Iowa Injured Workers Bill of Rights
If you've been injured as a result of your employment, you have certain important rights under Iowa's workers compensation laws.
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Just like the U.S. Constitution contains a Bill of Rights, so do the laws governing the Iowa Workers' Compensation system. 100 years ago in 1913, the legislature passed the first work injury law in Iowa. Several cases decided by the Iowa Supreme Court have said that the workers compensation laws are to be interpreted to the benefit of the injured worker. What does this mean to you or your loved one who has been hurt at work? There are 10 basic rights that every injured worker with an Iowa claim should know and a summary of the first 5 of them they are listed below:
1. Medical Care
If your injury is considered to be work related, then your employer or its insurance company should pay for all the reasonable medical care that you need. However, part of the trade-off is that while they have to pay for your care and treatment they generally are allowed to choose your medical providers subject to a few limited exceptions. This is often called being sent to the "company doctor".
2. Payment of Medical Mileage
You should receive payment for the total number of miles that you drive going to and from your doctors' appointments, physical therapy, testing, the pharmacy, etc. It is important that you document the date, who you saw and the total number of miles driven. The amount per mile that you are paid changes each July 1, but the current amount of $.555 per mile.
3. Right to Refuse Medical Care
Just like when you are seeing a doctor on your own, you do not have to have surgery or proceed with the medical care recommended by the company doctors. However, refusing medical care that is likely to make you better can have a very negative impact on your case. Also, you should always do the exercises, physical therapy and other non-invasive things that the medical providers recommend because failing to do those basic things can greatly decrease you compensation.
4. Weekly Payment When you Cannot Work
If the company doctor has you completely off work or if he/she has you on restrictions that your employer is not willing or able to accommodate (provide you with work within) then you should receive a weekly workers' compensation check called TTD which stands for temporary total disability. We call the amount of your weekly check your "rate" which can be calculated several different ways. If you are paid by the hour then the most common way to determine your weekly rate is to look at your total wages (number of hours worked each week times your normal hourly wage) for 13 weeks prior to your work injury and take the average those wages. No, your overtime pay is not included, but you do include shift differentials.
Also, if there are short weeks where you missed time because you were sick or had the day off, then those weekly should likely be excluded from the calculation. For example, if you average 50 hours per week X $12 per hour then your AWW- average weekly wage would be $600 per week and your rate is based upon that number along with your marital status and the number of exemptions that you claim.
5. Compensation for Permanent Injuries
This is perhaps the most confusing part of a claim for injured workers because there can be a very large difference in compensation depending upon the type of work injury you sustained. For example, if you sustained a hand injury and end up with a 10 pound permanent weight restriction you will likely receive much less compensation than someone with a shoulder injury and the same permanent restriction. This is because work injuries in Iowa are broken down between scheduled member injuries (hands, arms, legs, feet, fingers, toes, eyes and ears) and unscheduled (also called industrial) injuries (shoulder, back, neck, brain, CRPS, mental issues, etc.).
There is also what is called the Iowa Second Injury Fund for people who have previously sustained a scheduled member injury, regardless if it was work related or not, and then sustain a 2nd scheduled member injury.
This is really just a brief overview of the first 5 basic rights, but we offer more information for workers who have been injured in Iowa.