If you have been involved in an accident or experienced an injury at work, you may wonder if you are obligated to use the Iowa workers’ compensation system. To find your personal answer to that question, you need to ask yourself a few more. Was it a minor injury that didn’t require days away from work or a loss of pay? If the answer is yes, then you probably don’t need to worry about doing anything at all. Did you suffer a serious injury that resulted in an extended time off work and a reduction in income? Do you have lasting physical limitations or permanent scars? Do you want compensation for these injuries? If your answer to any of those questions is yes, then you do need help, and that help is most likely to come from the workers’ compensation system, though there are few exceptions. Here, we take a look at employee options after a work injury in Iowa.
When an Iowa Workers’ Compensation Claim Is Compulsory
In general, if you sustain an injury at work, you are subject to the jurisdiction of the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner. This means that if you are hurt performing duties related to your job, you are required to pursue care and compensation through the workers’ compensation system. Employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance, which pays for the medical treatment and lost wages of the employee related to the work injury. This is separate from any health insurance your employer might offer, and typically a private health insurer will refuse to pay for a workers’ compensation eligible claim. If you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, you cannot typically pursue a claim outside the system.
Exceptions to Workers’ Compensation Rules
There are cases, however, in which it is possible to use other means rather than the state workers’ compensation program to obtain care and compensation. In some cases, it is possible to bring a legal suit against responsible parties. While the workers’ compensation system is intended to prevent lawsuits against an employer, there are certain exceptions and other third-party situations. These can include cases in which injuries were caused by:
- Manufacturer of a defective product – Manufacturers have a duty to provide safe products to the marketplace. If you are injured by a product or substance in the course of your work, it can be possible to pursue a legal case directly against the maker of the dangerous product.
- Private individual – At times, a private individual may cause your injuries. Injuries sustained on the road are common examples of this. Those responsible parties may be forced to pay the victim who suffers the consequences of their poor behavior.
- Employer who displayed intentional, egregious behavior – Employers are not entirely insulated from injury lawsuits. While rare, employers can be held accountable if they intentionally act in a way that causes an employee harm, knowingly violate state or federal safety codes, or fail to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
Disqualifications From Iowa Workers’ Compensation
In addition, there are times when a workers’ compensation claim is not possible, even if the injury was sustained at work. In Iowa, there are a few common reasons why a work injury claim would be disallowed. You may not be eligible to file a claim if:
- You are not an employee of the company. Workers’ compensation covers only those who are considered employees of a business. Independent contractors, exchange laborers, and others may not be eligible for benefits.
- Your injury is not covered. While there is a wide range of injuries covered in Iowa, workers’ compensation does not offer benefits after every injury. Some pre-existing conditions, injuries sustained outside of work, or injuries sustained under certain circumstances (such as under the influence of drugs or alcohol) may disqualify an employee.
- You are a civil servant eligible for other benefits. Firemen and police men who are entitled to benefits under the pension fund may not be able to utilize the workers’ compensation system.
While every situation is unique, workers’ compensation is typically an employee’s only and most reliable source of care and income after a work-related injury. If you have suffered an injury on the job—even if you are not sure if you are entitled to benefits—contact the Pothitakis Law Firm to learn more about how an attorney may be able to help. Our experienced legal team has helped many Iowa workers obtain the care and compensation they deserved after a wide variety of accidents and injuries. Take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page today, and you will hear back from a member of our team who can answer your questions.