Benefits Available Under Iowa Workers' Compensation Laws
Iowa Worker's Compensation Benefits require your employer to provide you three types of benefits: Medical Benefits, Temporary Total Disability Benefits (Healing Period), and Permanency Benefits.
The employer and insurance carrier are required to provide you with and pay for the medical care that you need as a result of being injured at work. The employer has the right to choose your doctor, but along with that, the insurance carrier and employer have to pay your medical expenses. In addition, they are required to reimburse you for the cost of fuel and use of your vehicle for medical appointments (mileage expense).
If you are not satisfied with the insurance carrier’s choice of a doctor, you are entitled to petition to see a different doctor, under certain scenarios. Ia. Code Sec. 85.27.
For more information, see our article, What Medical Expenses Will Workers' Comp Pay?
Wage Replacement Benefits
After sustaining a compensable Iowa workers' compensation injury, you should be paid benefits to replace your lost wages if you are off of work as a result of your workers' compensation injury. For the weeks that you miss work as a result of your injury, the employer and insurance carrier are required to pay you a check that approximates your net pay while working. The reason it's less than your typical gross wage is because it is not subject to taxes.
If the doctor places you under restrictions and you work less than your full hours or are paid at a lower rate or wage, you are to be paid what are termed temporary partial disability benefits. This benefit provides make-up pay for a portion of the wages you lose because of your light duty status or missed hours. Ia. Code Sec. 85.33 and 85.34.
You are entitled to receive permanent partial disability benefits if you sustain a permanent injury. Permanent Partial Disability benefits are provided based upon the seriousness of your permanent disability and, on certain occasions, based upon how the injury reduces your earning capacity over the remainder of your life. Ia. Code Sec. 85.34.
The amount of permanency benefits that have to be paid to you is determined initially on what portion of your body was hurt from the workers' compensation injury. If you injured your foot, arm, hand, or leg, the permanency amount will be based on your loss of use, or impairment rating. This calculation is typically based upon an impairment rating from the American Medical Associations Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 5th Edition. The AMA Guides are not the sole authority of the matter, however; there are arguments and methods to receive significantly more than the rating. This type of permanency is called a "scheduled member injury."
If the permanency is to your back, neck, shoulder, hip, head, or “body as a whole,” the permanency entitlement is determined on how the injury affects your ability to work over the remainder of your life or earning capacity. Making this calculation can be very complex.
Workers' compensation carriers will sometimes advance a payment in many situations that is the minimum amount that you are entitled to receive for your work injury. Beware: You could be entitled to substantially more money than what the insurance carrier voluntarily offers to pay you. The workers' compensation insurance carrier does not want to pay you the maximum amount on the claim, because its goal as a business is to increase profit, which is directly contrary to paying you a large settlement.
There are a number of factors that go into the analysis of how the injury affects your earning capacity, such as your age, education, life expectancy, functional restrictions, impairment rating, work history, and many other matters. Because of the number of factors, this is a very complex issue for which most people should hire a workers' comp lawyer.