Disability Benefits & Common Mistakes in Des Moines, IA

It is important to understand — Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake, L.L.P., only represents injured people. We do not ever represent employers or their workers' comp insurance providers — EVER.

If you are like most people injured at work in Iowa, this may be the first time you are facing being out of work because of your accident. Fortunately, the Iowa Workers' Compensation Act requires most employers to provide insurance coverage for medical treatment and wage benefits. Unless you work for a small percentage of employers not required to comply, you probably qualify for appropriate benefits.

Confused about some of the lingo the workers' comp letters and adjusters are using? Visit our Workers' Comp Lingo page for some clear definitions.

Medical Care Benefits

Except under very specific circumstances, you will be required to seek treatment from a doctor or health care provider approved by the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commission. You have the right to change doctors, but your new doctor will also need to be on the approved list.

It is important to keep in mind that doctors on the list are all subject to approval by the workers' compensation insurance companies — that are providing insurance coverage to your employer. Your doctor will be responsible for determining when you have achieved maximum medical recovery (MMR) and can return to work in a full-time or part-time capacity or under restricted circumstances.

Healing Period Benefits

An injured worker may be entitled to receive healing period benefits from the beginning of the first day of disability until he or she returns to work, the doctor reports that the injured worker has achieved MMR and will not significantly improve, or the employee is able to return to work.

Disability Cash Benefits And Common Mistakes

Your doctor will also be responsible for determining what classification your injury falls into for weekly cash benefits. Currently, the law requires workers' comp insurance carriers to pay the injured worker based on the average weekly earnings for the year previous to the injury, which is capped by a maximum amount, based on the classification of disability.

The cap amount for temporary total disability and permanent total disability, including healing period benefits, is approximately $1,450 per week.

  • Temporary partial disability (TPD): Benefits payment is basically two-thirds (66.66 percent) of the difference between your average weekly gross wage and the lesser amount you receive if you return to work at a lesser paying position.
  • Permanent total disability (PTD): As the name implies, benefits are paid to an injured worker who has suffered a permanent total disability. Payments continue as long as the injured worker is unable to return to work. The insurance company may elect to offer a lump-sum settlement in lieu of weekly cash benefits, which may extend for years. If you have been offered a lump-sum settlement, it is likely the insurance company feels it is in its best financial interest, not yours. In many cases, a worker suffering PTD may also qualify to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.

Second Injury Fund Benefits

Iowa workers' compensation law incorporates a unique feature that takes into account workers who have suffered previous injuries. If you suffered a previous permanent partial disability, or have a permanent partial disability in a war or another accident, and a workplace accident or injury causes you to sustain an additional PPD to another part of your body, you may be entitled to additional cash benefits from the Second Injury Fund. Benefits from this fund are only available under very specific circumstances.

Job Retraining

You may also qualify for a retraining program for other employment. Before accepting a reassignment to a lesser job position or attending an employment training program, remember — it is always in your employer's and the insurance company's best interest, but may not be in yours.

You Will Be Navigating Rough Waters — Let Us Help You Avoid Common Mistakes

Workers trying to apply for any kind of workers' compensation benefits are often frustrated by the confusing regulations. It is important to remember that the insurance company will not automatically provide these benefits. It often requires an aggressive fight to receive the appropriate classification to begin receiving benefits, and remain on benefits when the insurance company says you are fit enough to return to work.

Let us help you avoid these common mistakes:

  • Receiving medical treatment from an unapproved doctor
  • Failing to report the workplace accident to your employer
  • Failing to follow through on medical treatment and prescription medications
  • Submitting incomplete reports and medical records
  • Missing filing deadlines
  • Returning to work before you are physically capable
  • Accepting a lump-sum settlement without knowing how much your claim is really worth

Learn more at our Workers' Comp FAQ page.

Call Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake, L.L.P. To Get Your Questions Answered — Free!

You don't know all the answers to your questions about Iowa workers' compensation. Why should you? We offer a free consultation to discuss your circumstances, answer your questions and fill in the blanks about why it is so important to get legal help. Wherever you are in Iowa, call our West Des Moines offices at 515-224-4400 to talk to one of our attorneys.