation System- Myths and Mysteries Revealed
In 1913, the Iowa Legislature passed the law creating Iowa’s workers’ compensation system. When the law was passed, there was a trade-off made between employers and employees. While an employee does not have to prove fault or negligence like they would in a car accident case for example, the trade-off is that the employee’s damages are limited. In an Iowa workers’ compensation case, an employee is generally not allowed to recover pain and suffering or loss of quality of life damages against the employer. The exception to this rule is if you can prove that a co-employee committed “gross negligence”. Also, if you were injured by someone who does not work for your employer or a defective product caused your injuries then you may be entitled to additional damages. You should consult an attorney to find-out if your case meets one of these criteria.
Another misconception that some injured workers have is that the insurance adjustor is there to help you with your work injury case. The insurance adjustor works for your employer and/or their insurance company and has no duty to protect your rights or even tell you what the law is. Also, sometimes a nurse or medical case manager will be assigned to your case. The nurse will come to your appointments, talk to your doctors and often act like they are your friend. Keep in mind that they also are working for your employer and/or their insurance company so be careful what you tell them. They are trained to find things in your past medical treatment and try to use those things against you in your work injury case. While honesty is always the best policy that does not mean you should tell them your whole life story. Along the same lines, often people think that they have to let the medical case manager into the examination room. The answer is no, you do not have to let them in during the examination. However, under Iowa law they can speak with your doctors and other medical providers when you are not present.
Sometimes clients will come to see me after they have fired an attorney they found in the phone book who advertised as a workers’ compensation attorney. Any Iowa attorney can advertise that they handle workers’ compensation cases even though they may have never handled a single case. What you need to look for is an attorney who advertises “practicing primarily in workers’ compensation”. This means that the attorney has certified with the Iowa State Bar Association that at least 40% of their law practice involves workers’ compensation and that they have spent at least 15 hours per year taking continuing education classes about Iowa’s workers’ compensation laws. Iowa’s work injury laws are far too complex for someone without knowledge and experience to represent an injured worker. Only a qualified Iowa workers’ compensation attorney can make sure that your rights are protected and that you are treated fairly in your case.
Another thing to look for when searching for an attorney is what results they have obtained for their clients and what their past clients have to say. Don’t take “all my cases are confidential” as an answer. Ask yourself do you want someone representing you with a proven track record or do you want to take a gamble on the attorney you chose. If an attorney has obtained good results for past clients and past clients have good things to say, then chances are they are qualified to to represent an injured worker. Whether you live in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Waterloo, Iowa City, Ft. Dodge, Marshalltown or even outside of the state of Iowa, you should find an experienced Iowa work injury attorney to help you.
Clients often wonder how they can afford to hire an attorney to help with their work injury case. First of all, most qualified Iowa work injury attorneys will provide you with an initial consultation at no cost. Also, most work injury cases are handled on a contingency fee. A contingency fee means that if you do not make a recovery then you will not owe any attorney fees. The attorney being paid is contingent upon you being paid. As part of the contingency fee, if you are currently receiving weekly benefits then the attorney should not charge you any fee on those benefits. Also, if the doctor provided by your employer and/or their insurance company (the company doctor) provides you with a permanent impairment rating your attorney should not take a fee on those benefits. If through the efforts of the attorney you receive more money than the impairment rating given by the company doctor then the attorney will receive a percentage of the additional money you receive. Once again I have seen many clients who were not happy with their prior attorney who had been charging them a fee on benefits that were rightfully theirs. Attorneys who do not routinely handle workers’ compensation cases will sometimes take a fee when legally they should not.
This article contains general statements, is not intended as legal advice or legal opinions and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or rely upon the information in this article without seeking the advice of an attorney because changes in the law occur frequently and you should consult with an attorney with respect to your particular case.
About the Author
I offer a FREE Book entitled “Iowa Workers’ Compensation- An Insider’s Guide to Work Injuries”. Why offer a Free Book? Over the past 11 years I have represented hundreds of Iowans hurt at work and too many have made mistakes before they had the “right” information costing them thousands of dollars. Quantities are limited so go to http://www.IowaWorkInjury.com .