Whether you’ve been injured on the job or suffer from a work-related illness, one very important part of getting the benefits you deserve from the Iowa workers’ compensation system is good documentation. It’s vital to keep good records from the time you suffer an injury or receive a diagnosis of an illness through your entire recovery process.
Initial Documentation: Recording & Reporting Your Work-Related Injury or Illness
If you are injured at work, your first priority is to get immediate treatment. As soon as possible afterward, memorialize the events surrounding your injury or onset of your illness. Write down or video-record your recollection of how the injury or illness occurred, including what you were doing, where you were, who else was present, and any statements you or anyone else made at the time. Memories fade quickly, especially after traumatic or painful experiences. Take pictures of your injuries, if appropriate. If there were witnesses to your injury, ask them to write down their recollections of what occurred. Obtain copies of any incident reports that you or your employer made at the time or of after the occurrence.
It’s important to properly report your injury or illness to your employer, even if you’re not sure it will result in a long-term disability. Recent amendments to the notice provisions in Iowa require that you must report a work-related injury to your employer within 90 days from the time you know or should know that an injury is work related, without regard to its perceived seriousness, in order to maintain eligibility for workers’ compensation coverage. If your employer did not make an incident report or you are otherwise unsure that it has actual knowledge of your injury or illness, notify an appropriate representative as soon as possible.
Ongoing Documentation: Memorializing Your Treatment & Recovery
Your employer may choose your care provider(s) to treat your injury or illness, but you should continue to keep your own records and documentation of your treatment and recovery. In addition to obtaining copies of your medical records from these providers, keep a journal and/or a calendar detailing your medical appointments, tests, evaluations, and progress. If your providers direct you to take medication, perform at-home exercises, or engage in or refrain from certain activities, keep a log of your compliance with your treatment plan and how you are responding to it. Note any day-to-day limitations you may not initially have noticed (e.g., being unable to carry in groceries or wash your own hair). Take photos or videos if they would be illustrative of your progress. If you seek any medical care from professionals other than the approved workers’ comp care providers, keep records of the treatment and your out-of-pocket expenses.
Keep records of all communications you have with your employer and its insurer during this time about your injury, recovery, or claim. As much as possible, use written means to communicate about your case. If you must use telephonic or in-person communication, take notes during or immediately after the conversation or obtain permission to record the conversations.
Claim Documentation: Working through the Workers’ Comp Claim System
Only “employees” are entitled to workers’ compensation protection. If your relationship with your employer could lead to questions of whether you are considered an “employee” or an “independent contractor,” make sure you gather records such as payroll records, contracts, employment offers, performance reviews, and other employment-related documents.
If your employer has accepted your workers’ compensation claim, a workers’ compensation attorney can help make sure that you follow the appropriate claim procedures, meet the applicable deadlines, and pursue all possible avenues to obtain a fair recovery for your damages.
Contact us at the Platt Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation to review the facts of your situation. We can help you through all steps of the Iowa workers’ compensation claim process, from notifying your employer to pursuing compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, temporary and/or permanent disability, and more.