The following information includes frequently asked questions regarding workers’ compensation. The answers stated are general in nature and are not intended to apply to every work injury situation. Each case is different and carries its own set of circumstances that must be taken into consideration by competent legal counsel. By contacting the Law Offices of James P. Hoffman, you can receive a personal consultation regarding your specific on-the-job injury case.
Seek emergency medical attention if needed and immediately report your injury to your employer. An injured worker must report any accident to their employer or any employee of the employer who is in a supervisory capacity (foreman, superintendent, company nurse, etc.). Notification must be done within a set amount of time as set by state law. Most states require that this be done within two to 30 days following an injury.
If an injury occurs over time (for example, a breathing problem or carpal tunnel syndrome), you must report your condition soon after you discover and realize that it is caused by your work. Your employer will provide you with a claim form on which you must describe your injury and how, when, and where it occurred. Make sure you save copies of all correspondence with your employer, its insurance carrier and your doctor concerning your workers’ comp claim.
Is Workers’ Compensation The Same As State Disability?
Workers’ compensation is only for injuries or illnesses that occur due to employment. State Disability is for injuries or illnesses that are not work-related. You can file a State Disability claim, but you cannot be paid both workers’ compensation and State Disability for the same period of time unless your workers’ compensation temporary disability rate is less than State Disability, then you may be paid the difference. If your employer’s insurance company denies or delays payment, you may be able to receive State Disability temporarily.
Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) Considered A “Work-Related” Injury?
Yes. The courts have ruled that “although carpal tunnel syndrome develops gradually and not the result of a sudden mishap,” it is still considered a work-related injury.
If I Am Out Of Work Due To An On-The-Job Injury, Does My Employer Or Its Insurance Company Has To Pay Me The Same Amount I Made When I Was Working?
No. Your “compensation rate” is two-thirds of your average weekly gross wages. Your average weekly wage is the average of your gross pay over the 52 weeks prior to your injury in the employment in which you were injured. In other words, if you had worked as a truck driver for ABC Trucking for the past 18 months, your gross wages for the 52 weeks immediately preceding your injury would be added up, divided by the number of weeks worked, and then reduced to two-third to determine your “compensation rate.” However, if you are a highly paid employee, your compensation rate is limited to the annual maximum.
If I Receive Workers’ Compensation, Can I Also Sue My Employer In Court?
Typically, no. Workers’ compensation exists both as a way to benefit injured workers and as a way to protect employers. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system, meaning an employee can receive benefits regardless of who was at fault, in exchange for not suing the employer.
However, if you are injured because of reckless or intentional action on the part of your employer, or the establishment in which you were employed was hazardous due to negligence on the part of other workers or the employer, you can bypass the workers’ compensation system and sue your employer in court for a full range of damages, including punitive damages, pain and suffering and mental anguish. You may also choose to sue in court if your injury was caused by someone other than your employers such as a visitor or outside contractor or if a defective product caused your injuries.
Does Workers’ Compensation Cover All Workplace Injuries?
Although many workplace injuries are covered by workers’ compensation, not every injury you suffer on the job may qualify. Workers’ compensation is meant to help injured employees, but there are a few injuries that may be denied in a compensation claim, including:
- Injuries sustained while a worker was intoxicated or under the influence of illegal drugs
- Injuries sustained by a worker who was engaging in criminal activity
- Injuries sustained because of a violation of company conduct policies
- Injuries sustained by a worker who initiated violence against another individual
Workers’ compensation may also deny coverage for injuries that were suffered while an employee was not on the clock. If you are unsure about whether your injury would be covered in a claim, talk to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
Do All Workers Qualify For Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
As with workplace injuries, workers’ compensation covers most workers, but not all of them. Each state has its own list of workers that are excluded from workers’ comp. In Iowa, the following workers may be exempt from compensation benefits:
- Casual employees who made less than $1,500 in the year before their injuries
- Business owners, including owners of family farm corporations
- Immediate relatives of the employer, including spouses and stepchildren
- Certain agricultural workers
Federal employees may not receive state workers’ compensation but may be eligible for benefits under federal law. Workers’ compensation exclusions vary from state to state. Contact us to discuss your status as a worker.
When Should I Hire A lawyer?
You should hire a lawyer if one or more of these issues are present in your case:
- Your case has been denied.
- Your case has been accepted, but you are out of work and are not receiving your weekly checks to cover your wage loss.
- The insurance company has understated your “average weekly wage” and therefore your compensation rate.
- You are having trouble getting the medical treatment that you believe you need.
- The case has been neither accepted or denied, but quite a bit of time has passed since you were hurt and you are not able to get a response from the employer or insurance company on your own.
- You have been released by your treating doctor but you feel you need additional medical treatment.
- You have been injured at work and subsequently fired by your employer.
- You have returned to work at a lesser paying job, and your employer or insurance company does not want to make up the difference in wages.
- You have been released by your doctor and rated for disability, but you believe you are entitled to a greater disability rating.
- You have been offered a settlement by the insurance company, but you don’t have any idea whether it is a fair settlement or not.
- You simply want the guidance of an experienced professional to help you through the maze of workers’ compensation.
Take Action To Protect Your Rights
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured on the job or suffered wrongful death as the result of an on-the-job accident, contact workers’ compensation attorney James P. Hoffman online today by calling 888-313-9260 or completing our online contact form to schedule a consultation.
The determination of the need for legal services and the choice of a lawyer are extremely important decisions and should not be based solely upon advertisements or self-proclaimed expertise. This disclosure is required by rule of the Supreme Court of Iowa.