How to File a Workers' Compensation Claim in Iowa

Learn how to get benefits for your work-related injury.

If you are injured on the job, you may be entitled to Iowa workers’ compensation benefits, including medical treatment, compensation for wage loss, and other assistance. To collect these benefits, you must report your injury to your employer, seek medical treatment, and meet other legal requirements.

Understanding Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation System

The Division of Workers’ Compensation oversees all Iowa workers’ comp claims. Most employers must have workers’ compensation coverage in Iowa. Employers typically obtain coverage either by purchasing a workers’ comp policy from an insurance company or receiving certification from the state to self-insure. You can use Iowa’s online coverage database to confirm your employer’s workers’ comp insurance coverage.

Like all other states, Iowa has a no-fault workers’ compensation system. You do not have to show that your employer intentionally or carelessly caused your injury. As long as your injury happened on the job or was caused by your work activities, you are eligible for benefits.

Depending on the severity of your injuries and the facts of your claim, you may receive:

  • temporary disability benefits
  • permanent disability benefits (for lost use or function of a body part)
  • reasonable and necessary medical care
  • vocational assistance (job training and education), and
  • death benefits.

You cannot receive compensation for your pain and suffering through workers' comp. And, workers’ comp is usually your exclusive remedy against your employer and its insurance company (meaning you can't file a lawsuit against them in court). However, you may have a “third party” lawsuit if someone else’s carelessness caused your injuries (other than a coworker). To learn more, see our article on suing outside of workers’ comp.

Reporting Your Injury

To be eligible for workers’ comp, you must report the injury to your employer within 90 days and request workers' compensation benefits. If you fail to meet this deadline, you may lose some or all of your benefits.

In general, though, you should give notice and seek medical treatment as quickly as possible. Doing so can lead to a better physical recovery. Additionally, employers and insurance companies are less skeptical of claims that are reported immediately.

In Iowa, your notice typically must be written and signed. It should include:

  • your name and contact information
  • the time and date of your injury
  • where your injury occurred
  • the body parts that were injured, and
  • a request for workers’ comp benefits.

Your employer should also allow you to get necessary medical treatment. Under Iowa law, the insurance company will initially choose your treating doctor. It is important to give accurate information to the doctor about the cause of your injuries and the severity of your symptoms. Insurance companies rely heavily on initial medical records when they evaluate claims. Either downplaying or exaggerating your symptoms may result in a denial of benefits.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Claim Process

In Iowa, you do not need to file a formal, written claim with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. Instead, it is your employer’s responsibility to send a First Report of Injury to the Division and file a claim with its insurance company.

Once it has your claim, the insurance company will determine your eligibility for benefits. Its investigation may involve:

  • reviewing your medical records
  • analyzing your work experience, education, and wages
  • ordering a medical examination to assess your claim, and
  • sending you for a functional capacity evaluation (an evaluation that establishes work restrictions).

In Iowa, the insurance company must either approve or deny your claim promptly. If approved, you should start receiving benefits shortly. If your claim is denied, you will receive a written notice.

Appealing a Denied Workers’ Compensation Claim

If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal. The appeal deadlines vary, depending on whether the insurance company paid any benefits on your claim.

  • If your claim is immediately denied (without the payment of benefits), you must file an Application for Arbitration within two years of your injury.
  • If benefits are initially paid and later terminated, you must file a contested claim petition within three years of your last benefit payment.

It may be in your best interest to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer. Most workers’ comp appeals require extensive legal and medical expertise. It can be difficult for injured workers to develop and present their claims without assistance. To learn more, see our article on when you should hire a workers’ comp lawyer.

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