Category Archives: Workers’ Comp’ Basics

Employers Must Obtain And Maintain Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage

Today’s post is by our colleague Todd Bennett of Nebraska.

Your employer is required by law to have workers’ compensation insurance for you.

Every employer not in agriculture, farm or ranch operations is required to obtain and maintain workers’ compensation coverage for all employees. Those employers who voluntarily and willfully fail to obtain and maintain coverage violate the law and subject themselves to significant risks.

If you are an employee who is injured in the course of your employment and you learn that your employer has not maintained workers’ compensation coverage for you, you can either file a claim against the employer in civil court or file a claim in the Workers’ Compensation Court.

Employers who try to avoid their legal obligations and avoid providing workers’ compensation coverage expose themselves to monetary judgments in civil court, stop-work orders from the Attorney General’s office, injunctions from continuing to operate their business, assessments against their property, daily penalties of Continue reading

What Every Employee Should Know: Preparing For The Defense Independent Medical Examination (IME)

Prepping for your IME is important. Follow these guidelines to get ready.

After your work injury your employer has a right to make you go to what is called an “Independent Medical Examination” or “IME.” The IME is, basically, an examination by a doctor chosen by your employer who will take your statement of what happened and perform a physical examination. How you conduct yourself during the IME can help or hurt your case. I strongly recommend that all injured workers follow the recommendations below in preparing for an IME.

Before going to the IME, spend an hour or two writing down the history of your injury, including:

  • your current complaints based on the injury,
  • what things cause your injury to be aggravated,
  • and what care and treatment you have been given for your injury.

You will have only a limited amount of time to describe these things to the IME doctor. Therefore, you should take your written statement to the IME and hand a copy of it to the doctor. It is important that you have a well-organized statement. Then make sure what you say to the IME doctor is in keeping with your written statement. Save the written statement and give a copy of it to your attorney. He or she will be able to use the statement if the things you say in it do not end up in the IME doctor’s record.

You will probably be asked to describe your pain. Since pain is subjective, it is often difficult to describe. You might find it easiest to describe activities that worsen your pain. You should have a list of everyday activities that increase your pain. Be as truthful, accurate, and complete as possible.

Even if your care before the IME is poor, I recommend against complaining bitterly about that care. Instead focus on just describing the facts. If true, tell the IME doctor how the care so far has not worked and yet the company doctor continues giving you that same useless care; or how the company doctor spends more time communicating with the company representative than with you. Recall and apply that old admonition from “Dragnet”—“just the facts, sir, just the facts.”

After the IME, your attorney will be interested in knowing exactly what went on in the examination. Thus, after the IME, take at least one-half hour to write down as much as you can remember of the following:

  • what the doctor said,
  • what you answered,
  • what the doctor did,
  • and what if anything was dictated into a recorder,
  • the time that you arrived at the office (be as accurate as possible),
  • the time that you were placed in the examining room,
  • when the doctor entered the room,
  • and when the doctor left the room.

It may be important to have an exact record of the time the doctor spent with you in the examination room.

You need to spend some time to prepare for the IME. By following the guidelines set forth above, you will provide a truthful, accurate, and complete statement of your condition. Hopefully, the IME doctor will then provide your and your employer’s attorneys with similar findings, diagnosis, and recommendations for treatment. Of course, you should spend some time talking to your attorney before any IME. Good luck!

The 12 Things You Must Do If You Are Hurt At Work

What to do if you are hurt at workInjured workers call me all the time asking me what they need to do to make sure they protect their legal rights.  If you are hurt on the job, whether it is due to an acute traumatic injury (like cutting yourself on a saw), cumulative-trauma injury (like carpal-tunnel syndrome) or some other job-related injury, there are several basic things you should do. If you do not do any of the things on the list below, you may lose your rights under Iowa’s workers’ compensation law.

Although there may be rare exceptions to this list,  following it will leave you reasonably secure that your rights are protected:

  1. Report the injury. By “injury,” I mean almost any condition including but not limited to (a) an acute traumatic injury, (b) a cumulative-trauma injury, or (c) a disease or a hearing loss. You should report the injury to your supervisor or company nurse (for clarity we’ll just call these people your Supervisor from here on out), making clear your injury was caused by work. Under Iowa law, you need to make the report within 90 days of the date of your injury.
  2. Make sure your Supervisor prepares a company accident report.  If your Supervisor won’t prepare the report, Continue reading

Work Comp Disability Payments: Getting The Full Amount You Deserve

Computation for your TTD benefits should reflect not only your basic salary but also overtime, tips, incentives, hazard pay, and other payments that you would typically receive each week.

