Iowa Work Comp Laws and Work-Related Car Accidents

Not everyone understands the connection between Iowa work comp laws and car accidents. In most instances, people assume that the law only covers injuries suffered by workers in a formal work environment such as a factory assembly line or in some sort of position subject to the immediate and direct supervision of the employer or their representative, such as a landscape worker or a janitorial laborer.

Yet a vast number of workers in Iowa are employed for tasks such as driving a long-haul truck, delivering pizzas, or chauffeuring executives from the airport. In short, these are transportation workers who are generally out on their own and working at no fixed jobsite as is the case with other, more traditional lines of work. Most people assume that injuries suffered under these circumstances are covered under their car insurance rather than under their workers compensation policies, but this is not really true.

What is true is that people who suffer car accidents while going to or from their place of work are not generally covered. They are not legally on the job at that point and are thus not protected by the Iowa work comp laws.

Those individuals who are transporting a company-owned vehicle from their place of residence to their employer’s premises may or may not be covered in very specific cases, but this is very much an exception to the general rule of being on your own time during your daily commute back and forth to work.

It is also true that people can suffer an insurable claim drawing upon an Iowa work comp policy even if the injury were to be suffered in a location other than inside the physical boundaries of the Hawkeye State. A long-haul truck driver, for example, could suffer an accident elsewhere that would nevertheless trigger in-state benefits as a result of working for a company that holds an Iowa-based workers compensation policy to cover its employees.

Yet the big news in work comp car accidents is not so much whether one is covered and under what specific circumstances, but what level of benefits the victim of an on-the-job car accident may be entitled to receive.

In 2017, the Iowa legislature significantly altered the work comp statutes in an effort to make Iowa labor costs more competitive with those of surrounding states that had lower work comp costs. These lower costs came from having less generous benefit packages, and Iowa elected to follow suit.

The major change in the way benefits are calculated comes from the way in which shoulder injuries are regarded in the new work comp reform. Whereas shoulder injuries were once regarded as whole-body injuries that could lead to permanent disability status, they are now considered to be a so-called “scheduled member disability” rather than being an “industrial disability,” as it was previously categorized.

This re-rating of shoulder injuries means that they are now subject to a capped benefit figure based on the severity of the shoulder injury multiplied by the fixed number of weeks that Iowa recognizes as the equivalent cash value loss over a lifetime. This essentially means that most shoulder injury claims will incur a drastic reduction in the amount of compensation that will be paid for injuries suffered after the implementation date of July 1, 2017.

The hoped-for result of these structural changes is to make Iowa-based industries more competitive on a national or global scale, but there is always the fear that a race to the bottom may occur as one state reforms its system to make costs more affordable to employers, which is then followed by another state and so on down the line. While coverage for auto accidents suffered on the job remains in place, the compensatory packages have been weakened to some degree, a trend which is likely to continue.

If you have been hurt while working, be sure to contact one of the best Iowa workers compensation lawyers in the state.

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