In Iowa, most employers are required to purchase or self-provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for workers who are classified as employees. Employers are permitted to obtain this insurance through the qualified carrier of their choice, and they may switch providers if they so choose. If your employer switches insurance carriers at some point during your employment, it may affect a workers’ compensation claim. In many cases, it won’t complicate things significantly; in others, it could make pursuing a claim a little more confusing.
To Which Carrier Should You Tender Your Workers’ Comp Claim?
You should submit your claim to the carrier whose policy was in effect at the time you sustained your injury. In the case of an accident or other incident, it’s generally easy to determine the time you were injured. However, Iowa workers’ compensation also covers long-term occupational disorders, mental conditions like depression or anxiety, work-related disabilities, and worsening of existing conditions. If your occupation caused or worsened this type of disability, chronic illness, or impairment, it may be difficult to determine the date on which the “injury” occurred in order to properly tender your claim.
There is a 90-day time limit for an employee to give notice to an employer of a workers’ comp claim, and the clock has traditionally begun to run once the employee knows that an injury is both work-related and serious. The time when both conditions are met was considered to be the date of the “occurrence of the injury.” Recent amendments to Iowa workers’ compensation law, however, have changed this standard; the “date of occurrence” is now the moment an employee knows or should know that an injury is work related, without regard to its perceived seriousness. You should tender your workers’ compensation claim to the carrier whose policy is in effect on this “date of occurrence,” i.e., when you knew that an injury is work related, even if the majority of the activity that caused your injury occurred while a different policy was in effect. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you evaluate the factors that contribute to this determination if you are confused or unsure.
What to Do If Changing Carriers Results in a Lapse of Coverage
Unfortunately, sometimes a switch in carriers results in a period of time where coverage lapses. If this happens and a worker is injured on the job, it can mean that neither the previous carrier nor the new carrier will accept the claim. In this situation, where the employer has failed to provide the appropriate workers’ compensation insurance coverage under the law, an injured employee may choose one of two options. The employee can 1) file a contested case proceeding before the workers’ compensation commissioner or 2) file a lawsuit in the appropriate Iowa district court.
While generally you cannot sue your employer for on-the-job injuries because workers’ comp is the exclusive remedy available, there is an exception if your employer fails to provide coverage. If you opt to file a lawsuit, you may be able to recover damages for pain and suffering, disfigurement, lost wages, and lost earning capacity in addition to permanent disability damages and medical expenses, and there is no cap on your recovery. Because of your employer’s negligent action in failing to maintain the required coverage, the court will also grant you certain advantages in pursuing your case.
If you have suffered a work-related injury or occupational disease, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact the Platt Law Firm today for a free, no-obligation consultation to review the facts of your situation and help you figure out whether you are entitled to benefits like lost wages, medical expenses, temporary or permanent disability, or other covered expenses.