Nearly all Iowa companies are required to have workers’ compensation insurance, which ensures that employees injured on the job will be compensated for their injuries and lost wages. Workers’ compensation is governed by Iowa state law and administered by the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation, which publishes a helpful guide outlining the current workers’ compensation benefit amounts.
Reimbursement for Medical Expenses
Workers’ compensation will pay or reimburse you for all reasonably necessary medical care related to the treatment of your injury, including hospital care, doctor visits, prescriptions, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and more. This can also include necessary transportation expenses (whether by car, bus, or transportation service) to get to and from your medical providers.
However, an employer or its workers’ comp carrier has the right to choose its employee’s medical treatment providers. If you are dissatisfied with the care you are offered, you should discuss the problem with your employer or their insurance carrier and request alternate care if necessary. If your request is denied and you cannot work out your issues, you may apply to the workers’ compensation commissioner to direct alternate medical care.
Reimbursement for Wage Loss
If your injury results in losing time from work, you may qualify for compensation for lost wages. The amount of wage replacement benefit you may be entitled to will depend largely on the extent of your injury and the amount of money you have earned over the past year.
If your injury causes you to miss more than three days of work, you may be entitled to wage replacement benefits (temporary total disability benefits) starting the fourth day missed. (You will only receive back pay for the first three days missed if your total time absent exceeds fourteen calendar days.) These benefits will amount to 80% of your average weekly wage, not to exceed the statutory maximum rate. Generally, your average weekly wage is based on your average weekly earnings in thirteen representative calendar weeks immediately before the week in which your disability begins. If you are paid a yearly salary, your average weekly wage is 1/52 of that salary.
The maximum rate is approximately 200% of the state average weekly wage. The current Iowa state average weekly wage is $843.81.
Temporary benefits are paid until the date you actually return to work, are declared medically capable of returning to a similar position, or are deemed to be at Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) by your doctor.
If your injury causes impairment or disability to the extent that you can return to work but are only capable of working a lower paying job (or fewer payable hours), you may be entitled to benefits under the category of “temporary partial disability.” These benefits will compensate you for roughly two-thirds of the difference between your former wage and current wage. As in the case of temporary total disability benefits, you will be entitled to recover for the first three days of temporary partial disability benefits only if the restrictions last for more than fourteen calendar days.
You may also be entitled to “healing period” benefits, payable to you while you are recuperating from an injury that ultimately results in permanent impairment. The benefits are paid beginning the first day of disability until 1) you return to work, 2) your doctor declares you are not expected to make any further medical improvement, or 3) you are declared fit to return to a job that is similar to the job you held at the time of your injury.
Additionally, you may be entitled to compensation for time and wage lost while you undergo medical treatment on a day-to-day or short-term basis (for example, leaving work early for a doctor’s appointment).
Permanent Disability Benefits
Permanent partial disability benefits may be paid when an injury results in permanent disability. Benefits will be calculated based upon the degree of the permanent disability and how it impairs your ability to work and enjoy a normal life.
The first type of PPD benefit is applicable when a person suffers a disability to or loss of what’s called a “scheduled member,” that is, one of the body parts listed in the applicable Iowa Code section workers’ compensation disability tables. Each part on the schedule is allotted a fixed number of weeks’ pay in compensation for the worker’s loss of use. A claimant will be awarded the complete amount for a total loss of the body part or a percentage of the amount that corresponds to the degree of loss (so, for example, a 30% loss of use of a thumb would entitle the injured worker to 30% of the total scheduled compensation). If your injury is a type that isn’t in the standard schedule, the attorneys and representatives of all parties will generally try to settle on an amount.
The second type of PPD benefit award compensates a worker for permanent disabilities that affect the body as a whole. These are typically injuries to the neck, back, shoulder or hip. If an injured worker suffers an unscheduled injury to their body as a whole they may qualify for industrial disability benefits. Compensation is based on calculating the worker’s loss of access to the job market due to their injury. The amount of the workers’ industrial disability, and the number of weeks of payment, will vary based on many factors, including the severity of an impairment, any permanent restrictions and how much it affects an individual worker’s future earning capacity.
You may qualify for vocational rehabilitation benefits for services provided to aid you in obtaining and maintaining employment after suffering from a work-related injury or illness that prevents you from pursuing employment similar to that you held before your injury.
If a work injury or illness prevents you from returning to any type of gainful employment, you may be entitled to receive permanent total disability benefits. These benefits can continue for as long as you remain totally disabled. As with temporary benefits, the benefits are paid weekly and are based upon 80% of your average weekly wage, not to exceed the statutory limits.
Workers’ Compensation Protection for Iowa Employees
If you have been injured at work, contact us today. We will review the facts of your situation and help you figure out whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for lost wages, medical expenses, temporary or permanent disability, or other covered expenses. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can ensure that you get the compensation you are entitled to, protect your rights during the valuation process, and expertly guide you through the complicated and often confusing workers’ compensation process. Don’t wait—contact Platt Law today.