Today’s post is from my colleague Brody Ockander of Nebraska. Note that Iowa law is slightly different from Nebraska law. Iowa law entitles an injured worker to approximately 80% of take-home pay (instead of 2/3 in Nebraska) for the time off work because of a work injury. That rate is based on an average of wages for the 13 weeks (instead of 26 weeks in Nebraska) before injury.

In Nebraska, workers’ compensation law entitles you to 2/3 of your average wages when you are off work because of an injury. This average is based on your wages the 26 weeks before you were injured. This is known as temporary total disability (TTD).

How TTD Works:

If you are an injured at work, you are entitled to TTD so long as you are under a doctor’s care, that doctor has you on work restrictions preventing you from working, and your doctor has not placed you at maximum healing for your injury.

While off work for your injury, make sure you are getting the proper amount of money you are entitled to. Employers use many techniques to manipulate your wages to pay you less than you are legally entitled to.

Improper ways your Employer “miscalculates” your average wages to pay you less:

  1. Including weeks you worked Continue reading

How Your Facebook Activity Can Hurt Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

Today we have a guest post from my colleague Brody Ockander of Nebraska.

If you are reading this, chances are you’re on Facebook. If you aren’t on Facebook, the chances are you are on MySpace or Twitter, or have a very close friend or family member who uses these websites.

Most of us don’t think twice about what we post on social media sites like these. However, depending on the privacy settings of your profile, anyone may be able to see the status update on your wall, the photo of you at a wedding, or whatever job you are currently in. That “anyone” could be the defense lawyer or insurance adjuster if you are currently involved in a Workers’ Compensation action.

“What do I have to hide?” you ask. Well, these status updates, photos, or wall postings may often be misunderstood or taken out of context. For example, a status update stating “Just got done mowing the lawn” might not look very good to someone that is off work for a back injury, and it would be hard to explain that even though you mowed the lawn, it took you two pain pills to do so and caused you extreme suffering later that night that you couldn’t even sleep. That may be the price you paid for mowing that lawn, but there’s no record of your pain and suffering on Facebook, just evidence that you were somehow able to do it.

Here’s what you can do to avoid some pitfalls from Facebook and other social networking site:

  1. Adjust your privacy settings Continue reading

Do I Need To File A Tax Return On My Workers Compensation?

If you received workers’ compensation benefits in 2011, you may be wondering if you will need to report this money to the IRS and pay taxes on it. Under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act, money that you receive as workers’ compensation benefits is not taxable, with a few exceptions.

You will have to pay taxes on your work comp benefits if:

  • if the benefits are retirement plan benefits (this is true even if you retired due to disability)
  • if part of your workers’ compensation benefit money lowers the amount you receive from your Social Security or Railroad Retirement Benefits. In that case, that the part of your workers compensation benefits is considered part of your Social Security (or RRB) and may be taxable.

If you return to work, your salary will be taxable again, as is it was before you received workers’ compensation benefits.

The Truth About Insurance Medical Examinations

Insurance medical exams may seem like regular doctor visits, but these docs are not on your side.

Today’s wise words come from my colleague Matt Funk of New York.

Many times insurance medical examinations are considered by injured employees to be the same as Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs). There is nothing farther from the truth. These examinations are bought and paid for by the insurance company and for their benefit.

The insurance carrier doctor is no friend to an injured worker. He or she is a private consultant paid for by the carrier.

You should be prepared for these examinations by knowing your rights and how to protect them:

1) You have the right right to bring a family member or friend with you to the examination.
You can bring your spouse into the examination room during the examination. This is important because it allows for a witness to testify at court about the validity of the examination and to dispute tests that the doctor claims to have done.

2) You are permitted to audiotape or videotape the examination.
And there is nothing in the law that requires you to tell the insurance company doctor that you intend to tape the examination.

3) You should Continue reading