Workers’ Compensation – Employee Rights

Every state requires employers to provide a reasonably safe and healthy working environment for their employees. When employers fail to meet this responsibility, employees may become injured. Even when every effort has been made to keep a workplace safe, employees might be hurt on the job at any time. Broken bones, aggravations of pre-existing ailments, occupational illnesses, and even psychological injuries are all examples of injuries that can be sustained in a work-related accident. Every state has a system in place to assist employees who have been injured at work.

If you are an employee who has been injured at work, you may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. Additionally, you may have the opportunity to bring a personal injury lawsuit in some circumstances. The Des Moines workers’ compensation lawyers at the law firm of Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling are ready to discuss your case through a free consultation.

Reporting injuries to an employer is the most important and easiest approach to safeguard your legal rights. Most states require an injured worker to report their injury within a specified amount of time after it occurs, usually the same day or within a few days (90 days for Iowa). This may not always be possible depending on the circumstances of the accident, but it is critical to report the injury as soon as possible.

The next step to protecting one’s legal rights is to submit a claim with Iowa’s workers’ compensation commission or specified court. This serves as formal notice of the injuries to an employer, the court, and the employer’s insurance provider.

All employers are required under employment law statutes to have some form of workers’ compensation insurance. Employment law attorneys are well-versed in various employment laws including the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). These are all federal laws, but there are also Iowa employment laws and labor laws that employers will need to uphold as well. An employer cannot conduct any form of employment discrimination against a worker for their injuries or fire the injured worker (this would be wrongful termination) in retaliation.

What Are Your Rights as the Employee?

Workers’ compensation rules differ greatly from one state to the next. The rights that an injured employee has vary widely, as do the legal procedures that protect those rights.

However, there are a few legal rights that are universally recognized in most states (including Iowa), which are:

  • the option of filing a claim in workers’ compensation court or the state industrial court for an accident or illness.
  • the right to see a doctor and seek medical treatment if a physician releases the worker to return to work.
  • the right to monetary benefits for time missed from work or a resulting permanent injury following a work injury

As an employee, it’s just as vital to understand the right to act as it is to understand the right to decline certain requests or offers. You have the right to be represented by a lawyer throughout the process if, for example, you are injured, and an employer encourages you to use personal health insurance to pay for medical treatment (instead of filing for workers’ compensation benefits).

Who Can an Employee File a Claim Against After a Workplace Injury?

Each state’s regulations ensure that a workers’ compensation claim can be filed without fear of retaliation or harassment from an employer. If the employer makes it difficult to exercise your rights freely, the consequences for the employer might be severe. If a manager or supervisor is using harassing techniques at work or otherwise making it difficult to do your job due to a workers’ compensation claim, that behavior is prohibited.

It’s possible that a workplace accident was caused by the negligence of a third party. This other person or entity could be a designer or producer of a malfunctioning piece of equipment, or a delivery truck driver, depending on the circumstances. If you are hurt at work as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may be able to file a claim against that person or company. These are known as “third-party claims.” Typically, these claims are not brought under the umbrella of workers’ compensation. Rather, they are brought in the form of civil lawsuits in state or federal courts in addition to your workers’ compensation case.

Additional personal injury damages that are not recoverable in a workers’ compensation claim are frequently sought in civil lawsuits for work-related injuries. In a workers’ compensation claim, for example, the benefits are usually meant to reimburse the worker for their medical bills, related medical expenses, permanent injury and lost earnings; usually, an injured worker cannot seek compensation for pain and suffering. An injured worker can normally seek compensation for pain and suffering, which is a type of “non-economic” loss, in a third-party claim. To discuss the damages, you can collect in a workers’ compensation claim, discuss your case with an employment lawyer.

Employee’s Choice of Medical Provider

Under Iowa workers’ compensation legislation, an employer (or its insurance company) is responsible for any medical care required as a result of a work-related injury. As a result, Iowa law empowers an employer to choose who will provide medical care for an injured worker rather than the injured worker.

However, under Iowa law, this is not an unrestricted right. If an employer offers treatment from an unqualified doctor or a doctor who gives insufficient care, an injured Iowa worker has legal recourse. If injured workers are receiving substandard medical care, their first move should be to write to their employer (or its workers’ compensation insurance company) to express their unhappiness with the current medical care.

If the injured worker’s medical care does not improve, the next step is to submit a petition with the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner.

To convince the Commissioner to determine that you are entitled to alternate medical care, you usually need written evidence of insufficient care from your employer’s designated doctor–such as a contrasting opinion from another doctor. In order to successfully exercise your right to alternate medical care, you should normally consult with an experienced Iowa workers’ compensation attorney.

Contact the Workers’ Comp Lawyers at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling

Our contact information can be found online, or you can call us at (515) 444-4000 The Des Moines workers’ compensation attorneys and personal injury lawyers at MSMC can help injured workers with their personal injury claim, workers’ compensation claim, or discuss benefits with the insurance company.

For a free consultation, contact the law offices of Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling in Des Moines, Iowa today. Once an attorney-client relationship has been established, we will immediately begin working on your claim. Your case will be handled by one of our skilled Iowa workers’ compensation attorneys. Schedule your initial consultation with our law offices located in Des Moines, IA.


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