As an employee in the state of Iowa, it’s important to understand your rights when it comes to workers’ compensation benefits. Although a lot of claims made by employees are from injuries that immediately affect their health and ability to work, many others stem from injuries that develop or worsen over a long period of time.
This article will help you understand what your options are if you develop an injury after leaving a job, or if the injury you experienced while at work continues to gradually or significantly worsen over time.
Understanding Your Rights
Work-related injuries that become apparent over time still entitle employees to Iowa workers’ compensation benefits. Sometimes, repetitive or heavy work can cause an injury to appear or worsen over time. These are called cumulative injuries, and Iowa workers’ compensation laws are designed to compensate for them.
When filing your claim, it’s important to think about the significance of your injury, and how it will affect your life now and into the future. Workers’ compensation benefits are not just intended to help pay for your medical expenses. They are also meant to provide financial support to you throughout the period of time when you are unable to work. The amount of benefits and the length of coverage will depend largely on the injury you sustain and the type of work you do. By consulting with an attorney, you can better understand how to file a claim and get benefits that will assist you months or even years into the future if necessary.
It’s important to understand that there are time limitations when it comes to filing original workers’ compensation claims or claims to receive additional benefits. In Iowa, you must notify your employer about your injury within 90 days of the accident or when you knew or should have known that work was causing an injury due to the repetitive nature of your job.
There are also time limitations related to filing a lawsuit or resolving your claim for workers’ compensation benefits as a result of a prolonged or worsening injury. The statute of limitations on an injury where benefits have not yet been paid is two years from the date of your injury. If you have been paid weekly benefits for your injury, you have three years from the date of the last payment of benefits to either file a lawsuit or resolve your claim. If you do not file a lawsuit or resolve your claim within the above timelines, you claim may be forever barred. If you do not understand what the statute of limitations might be in your case, it is always best to consult with an attorney.
Additionally, if there has been a change of condition in your situation (physical or economic) since the case was settled or went to hearing and you have not closed your case, you may be able to receive additional disability benefits. You must file with the Iowa Workers Compensation Agency for a Review-Reopening of your case within three years of the last payment of benefits. The change in condition must be related to the original injury (for example, a worsening of an original injury, or an additional condition that developed later as a result of the original injury).
Coverage for Occupational Diseases
In Iowa, workers’ compensation may also cover any long-term occupational disorders you develop as a result of performing your work duties. Occupational diseases are:
Diseases that arise out of and in the course of employment
Diseases that have a direct causal connection with the employment
Diseases that have followed as a natural incident thereto from injurious exposure occasioned by the nature of the employment
Under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation statute, occupational diseases must be incidental to the character of the business, occupation, or process in which the employee was employed and not independent of the employment.
Some examples of common occupational diseases include carpal tunnel syndrome, lead poisoning, eczema and other skin conditions, bronchitis, tetanus, hepatitis, lung cancer, formaldehyde poisoning, Lyme disease, and repetitive motion injuries.