Workers’ Comp FAQs

Workers’ Compensation

General Information on workers’ compensation.

What do I do if I’m injured at work?

Is my injury covered by workers’ compensation laws?

Can I pursue a lawsuit instead of workers’ compensation?

General information on workers’ compensation.

Workers’ compensation provides medical benefits and wage replacement for workers injured on the job. Workers’ compensation laws are set by each state and these laws can vary from state to state. Additionally, the federal government has workers’ compensation laws for federal government employees and employees in certain types of jobs.

In Iowa, the laws require every business to have some type of workers’ compensation insurance to cover employees injured on the job. When an employee is injured, that employee files a workers’ compensation claim. Filing this claim is similar to filing a claim with an insurance company. The employee isn’t filing a lawsuit against their employer. Instead, he or she is filing a request for benefits.

Workers’ compensation laws are designed to allow employees who are injured at work to obtain a fixed amount of compensation, without having to sue their employer. Workers’ compensation laws create an important “safety net” for employees who are injured at work or injured because of their job.

The workers’ compensation system is a “no-fault” system.  It doesn’t matter whose fault the injury was. Negligence, whether of the employee, the employer, or a co-worker is not an issue. The injured employee is simply compensated for his or her work-related injuries.

If you have been injured at your job, the attorneys at Schott Mauss and Associates, PC are experienced in workers’ compensation claims. They can help you understand your claim and assist you in obtaining the maximum benefits possible.

 

What do I do if I’m injured at work?

If you have been injured at work or on the job, the best way to protect your rights is to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. An attorney will be able to help file a workers’ compensation claim as well as determine if you should file a lawsuit instead of, or in addition to, a workers’ compensation claim.

An attorney will also be able to determine if you are entitled to other types of compensation. For example, if someone other than your employer or a co-worker was at least partly to blame for your injury, you may be able to file a liability insurance claim against that person or business.

If your accident isn’t covered by the workers’ compensation system (for example, if your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance or if you are an independent contractor), an attorney will be able to help you determine people or businesses against whom you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit. Under personal injury law, you may be able to receive compensation for expenses that wouldn’t be covered under the workers’ compensation system, such as pain and suffering as well as attorney’s fees.

The attorneys at Schott Mauss and Associates, PC specialize in workers’ compensation and are able to guide you through the process, from filing a claim, through building a case for your hearing or negotiating a settlement.

 

Is my injury covered by workers’ compensation laws?

Workers compensation coverage exempts some types of employment arrangements from the workers’ compensation system. Exempt employees may include agricultural workers, domestic workers and independent contractors.  But these rules are not black and white so you should discuss your injury with an attorney even if you fall in one of these categories.

You may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for a work-related injury that fits into one of the categories below:

  • Aggravation of a Pre-existing Condition. These types of injuries are unrelated injuries that you already had, which are aggravated or exacerbated by your workplace. One example is a back injury, even if the pain develops slowly over time or you don’t notice the pain caused by the injury until later.
  • Traumatic Injuries. This category includes injuries that happen at a moment in time.  This may be due to a workplace accident, a sudden physical pain caused by your work, or by your company’s facilities (such as a chair in the company break room). Injuries during work time also include those that occur during coffee breaks, on your lunch break, and during work-sponsored activities (for example, a company picnic).
  • Exposure to Toxins. This class includes injuries that results from exposure to toxins in chemicals from normal working conditions. An example of this type of injury is lung cancer, if you can show that it was caused by exposure to those on-the-job toxins.
  • Mental Strain. This category includes mental impairments (or physical manifestations of mental impairments) that emerge due to increased work duties or work-related stress.

However, there are some injuries that aren’t covered by workers’ compensation.  An employee may not be compensated for an injury that he or she received while joking around at work. An employee who intentionally injures him or herself for the purpose of getting benefits is not eligible for compensation.

Additionally, an employee generally won’t be compensated for injuries received while traveling to or from work. However, there are exceptions, including:

  • when the employer has agreed to provide transportation for the employee,
  • when the employer pays the employee’s costs for commuting,
  • the employee travels from home directly to work sites without going to the employer’s office, or
  • if traveling is required as a part of the employee’s job.

If you are unsure if you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, contact a lawyer in your area who is experienced in workers’ compensation cases. Remember that even if you aren’t entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, you may be able to sue your employer or a third party for compensation for your injuries.

The attorneys at Schott Mauss and Associates, PC specialize in workers’ compensation and are able to guide you through the process, from filing a claim, through building a case for your hearing or negotiating a settlement.

 

Can I pursue a lawsuit instead of workers’ compensation?

In Iowa, workers’ compensation is the “exclusive remedy” for work-related injuries. The term “exclusive remedy” means that unless an employee can show that there was a third party (another company or manufacturer) responsible for his or her injury, workers’ compensation is the only benefit or monetary award that an employee can obtain.

In essence, workers’ compensation is a substitute for a lawsuit against your employer. When you bring a workers’ compensation claim, the claim is controlled by the workers’ compensation system and not the courts.

Because you are bringing a claim under the workers’ compensation system, you are entitled to benefits, no matter if your accident was your fault or your employer’s fault. Before the workers’ compensation system was created, employees had to go to court to receive compensation for their work-related injuries. However, the current workers’ compensation system allows most employees to receive benefits. In addition, this system shields employers from lawsuits brought by employees.

Bear in mind that even if you file a claim in the workers’ compensation system you may still be able to file a lawsuit in the court system. Employees are often injured by machinery or products that they use at work. Many employees successfully sue the manufacturers of these machines or products for compensation for their injuries. A lawsuit against a third party generally takes place in civil court, as opposed to workers’ compensation claims, which are handled by Iowa’s Division of Workers’ Compensation.

The attorneys at Schott Mauss and Associates, PC specialize in workers’ compensation and are also able to advise you on Iowa laws if you think that a third party may be responsible for your on-the-job injury.