A work injury can cause major disruptions to your life—not only your health, but also to your career, finances, and overall well-being. The Iowa workers’ compensation system is designed to compensate you for some of those losses and get you back to work as soon as possible. However, worker’s comp also limits the amount of money you can receive from your employer. This article explains the types and amounts of benefits that are available through workers’ comp.
In Iowa, temporary total disability benefits are paid when an employee needs time off work while being treated for a work injury. The first three days of missed work are not paid unless you need more than 14 days off work.
Benefits for temporary total disability are approximately 80% of your weekly spendable earnings—essentially your after-tax wages (taking into account your exemptions and marital status). However, you cannot receive more than a certain amount set by law each year. As of July 1, 2016, the maximum weekly benefit is $1,688 per week.
If you’re able to work during this time, but you are earning less due to your injury, you can receive temporary partial disability benefits. These benefits are two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury wages, subject to the same weekly maximum. For example, suppose you normally earn $900, but you’re working a light duty job earning $300 per week. You could receive two-thirds of $600 ($900 - $300), or $400 per week.
When your condition is no longer expected to improve significantly, your doctor will evaluate you for a permanent disability. If you are found to be permanently and totally disabled, you will continue to receive weekly payments at your temporary total rate as long as you are disabled. The permanent and total disability category is reserved for workers with serious injuries that leave them unable to hold any type of gainful employment.
If you have a permanent impairment but are not totally disabled, you may be eligible for a permanent partial disability award. Iowa workers’ compensation pays for scheduled disabilities and body as a whole disabilities. The maximum weekly benefit for either award is $1,553 (as of July 2016).
A scheduled loss of use award is paid for disabilities of certain body parts—such as the arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, and toes. The schedule also includes loss of sight or hearing and disfigurement of the head or face. The award is 80% of your weekly spendable wages, for a number of weeks determined by a state schedule. For example, the schedule lists a total loss of use of a thumb at 60 weeks. If you have a partial loss of use of that body part, you will receive a proportionate number of weeks. For example, a 10% loss of use of the thumb is worth six weeks of payment (10% of 60 weeks).
If you have a partial disability that does not appear on the schedule, you may be eligible for a body as a whole award. You will receive a disability rating that takes into account several factors, including the nature of your disability, your loss of earning capacity, your age, your job qualifications and skills, and more.
The award is also paid at 80% of your spendable weekly wage for up to 500 weeks, depending on your disability rating. For example, if you have a 10% disability rating to the body as a whole, you will receive 50 weeks’ payment.
Iowa workers’ compensation also provides additional benefits, including:
As you can see, workers’ compensation only pays of a portion of your lost wages. Workers’ comp also does not pay anything for the pain and suffering caused by your injury. While this may seem unfair, it is part of the trade-off that is the workers’ comp system. The advantage of workers’ comp is that you can get benefits relatively quickly without needing to file a lawsuit or prove that your employer was at fault for causing your injury. The downside is that you can’t get the full value of your losses. (However, in some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering and other losses. To learn more, see our article on suing outside of the workers’ comp system.)