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Iowa Workers’ Compensation Laws Explained

Article written by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
April 13, 2020

In this article, we’ll discuss Iowa worker’s compensation law, the types of injuries covered and who is eligible, the types of benefits provided, and who pays the benefits and chooses the medical care. Finally, we’ll discuss deadlines associated with filing a claim and how to file a workers’ compensation claim in Iowa

There is a good chance that if you work for a company in Iowa that it has some form of workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation law in Iowa requires most employers to provide benefits to workers’ in the event they become injured and/or disabled on the job or in some way over the course of their employment.

What Types of Injuries are Covered? 

The definition of “injury” under Iowa workers’ compensation law is fairly broad and includes almost any health impairment not considered the normal wear and tear experienced by the body over time.

Certain diseases and hearing loss attributed to employment may also fall under workers’ compensation. For example, cancer or epilepsy due to exposure to harmful chemicals over time or in a single instance would likely be covered under Iowa workers’ compensation law.

Typically, pre-existing conditions are not covered by worker’s compensation, unless it is an acute aggravation of the pre-existing condition with disabling symptoms.

Workers’ Compensation Eligibility

If you are an employee, working under a contract of hire or whose employment is principally localized in Iowa you are more than likely eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. There are some situations where coverage is limited or non-existent, but these are usually isolated cases and more information is available through the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation. Independent contractors, partners, and other limited liability employees are normally not covered under workers’ compensation and must purchase their own insurance. 

What benefits are Provided Under the Law?

Medical Benefits

  • Payment for medically necessary treatment
  • Payment for transportation to and from treatment
  • Reimbursement of lost wages due to being at medical treatment
  • If there is a dispute over reasonable and medically necessary treatment the providing physician or specialist cannot seek payment from the worker.

Disability Benefits

  • The amount of weekly compensation for the employee can be up to 80% of the employees weekly spendable earnings, which is the amount available after deducting payroll taxes from the gross weekly earnings
  • The factors considered when determining the amount of weekly disability benefit are marital status, exemptions, and average gross weekly earnings.

Types of Disability Benefits

There are a number of different disability benefits that we’ll list below with a brief explanation. Because of all the different types of benefits, and because each workers’ compensation situation is unique it is best to discuss your situation with a qualified attorney.

  • Temporary Total Disability - Injury resulting in more than 3 calendar days of total disability. Three day waiting period becomes payable after 14 calendar days of no work.
  • Temporary Partial Disability - Employee returns to work, but at a lesser paying job due to injury. Has a similar time period as temporary total disability.
  • Healing Period - Disability benefit that covers the time from the initial injury to a medical decision made regarding the employees resolved, continuing or permanent disability
  • Permanent Partial Disability - Benefit based on the degree of permanent disability
  • Scheduled Member Disability - Benefit associated with a part of the body and based on a predetermined set of guidelines.
  • Unscheduled (Whole Body) Disability - A more generalized benefit that is not based on a specific predetermined guideline, but rather is taken as a case and must be evaluated based on a number of medical and work-related factors.
  • Permanent Total Disability - Benefit paid out as long as the employee continues to be permanently disabled.
  • Second Injury Fund - Benefit associated with employees who have one disabled body part and then acquire a second disabled body part.

Who Pays the Benefits and Chooses Medical Care?

If an employer purchases insurance through an insurance company, the insurance company will pay the worker’s compensation benefits. If the employer is self-insured the employer will pay the workers’ compensation benefits.

Generally, the employer has the right to choose who provides medical care in a workers’ compensation case. The employer can also opt to let the employee seek out their own medical care, but still oversee the process and possibly deny as they see fit. If an employee is dissatisfied with the employer’s choice for the medical care he or she may ask for another provider. If an employee is dissatisfied with a provider’s disability rating he or she may seek a second opinion from another provider.

Workers’ Compensation Deadlines

  • The employee has 90 days from the day he or she knew or should have known they had a work-related injury to notify his or her employer of their claim.
  • The employer has 4 days to file the First Report after notification of the injury by the employee.
  • Two Year Statute of Limitations - If an employee does not receive benefits for two years and does not file for arbitration benefits may be denied
  • Tree Year Statute of Limitations - If benefits have been paid, the employee has three years from the last payment to request additional benefits or to file an action. Beyond three years benefits can be denied. This does not extend to benefits for medically necessary treatment.

Workers’ Compensation cases can be time-consuming, frustrating and costly during a time when you or a loved one may be in pain due to the work-related injury. Having a qualified attorney on your side can streamline the process, ease some of the responsibility, and allow the injured worker to focus on getting better.

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