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Workers' Compensation Insurance

The Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC) is the government entity charged with administering Iowa's workers' compensation laws.

Legal Advice

DWC cannot provide legal advice or referrals to private attorneys because it is a neutral tribunal that decides workers' compensation disputes. You may contact an attorney to seek legal advice relating to your rights and responsibilities under Iowa law.

Workers' compensation Liability Insurance

Iowa workers' compensation law requires most employers to have workers' compensation liability insurance or registered as a self-insured employer.

Mandatory Reporting

Employers, insurance carriers, and third-part administrators must follow the reporting requirements under Iowa workers' compensation law with respect to work injuries and payment of benefits.

Verification of Employer Workers' Compensation Insurance Coverage

DWC contracts with the  National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI) to provide a database for verifying whether an employer has workers' compensation insurance. 

Nonelection of Workers' Compensation or Employers' Liability Insurance Coverage

Iowa law allows for a proprietor, limited liability company member, limited liability partner, or partner to make a nonelection of workers' compensation or employers' liability insurance coverage

Rejection of Workers' Compensation or Employers' Liability Insurance Coverage

Iowa law allows for certain corporate officers to make a rejection of workers' compensation or employers' liability insurance coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Is an employer required to have workers' compensation insurance?

Iowa workers' compensation law covers employees in most employment relationships.  Because most employees are covered under Iowa law, it requires most employers to have workers' compensation insurance. A procedure exists that permits employers to apply to the Iowa Insurance Commissioner to become certified to self-insured rather than purchase insurance.

What happens if an employer does not have the required workers' compensation insurance?

Criminal and civil penalties may be imposed on an employers that violates the legal requirement to have workers' compensation insurance.  Employers who operate without insurance illegally lose the exclusive remedy protection of the workers’ compensation law and are liable to the employee for the full measure of damages available under tort law if an injured employee sues the employer in court.  

Does Iowa workers' compensation law covered independent contractors?

Iowa workers' compensation law does not cover an independent contractor. A contract that designates a person as an independent contractor does not necessarily make the person an independent contractor if the person functions as an employee.  The legal test to determine whether an individual is working as an employee or independent contractor for workers' compensation purposes is fact-specific. The agency applies the test on a case-by-case basis.

Are there exemptions to the requirements for an employer to carry workers' compensation liability insurance under Iowa law?

Iowa law has exemptions that make specified employers and their employees exempt from workers’ compensation coverage.  The exemptions are complex and this website should not be used to determine if you are exempt. You may contact an attorney to seek legal advice relating to your rights and responsibilities under Iowa law.

Generally, persons eligible to receive workers' compensation under federal law are exempt.  Limited exemptions exist for persons employed in agriculture or by a relative.  Other exemptions apply when the employment is casual and is not performed for purposes of the employer’s trade or business or if the employee’s services are performed in or about the employer’s dwelling.  Some of the exemptions apply only if the employee’s earnings from the employer are less than $1,500 annually.  Employers may elect to cover some classes of exempt employees by purchasing an insurance policy the specifically includes those employees.  

Must a workers' compensation insurance carrier or self-insured employer have a representative in Iowa?

Yes, all workers’ compensation insurance carriers and self-insured employers are required to have a designated representative located in Iowa.  The representative must have knowledge of Iowa workers' compensation law and authority to expedite claims. DWC shall be advised of the name, address, and phone number of the representative and notified of any changes within ten days.  

What is the standard for adjusting and paying Iowa workers' compensation claims?

The employer and its insurance carrier or a self-insured employer have an affirmative responsibility to act reasonably in response to a claim for benefits. This includes the duty to promptly conduct a reasonable investigation so the decisions made concerning the claim are based on fact.

When must benefits be paid to an injured employee?

Payment of weekly workers' compensation benefits must be initiated within eleven days following the first day of disability caused by the injury as required under the law.

What happens is benefits are not timely paid to an injured employee?

Interest accrues on unpaid benefits.

Failure to timely pay benefits without a reasonable excuse contemporaneously communicated to the injured employee in writing may result in a penalty under Iowa law.   A reasonable excuse for denying benefits exists if the known facts or existing law make compensability of the claim fairly debatable.  A reasonable excuse for delay exists for the duration of time needed to properly investigate the claim.  The duty to investigate is a continuing duty and compensability of the claim must be reevaluated whenever new information becomes available. The penalty may be up to 50 percent of the amount of benefits not timely paid.

How is a denial of liability communicated to the employee alleging a work injury?

When liability for a claim is denied, a letter of denial (Denial of Liability Notification) must be sent to the employee stating the reasons for the denial. 

Is there potential civil liability for failing to properly pay or adjust a workers' compensation claims?

Yes, Iowa law allows for a person to file a lawsuit for:

  • Common law punitive damages.
  • Bad faith claims practices, abuse of process, interference with contract, and fraudulent misrepresentation or failure to furnish medical care. 
  • Common law claims for breach of fiduciary responsibility and slander for violating the workers' compensation requirement to provide reasonable medical care. 

DWC has no jurisdiction over such claims.