Here is my advice on what to do if you get hurt on the job.

  1. Report the injury to your supervisor. If you fail to report an injury within 90 days of it occurring you will be barred from receiving any money or medical care no matter how clear it was that you were hurt on the job. Report injuries right away. Do not wait.
  2. Make sure your report of injury is turned into a written document. Many employers will have forms for reports of injury. Make sure the report gets completely filled out and keep a copy for yourself. If your employer doesn’t have forms, you can give your own written notice. Make sure your notice explains:
    1. The date of injury.
    2. How the injury occurred.
    3. What body parts were injured.
  3. Do not quit your job. If you quit your job the employer is going to be able to avoid paying you workers’ compensation benefits for missed time. Additionally, if you are no longer with the employer it increases the insurance company’s ability to not provide all the medical care that might otherwise be required. Quitting your job also looks very bad at trial.
  4. Push for medical evaluation and care. Sometimes the employer will not be in a rush to get you to see a doctor. If you go to your own doctor there is a good chance the bill won’t get paid. You need to press your employer to contact the work comp insurance carrier. The work comp insurance carrier will tell you which doctor they want you to see.
  5. Cooperate with the medical providers. Follow the instructions of the medical providers.
  6. Be polite to the medical providers. Having a work injury can be stressful. However, giving the medical care providers a hard time will not help your case.
  7. Do not deny preexisting problems or medical care. The adjuster is going to ask about preexisting problems with the injured area or prior medical care for the area. You might be tempted not to share that information, but it is always going to be discovered and it would look terrible for your side at trial.
  8. Be extremely cautious about seeking medical care through your own doctor or a doctor of your own choice. Under Iowa law the employer and insurance carrier have the right to choose the medical care providers. If you decide to go to your own doctor, the Defendants likely will not have to pay for those visits.
  9. Accept whatever appropriate light duty work you are given. If you are injured and you can’t do your regular job, the employer has the option of either putting you off work and paying you workers’ compensation benefits, or providing you light duty work and paying your regular wages. The offered work might not be appealing, and it might even strike you as mean. However, if you reject light duty work you will not get paid either wages or workers’ compensation benefits. Additionally, rejecting light duty work looks bad at an eventual workers’ compensation trial.
  10. Do not call in sick with personal complaints. Sometimes I see workers who are unhappy about light duty work because they don’t like it, or they feel like they are being verbally abused on light duty. Therefore, the injured worker call in and say they have the flu. Do not go down this road.
  11. Do not embellish accident details. Sometimes injured workers feel that they are not being taken seriously, so they will exaggerate accident details to make it seem more dramatic. Don’t do this. Getting caught in any type of lie, exaggeration or deception is terrible at trial.
  12. Do not exaggerate injury symptoms. Similarly, sometimes workers feel that no one cares about their injuries or are not taking their injuries seriously. In response, the worker starts increasing the level of his complaints. This is another thing that will look very bad at trial.
  13. Do not deny outside activities. When you get injured the insurance adjuster might ask you about outside activities. Sometimes people get nervous and think if I tell this adjuster about my hobbies, they are going to try to blame the injury on the hobby. That is a very legitimate concern. However, denying an outside activity and having it come up later is much worse.
  14. Having your work restrictions enforced. If the doctors give you work restrictions, the situation may come up where your supervisors want you to work beyond those restrictions. It is not always comfortable, but you have to stand up for the restrictions and tell your supervisor you cannot work beyond what the doctors have ordered.
  15. Give another notice if additional problems develop. It is not uncommon that an injury starts in one area and spreads to other areas. An example is a knee injury that causes you to limp and eventually your hip and/or back might start hurting. If additional body parts start to give you a problem, give notice of these new developing injuries as soon as you notice them and follow the advice in paragraph #s 1 and 2 about getting the notices into written form.
  16. Be very cautious about trying to resolve your case on your own. Iowa workers’ compensation law is extremely complicated. In trying to settle your case on your own you can end up receiving much less money than you are entitled to receive. You can also potentially lose your right for future medical care and additional money if your condition worsens. Consult with an experienced work comp lawyer before resolving your case.