AFSCME Iowa Council 61 - Every Day. Everywhere. Making Iowa Better.

Ask AFSCME's Attorney: Workers' Compensation

Mark Hedberg, AFSCME's attorney answers questions about Workers' Compensation:

What is Workers’ Compensation?
o A system of laws outlining the benefits for injured employees and the procedures for obtaining such benefits.
o Compensates work-related injuries.

What does “arising out of and in the course of employment” mean?
o Arising out of employment: The injury arises out of or otherwise relates to the work he or she performed.
o In the course of employment means the worker was engaged in work activities at the time of the injury or its development
o Basically, the injury must have a connection to the employee’s work activities. For incident injuries, the most important factor is whether the employee was working when the injury occurred and whether it was the result of a risk of employment. For cumulative injuries, the employee’s work activities must be a substantial contributing factor to the injury—not the exclusive cause of the problem.
o GENERALLY NOT COVERED: Injuries sustained going to and coming from work and “idiopathic” injuries that are entirely personal to the worker, though there are exceptions.

Who is covered?
o Almost all Iowa workers are covered by workers’ compensation laws.
o Independent Contractors v. Employees: Question of fact. Labels not really important. They key issue is the employer’s control of the work, hours, etc.
o Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance or verify self-insured qualifications.
o Exceptions include self-employed farmers, maritime workers, and federal employees. Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers' compensation benefits compensate workers for injuries arising out of and in the course of employment

What types of injuries are covered?
o Incident injuries – Those which occur suddenly, such as broken bones.
o Cumulative injuries – Those which occur over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
o Occupational diseases – Diseases caused by workplace factors, such as black lung.
o Occupational Hearing Loss – Hearing loss caused by workplace factors.

Notice and First Report of Injury:
o Employees have 90 days to provide notice of the injury to the employer unless the employer has actual notice of the injury already, which is often the case.
o Employer must file a First Report of Injury with the state, regardless of whether or not the employer ultimately accepts liability.
o Statute of Limitations – Employee must file for benefits within two years of the injury or within three years of the last payment of monetary workers’ compensation benefits.
o Discovery Rule/Manifestation: If a worker is unaware of the nature and seriousness of the injury until later, the first time the worker appreciated that the injury was severe or work-related can extend both the statute of limitations and notice periods. If you think your work injury may have a notice or statute of limitations issue, consult an attorney to see if these exceptions may apply in your case.

Does the employee have to prove negligence?
o No.

To read more about workers' compensation, download the fact sheet below. The fact sheet includes the answers to additional questions such as "Can an employee file a lawsuit outside of workers' compensation?," "What if the employee already had an injury to the affected area?," "What type of benefits are available?," "What if a case doesn't settle?," and many more questions.

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