Workers’ compensation has existed in Iowa for over 100 years. The state first adopted laws addressing work injuries in 1913, and over the years has developed a system that is noted as one of the most efficient and cost-effective in the nation. In addition, Iowa workers’ compensation benefits are the most generous, offering the highest weekly rate of payment according to the most recent data available. Employers and employees alike benefit from the protections of the workers’ compensation system, which are set by the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act. Here, we take a closer look at this law to help injured workers betters understand their rights and the benefits available to them and their families.
A Brief History of the Workers’ Compensation System
In the 19th century, the United States experienced an industrial boom—and, along with it, a significant increase in workplace injuries. After these accidents, injured workers were left facing not only the physical pain and limitations of their injuries but also the financial strain of missed work and lost income. For those workers, the only way to provide for their care and ensure financial security was to sue their employers. This would begin a lengthy and costly legal battle for both employer and employee.
Eventually, every state would adopt a workers’ compensation program to address this problem. These programs represent a compromise between the interests of employers and employees: employers would provide medical care and compensation regardless of fault, while employees would be limited in their ability to sue employers. Today, every state regulates a workers’ compensation program, though the details can vary greatly from state to state.
The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act
As in other states, officials in Iowa recognized the need for an effective workers’ compensation system that would protect workers and employers. The law has evolved over the years, and today it is reflected in Iowa Code Section 85. The act establishes the state system that allows Iowa workers to obtain medical care and wage replacement if they are injured or fall ill on the job.
Some of the main tenets of the system are:
- Only injuries or illnesses that result directly from work are covered. Employers are not responsible for providing care and compensation for injuries that are sustained outside of the scope of employment. However, activities included under the scope of employment fall under a wide range, including travel for work, participation in work-related social events, and more.
- Benefits are available regardless of fault. Even if the worker is responsible for his injury, he can still obtain benefits. There are certain exceptions, but this covers most injuries that arise on the job. Additionally, if the injury results in the death of the worker, surviving family members may be eligible to receive benefits.
- Employees are protected from retaliation. Many injured employees are concerned that they will suffer negative consequences at work if they pursue a workers’ compensation claim. State law makes it illegal for employers to retaliate in any form, whether through demotions, threats, reduced time, or other means.
Benefits Available Through the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act
There are two main types of benefits provided by the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act for both employees and their families. State law requires the most employers either carry workers’ compensation insurance or self-insure to provide these benefits, which are:
- Medical benefits. Employers or their insurance company will cover all reasonable medical expenses related to the work injury, including doctor visits, hospital stays, medications, rehabilitation, travel to appointments, and more. Medical benefits can be obtained regardless of whether the employee is forced to miss work due to the injury or illness.
- Wage replacement. Weekly compensation is paid while the employee is out of work as a result of the injury. These payments follow a schedule set by the state depending on the nature and severity of the injury. Payment begins on the fourth day of missed work. If more than 14 days of work are lost because of the injury, the employee is also paid for the initial four days. The current maximum rate for wage loss is 80 percent of the employee’s weekly spendable earnings.
Under the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Act, state workers are protected from physical, emotional, and financial hardship that can accompany a job-related injury or illness. If you or someone you love has suffered such an injury, the experienced attorney at Pothitakis Law Firm can help you understand this law and make sure you receive all the benefits to which you are entitled. Take a moment to fill out the contact form on this page to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.