Workers’ compensation insurance ensures that Iowa employees who are injured on the job are compensated for their injuries and lost wages. Although the insurance itself is issued by private insurance providers, its provision and administration is governed by Iowa state law and administered by the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation. Although the system is designed to streamline the process of getting compensation for injuries, it can frequently take a long time to completely resolve a case.
When Do Payments Begin?
There are a number of different types of workers’ compensation benefits available to injured Iowa workers. An employer must file a “First Report of Injury” with the workers’ compensation commissioner as soon as an employee alleges he or she has suffered an injury that arose “out of and in the course of employment,” which has caused the employee to miss work for more than three days, sustain an apparently permanent injury, or die. This report is to be filed within four days of notice or actual knowledge of the alleged injury.
Iowa workers’ compensation law provides for weekly payments of disability benefits, beginning on the eleventh day of disability. Before making payments, most workers’ compensation carriers or self-insured employers will need a copy of the First Report of Injury and some medical verification of the injury (e.g., a doctor’s report). Once a carrier begins paying benefits to a worker, the payments shall not be terminated until the employee has returned to work or the carrier has given thirty days’ notice. In the latter circumstance, the company must advise the injured worker of the reason for the termination of benefits and advise him or her of the right to file a claim with the workers’ compensation commissioner.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Settlement?
Often, an injured worker will receive some benefits during the time a claim is pending before it is officially resolved. Benefits like temporary total or partial disability payments can help replace part of your lost wages while you are recovering, for example. It can take a long time to fully resolve a worker’s compensation case with a settlement claim or award intended to fully compensate the worker for permanent partial or total disability.
According to the results of a recent nationwide survey, it took an average of 15.7 months for workers’ compensation cases to reach a final resolution, either through voluntary settlement with the workers’ comp insurance company or after concluding the workers’ compensation hearing process. Only 19% of workers resolved their cases in less than six months; for 50% of workers, it took between 13 and 24 months for their cases to conclude.
In Iowa, if you file a contested case with the workers’ compensation commissioner, the agency will have a hearing within a year’s time. They may not enter a final decision in your case, however, for a significant period of time after the hearing—sometimes months.
Why Do Workers’ Comp Cases Take So Much Time?
Many factors influence how much time a workers’ compensation case takes. Some of these relate to the injury itself; complicated injuries that take a long time to heal or to determine the extent of permanent damage will take longer, as will cases with unusual injuries or those that are difficult to value. Other factors also extend the time it takes for resolution, such as whether an injured worker hires a lawyer, whether the worker tries to negotiate a better settlement than the insurer offers, and whether the worker uses the administrative process to file a contested case and/or an appeal.
Although it may take longer to resolve your case if you hire an attorney, negotiate for a better settlement, and possibly file a contested case, these actions may help you recover fairer compensation for your injuries. At a minimum, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you evaluate whether your carrier’s settlement offer is fair and reasonable.
Platt Law Firm has experienced worker’s compensation lawyers in Iowa and the potential skill to help you understand your rights to workers’ comp benefits, evaluate your settlement, and negotiate for just compensation for your Des Moines and Urbandale, IA workplace injuries. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.