Important: We updated this article in May 2023 to ensure all the information below is both current and correct. State law outlines who gets Iowa workers’ compensation benefits and how the process works. If you experienced an accident or illness on the job in the Hawkeye State, you should focus on feeling better ― not feeling anxious about the claims process.
We’ve gathered the information you need to get the workers’ comp benefits you deserve.
Iowa Workers’ Compensation Eligibility
In most cases, it’s a felony for any employer to operate in Iowa without workers’ comp coverage. This coverage includes all full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers in this state.
However, if you work in one of these areas, you may not be covered:
- Agricultural workers
- Independent contractors
- Federal employees (i.e., postal workers)
- Police officers and firefighters eligible for benefits through their pension fund
- People working for an immediate family member or spouse
- Domestic or casual employees who earned less than $1,500 in the 12 months prior to their workplace illness or injury
- Limited liability company (LLC) members
Important: State rules don’t cover federal employees. Learn how to file a federal claim.
How to File Your Iowa Workers’ Compensation Claim
Every case is different, but the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) has a clear process for filing workplace accident claims:
1. Report your workplace injury/illness to your employer right away — before seeking medical treatment.
What happens if you don’t notify your employer within 90 days of your accident or see your own doctor? In both cases, state law says you may lose your right to claim any Iowa workers’ compensation benefits.
2. Get the name and address of the medical care provider your employer authorizes.
Not happy with the doctor they chose? Ask the insurance carrier for another option or apply for alternate medical care through the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner.
See what an Iowa workers’ compensation doctor can do for you.
3. Make sure your employer files a First Report of Injury or Illness form with the DWC and their insurance provider.
4. Wait for your payments to start 11 days after reporting your accident.
These payments cover either 2/3 or 80% of your average weekly wages, depending on your injury type.
Important: If you don’t need time off to recover, then Iowa workers’ compensation only covers your medical bills (if any).
5. Take action if you’re denied.
Talk to your employer or the insurance carrier first. If that doesn’t resolve your problem, then you can contact an Iowa Workers’ Compensation Compliance Administrator.
Important: You must resolve any Iowa workers’ compensation claim disputes within two years of your accident date to qualify for benefits. We strongly recommend hiring an Iowa workers’ compensation attorney to help you appeal.
Pro Tip: State law lets insurers deny workers’ comp claims for preexisting conditions. Proving your job made an old injury worse could be difficult. A skilled Iowa workers’ compensation lawyer can help you make your case.
Learn more about the Iowa workers‘ compensation program in the DWC’s guide.
What You Need to Know About Iowa Workers’ Compensation
The Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics analyzes workers’ comp data on most U.S. states and territories. The total number of recordable cases in the Hawkeye State has been on the decline since 2017, when 45,800 cases were recorded, including 24,400 in service-providing industries. In 2021, cases dropped to 40,500 overall and 22,100 in the services. During that same period, the number of employees who missed work, transferred jobs, or received restrictions remained largely unchanged from 22,300 to 23,100, with a spike to 24,800 in 2020.
As you can see, total claims fell 20% between 2014 and 2018. Meanwhile, service-industry claims fell 14% over that same five-year time period. Overall, service-industry employees file between 48% to 53% of workers’ comp claims in Iowa every year. Injured workers who received job restrictions or changed positions rose from 47% in 2014 to 53% in 2018. This is an important trend, since the numbers in red are the only claims that receive weekly lost wage payments.
Free Legal Assistance with Your Iowa Workers’ Comp Case
When you’re living with a work-related illness or injury, navigating the Iowa workers’ compensation system can make you feel even worse. And since your employer chooses the doctor who diagnoses your illness or injury, you may feel you aren’t being treated or compensated fairly.
That’s why we recommend working with an experienced workers’ comp attorney for free, confidential claim assistance. These specialists typically work on a contingency basis, which means you pay nothing unless you win a cash settlement and only a reasonable, one-time fee if your case is successful.
Want free expert claim help? Click the button below to sign up for a free phone call during regular weekday business hours:
Margot Lester is the CEO of The Word Factory, a B2B & B2C content marketing agency that provides services for Fortune 100 brands, healthtech companies and SaaS developers. An award-winning business and brand journalist, she writes for daily and weekly newspapers and business journals, national magazines, in-flight publications and leading websites. Margot is also an in-demand writing coach and organizational communications trainer, helping individuals and teams write more effectively. Twitter/X: @word_factory LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/margotlester.