Set out below are the questions I get asked most frequently about work comp and my answers. I am setting out a lot of questions and giving general answers. However, the details do matter in Iowa work comp law so you should follow up with a lawyer to figure out how the law applies to your exact situation:
- What is workers’ compensation? Workers’ compensation is a statutory system to provide medical care and cash money for employees that are injured on the job.
- Does workers’ compensation cover pre-existing problems? Iowa workers’ compensation does not cover pre-existing problems unless the work aggravates or worsens the pre-existing problem. For example, many people have pre-existing back problems but are able to do their job. If the employment ends up aggravating your back condition, then you are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
- Are all employees covered by workers’ compensation in Iowa? If a person is considered an independent contractor rather than an employee, then the person is not covered by workers’ compensation. See here for a longer explanation of the difference between employees and independent contractors.
There are several other exceptions for classes of people not covered by workers’ compensation. The largest category of workers not covered by work comp is agricultural workers. Even for agricultural workers there are exceptions that do allow them to be covered by Iowa workers’ compensation. The ag worker exceptions are very detailed, and it is best to discuss them with a lawyer.
- Can I recover work comp benefits if I am injured outside of my workplace? As long as the injury took place while you were in the process of performing a work-related duty you will generally be entitled to receive work comp benefits.
- When do I report a work injury? You should verbally report the injury as soon as possible. You should quickly follow up with a written report of the injury and keep a copy of it for yourself.
- Are there any time limits for work comp claims? Iowa law has two different time limits that apply in workers’ compensation. First, you must report an injury within 90 days. However, we strongly recommend immediate reporting. The passage of time generally works against the injured employee.
Second, there is another time limit for filing a workers’ compensation petition. If the employer and insurance carrier have never paid you any weekly cash benefits, then the petition must be filed within two years of the date of injury. If the employer and insurance carrier have paid you weekly benefits, then the petition must be filed within three years of the last payment of weekly benefits.
- Can I have my work injury treated by my own doctor? Under Iowa law, if the employer and insurance carrier accept your injury as work related, they have the right to choose the medical provider.
If the employer and insurance carrier deny your injury, you can choose your health care providers. You can also sue the employer and insurance carrier for reimbursement of the medical expenses and for additional cash benefits.
- Do I have to pay any portion of my medical bills for a work injury? The answer is no if your injury is an accepted claim.
However, if the employer and insurance carrier are denying that the injury is work related and you are using your personal health insurance, you will have to pay your regular co-pays and deductibles. If you hire a lawyer and contest the denial of your claim, your lawyer will attempt to have your out-of-pocket expenses repaid to you as part of the case.
- Can I sue my employer in civil court for a work injury? In Iowa, an injured employee’s exclusive remedy for a work injury is through the workers’ compensation system. The employee is not allowed to bring a civil action against the employer and work comp insurance company.
- What do I do if my employer and work comp insurance company deny my claim? At that point you need to hire a lawyer to bring a petition on your behalf to contest the denial and attempt to obtain medical and cash benefits for you.
- What are the usual steps in a workers’ compensation case? Here are links to a number of my prior blog posts explaining some of our law firm’s strategies for advocating for our clients in the workers’ compensation system and maximizing the recovery for our clients:
- Do I need a lawyer if I have a work injury? Please see here for an outline of when you need a lawyer and when you do not need a lawyer.
- The insurance company has made me a settlement offer. What should I do? There are a number of different types of settlements in Iowa workers’ compensation. These different types of settlements have a wide range of impact on your future. You should definitely consult with a lawyer before entering into a settlement of your claim.
Our law firm begins representing many injured workers after they have received a settlement offer from the insurance company. The way we generally handle cases at this stage is that the worker receives 100% of the money they have been offered by the insurance company. We receive a one-third contingent fee for any additional money we are able to obtain for the injured worker.
- Do I have to pay taxes on workers’ compensation benefits? No. Workers’ compensation payments are tax free.