If you’ve suffered an on-the-job injury and cannot work, you may start to worry about how your injury will impact your career and ability to provide for your family. The Iowa workers’ compensation system is designed to help relieve some of the burden of medical expenses and lost wages while you are unable to work, but what about the long-term effects of an injury?
What Settlement Benefits Are Available?
At the conclusion of your case and after all other benefits have been paid, workers’ compensation may offer a lump sum amount to settle your case when an injury results in permanent disability. The amount of this benefit is calculated by determining the degree of your permanent disability. Some injuries allow consideration of how your injury impairs your ability to work and enjoy a normal life. You may also qualify for vocational rehabilitation benefits, which is retraining that can aid you in obtaining and maintaining employment if you are unable to pursue employment similar to that you held before your injury.
You may receive benefits for as long as you remain totally disabled or for a set, scheduled number of weeks. A lump-sum settlement may allow you to get this money up front rather than over time. This can be done by resolving your case with the medical benefits remaining open or by closing off your rights to further medical benefits. The correct type of settlement to choose will depend on each specific situation.
Maximum Medical Improvement
It’s important to wait until the extent of the permanent damage caused by your injury can be fairly evaluated before you consider settlement. This point comes when you reach “maximum medical improvement,” or MMI. MMI is your doctor’s medical opinion that no further treatment or care will improve your condition. Before you reach MMI, it’s difficult to accurately evaluate the extent of any impairment you may have in the long term as a result of your injuries. If your condition gets worse or you become permanently disabled after you settle, you may regret settling your claim while on temporary benefits.
When you reach MMI, you have the right to have a one-time independent medical exam with a doctor of your choosing. The doctor will give you a disability rating, which measures the degree of your permanent injuries and any restrictions or impairment in your ability to work. It is important that you go to a doctor familiar with giving these types of ratings, because you will only have one opportunity to choose a doctor for this type of evaluation in most cases.
Don’t Undervalue Your Settlement
Most of the time, reaching MMI means that you are finished undergoing medical treatment. Sometimes, however, your physician may recommend ongoing care or physical therapy to mitigate impairment or reduce the recurrence of pain. If your doctor recommends additional future treatment, compensation for this should be included in the value of any settlement.
Many settlements close out your rights to have any future medical care or expenses paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance company. If you choose this route, the lump sum needs to be substantial enough to cover your current and future medical bills and any continued care your doctor recommends.
Pros & Cons of Closure
If your case is resolved through a workers’ compensation hearing, it’s sometimes possible to petition the board to reopen your case if your work-related injury or disease gets significantly worse. However, if you sign a compromise or closed file settlement agreement with the workers’ comp insurer, you will lose your right to collect any additional benefits, and it is unlikely you will be able to renegotiate your settlement—even if your condition worsens.
Retaining an experienced workers’ compensation attorney ensures you don’t enter into a settlement that could negatively impact your medical care, social security disability benefits, or Medicare eligibility. The skilled attorneys at the Platt Law Firm will help you correctly calculate what your case is worth, decide whether you are ready to settle your claim, and pursue your best options to get the benefits you deserve.