Iowa Workers' Compensation- The Basic Laws that Apply
People hurt at work in Iowa often do not know what their basic rights are. This article provides workers injured in Iowa with some basic information about their rights under Iowa's workers' compensation laws, including what benefits they should receive, how their weekly check is calculated and much more.
Let's start at the very beginning: Just what is an Iowa workers' compensation case? A workers' compensation case is any type of claim where a person has been injured or killed while on the job. The legal requirement is that the work injury arose out of and in the course of employment. The law does not require that a person is compensated for every work injury. You must prove that you were on the job working when you were injured. However, please keep in mind that there are special exceptions like falling in the employer's parking lot which is also considered a work injury, horseplay which is not considered a work injury, etc.
Under Iowa Law, you need only prove that a work injury caused a material and substantial aggravation of a preexisting condition for it to be considered a work injury. That means just because you have had a prior injury to the same body part, you may still be entitled to benefits.
Also, if you previously sustained a scheduled member injury (arm, leg, etc.), whether or not it was work related, and then you sustain another scheduled member injury then you may be entitled to additional benefits under the Iowa Second Injury Fund. If you qualify for 2nd Injury Fund benefits then the extent of your permanent disability benefits will be based upon the factors used when determining industrial disability just like a back, shoulder, neck or brain injury.
If you are able to prove that you sustained a work related injury, there are 3 basic types of workers' compensation benefits available:
1. Medical Benefits- Lifetime medical benefits for medical treatment, including doctors' appointments, prescriptions and mileage expenses related to your work injury.
2. Healing Period/Temporary Disability (TTD/TPD) Benefits- These are the weekly payments made to an injured worker while they are healing from their work injury and are either not able to return to their job, is only able to work a limited number of hours or is not making as much as they were before the work injury work.
3. Permanent Benefits- At some point the doctors will say that you have healed as much as possible which is also known as maximum medical improvement (MMI). At that point, your benefits change from temporary to permanent. If your medical condition heals and you are left with no permanent problems, then you probably do not have a claim for permanent disability benefits. If you have a permanent impairment rating and/or permanent restrictions, then you are likely owed permanent disability benefits. You need an attorney who understands the specialized workers' compensation laws.
Iowa's Coming and Going Rule- A client of ours named Mary, was injured when she slipped and fell on ice while walking on a public sidewalk outside of her work. She had already punched out on the clock of her hourly job and was walking to her car when she fell. The insurance company denied her claim stating that since she was not on the clock or on the employer's property that they were not responsible under Iowa's Workers' Compensation laws.
The general rule is that absent special circumstances, and employee is not entitled to compensation for injuries occurring off of the employer's premises on the way to and from work. Farmers Elevator Co., Kingsley v. Manning, 286 N.W.2d 174, 178 (Iowa 1979). However, since Farmers, several decisions have paved the way to a number of exceptions to this rule, what is commonly referred to as "the coming and going" rule. Thankfully, for Mary, our attorneys knew and understood this somewhat complicated law. One of the exceptions is if you are being paid to run an errand. Another exception is if you work from home and are traveling to the office. The exception to the rule that applied to Mary is known as "The Extension of the Premises Exception." See, Frost v. S.S. Kreesge Co,, 299 N.W.2d 646 (Iowa 1980). In Frost, the injured worked fell outside of her place of employment on a public sidewalk. The Court held that it counted as a work injury finding that "this fall was closely connected in time, location, and employee usage to the work premise itself to entitle Mrs. Frost to the protection of the workers' compensation statute." The Court further held that since the employer had exercised control over the sidewalk that it became an extension of the business premise.
Even though Mary was off the clock and not on her employer's property when she fell, the "Extension of Premise Exception" applied providing her with workers' compensation benefits. There are many other exceptions under Iowa law in which an injured worker should receive Iowa worker compensation benefits.
This article contains general statements, is not intended as legal advice or legal opinions and does not create an attorney-client relationship. Do not act or rely upon the information in this article without seeking the advice of an attorney because changes in the law occur frequently and you should consult with an attorney with respect to your particular case.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I offer a FREE Book entitled "Iowa Workers' Compensation- An Insider's Guide to Work Injuries". Why offer a Free Book? Over the past 11 years I have represented hundreds of Iowans hurt at work and too many have made mistakes before they had the "right" information costing them thousands of dollars. Quantities are limited so go to http://www.IowaWorkInjury.com .