What is workers' compensation? In short, workers' compensation describes benefits available to eligible workers who experience a workplace injury and are unable to work. In 2020 in the United States, there were nearly 3 million reported workplace injuries and illnesses. To ensure the continued well-being of everyone, each state has adopted workers’ compensation laws. These laws protect the interests of both employers and employees, and they ensure the continued well-being and success of both by providing certain compensation to injured employees.
What Is Workers' Compensation?
The Iowa workers’ compensation system, like others across the country, offers remuneration in three main categories for injured workers and their families:
Medical bills: Pending review, medical expenses related to a workplace accident may be covered under workers’ compensation, including hospital stays, surgery, medication, doctors’ appointments, and others.
Wage replacement: Often, injured and ill workers are forced to miss work because of their injuries. Hence, they are unable to earn income as they did before the injury, or they may have lost earning capacity. The workers’ compensation system can provide payments while the employee is out of work. The payment amounts are based on a number of factors, including the severity of the injury and the employee’s previous wages.
Rehabilitation services: The goal of any care program is to help a person recover after suffering from an illness or injury. The workers’ compensation system may pay for treatment that enables an injured employee to regain as much function as possible, including physical and emotional therapy. This can also include vocational rehabilitation to help the employee rejoin the workforce.
Workers’ compensation protects both employees and employers after an accident or other scenario causes a worker to suffer injuries or fall ill. The system is based on two main tenets:
Workers can obtain benefits regardless of who was at fault. Injuries and illnesses occur as a result of many circumstances. Every so often, the employer is at fault if the work environment is unsafe. Other times, potentially careless behavior of the employee causes the injury. However, under workers’ compensation, employers agree to offer benefits, regardless of what caused an accident.
Employers are shielded from further costly and time-consuming litigation. Before workers’ compensation existed, employers were often involved in arduous and expensive litigation, in which they had to show that an employee or some other party was negligent. In exchange for disregarding fault, employers no longer have to do this, and employees may not sue their employer if they receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Types of Injuries Covered by Iowa Workers’ Compensation
The workers’ compensation system covers most workplace injuries and illnesses. Injuries sustained both at work or outside the job location but during the course of employment duties are likely covered. For example, an employee injured in a car accident while traveling on work business may be able to obtain benefits. Workers’ compensation can also cover injuries and illnesses that occur over the course of time due to work-related factors, such as repetitive use injuries, hearing loss, carpal tunnel, chronic back pain, and other conditions. However, there are exceptions to the system. Employers and their insurance companies do not have to pay benefits when employees exhibit behavior that is well outside the realm of carelessness, including situations when:
The employee is drunk or under the influence of drugs.
The employee’s behavior is in violation of stated company policy.
The employee’s injuries are self-inflicted or the result of a fight.
The employee was injured while committing a crime.
Additionally, workers’ compensation only covers eligible employees. In Iowa, certain types of workers are excluded from receiving benefits. Some of those positions include:
Domestic and casual employees who earn less than $1,500 per year
Agricultural laborers who work for a farm with a payroll of less than $2,500 the previous year