Iowa law requires that most employers carry or self-provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage. This coverage compensates employees who are injured on the job by providing benefits such as medical expenses, lost wages, temporary or permanent disability, and other covered expenses. Unfortunately, some employers fail or choose not to carry workers’ compensation coverage in compliance with Iowa law. If you are injured at work and discover that your employer is one of them, you have a few options.
Iowa Law Requires Most Employers Carry Workers’ Compensation Coverage
Almost all Iowa employers are required by to provide wage loss and medical benefits to employees who are injured while working. An employer must obtain workers’ compensation insurance coverage from an insurance provider; qualify as a “self-insurer;” obtain relief from insurance from the state; or furnish a bond before it engages in business. An employer who willfully and knowingly engages in business before doing any of these is guilty of a class D felony.
Not all employers violate the requirement knowingly, however. Federal and state agencies determine which workers are properly classified as employees and which may be considered independent contractors using a variety of factors. If an employer does not have any employees, it is not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. According to Iowa Workforce Development, “an increased effort is being made in Iowa to investigate and enforce existing laws to correct worker misclassification” (that is, employers incorrectly classifying workers as independent contractors rather than employees). As a result, if an employer believes it only has independent contractors and the state determines its workers are properly classified as employees, it may be in violation of the statute requiring workers’ comp insurance—and injured employees may find themselves in a difficult position.
Choice of Remedy for Injured Workers without Workers’ Comp Coverage
If an employer fails to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage as required by law, an injured employee may choose either to 1) file a contested case proceeding before the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner or 2) bring a civil action for damages (a lawsuit) in the appropriate district court. Although generally you cannot sue your employer for on-the-job injuries, this is one of the limited exceptions to this rule.
If you choose to file a lawsuit, you may claim damages for pain and suffering, disfigurement, lost wages, and lost earning capacity in addition to permanent disability damages and medical expenses, and there is no cap on the amount you may seek. You will be entitled to a presumption that your employer was negligent and that its negligence was the proximate cause of your injuries, and it will be precluded from asserting certain defenses. An experienced Iowa workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine if you have a viable claim and file a lawsuit or contested case proceeding to recover for your loss.
You May Be Entitled to Other Government and Private Benefits
Whether or not your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, you may be able to collect other government or private benefits for your work-related injury or disability. Options may include Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) from the federal Social Security Administration (SSA) if you are severely mentally or physically disabled, Medicare benefits, union pension benefits, veterans’ administration (VA) benefits, or other private insurance benefits related to your disability status. Consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you determine your benefits eligibility and file insurance claims and/or pursue legal action as appropriate.
The skilled attorneys at the Platt Law Firm will help you through the often-confusing Iowa workers’ compensation system and help you preserve your rights to all the benefits you deserve. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.