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Iowa workers’ compensation law

Iowa employees working under most employment relationships must receive workers’ compensation insurance coverage.

Which employees are exempt from workers’ compensation insurance in Iowa?

Certain categories of employees are exempt from workers’ comp coverage. These include:

  • Domestic and casual employees making less than $1,500 from their employer in the 12 consecutive months before the injury
  • Agricultural employees in companies with a cash payroll of less than $2,500 in the calendar year before the injury
  • People working for a relative
  • Exchange labor in agriculture
  • The president, vice president, secretary, or treasurer of a family farm corporation and their spouses, along with the parents, brothers, sisters, children, stepchildren, and their spouses of either the officers or their spouses
  • Police officers and firefighters who are entitled to benefits under a firefighter pension fund
  • Employees who are entitled to benefits under any rule of liability or method of compensation, for federal employees, established by the Congress of the United States

As an Iowa business owner, do I need to include myself under my workers’ comp insurance policy?

It depends on your ownership status. For example:

  • A sole proprietor or partner who is actively engaged in the proprietor’s or partner’s business on a substantially full-time basis is exempt from workers’ comp coverage.
  • Members of a limited liability company are also exempt.

What’s more, the president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer of a corporation (other than a family farm corporation), may exempt themselves from coverage. But no more than four corporate officers can do so. They must also file a “Rejection of Workers’ Compensation or Employers’ Liability Coverage” with Iowa Workforce Development.

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Can exempt employees and owners voluntarily join their firm or organization’s workers’ comp plan?

The state of Iowa does not consider proprietors, partners, and limited liability company members to be employees. However, they may elect to participate in workers’ comp should they wish to.

Employers with exempt employees may include them in their workers’ comp program by adding them to their workers’ compensation insurance policy.

How does workers’ comp work in Iowa?

Iowa business owners can compare quotes and purchase a policy from private insurance companies. (Insureon offers this service with its online insurance marketplace.) If they’re unable to get insurance from standard-market insurers, they can buy it from the Iowa Assigned Risk Pool, which is administered by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI). You can access this “last-resort” coverage through your local insurance broker after providing written proof of two insurance company declinations.

Iowa employers who qualify can self-insure their workers’ compensation claims. This means they’ll pay for their own worker medical, rehab, and death benefits rather than submit them to an insurance company.

To become a workers’ comp self-insurer, an employer must:

  • Submit proof to the insurance commissioner of its ability to pay the required benefits to any worker eligible for workers’ compensation payments.
  • Hold a security in trust so that it is available should any worker make a claim for benefits.

Employers must also provide periodic proof that they have the financial resources to make good on their workers’ comp obligations.

What is the average cost of workers’ compensation insurance in Iowa?

The estimated workers’ comp expense for Iowa employers is $1.54 per $100 in covered payroll, according to the National Academy of Social Insurance [PDF].

What are the penalties for not having workers’ comp insurance in Iowa?

Violating Iowa’s workers’ compensation statute is a serious matter. If an employer fails to maintain workers’ comp insurance or to pay required benefits from its self-insurance account, the state may apply multiple civil penalties, including:

  • Civil injunctions
  • Revocation of insurance and self-insurance privileges
  • An assessment of up to $1,000 payable to the Second Injury Fund of Iowa for not properly filing employee injury reports
  • An assessment payable to the Second Injury Fund of Iowa for habitually failing to begin paying weekly benefits within 11 days
  • An award to the employee of up to 50% of additional benefits for delaying or denying weekly benefits

Workers’ compensation death benefits in Iowa 

The state of Iowa requires that employers pay death benefits when a covered employee dies from a work-related injury or illness. Individuals who depended on the employee for financial support are eligible for these benefits, the size of which will depend on whether they were wholly or partially dependent.

A surviving spouse, children under the age of 18, and disabled children of any age are considered to be wholly dependent. So are children under age 25 who can prove they were dependent on the worker. Other individuals who are mentally or physically disabled and dependent on the worker are also eligible for workers’ compensation death benefits.

Survivors who are wholly dependent are eligible to receive payments amounting to 80% of the deceased worker’s average weekly after-tax pay. The 80% amount is divided among all whole dependents and can’t be more than Iowa’s statewide average weekly pay. Partial dependents only receive benefits if the worker had no whole dependents.

Finally, in Iowa, the survivors of a worker who dies from a job-related injury or illness can receive a lump sum worth as much as 12 times the average weekly pay in Iowa for funeral expenses.

Workers’ comp settlements in Iowa

A workers’ compensation settlement is an agreement between the injured employee, employer, and insurer that will close out a workers’ compensation claim. This benefits both the employee and the employer.

In Iowa, settlements take two main forms:

  • An agreement settlement
  • A compromise settlement

An agreement settlement is one where the parties involved determine the amount and extent of compensation due related to the incident. Once they agree on this amount, they submit the details to the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, who confirms the compensability of the claim and preserves the employee’s future rights.

A compromise settlement happens when there’s a dispute about whether the employee deserves compensation. Once the parties agree on a settlement amount, it is submitted to the state’s Workers’ Compensation Commissioner. Once approved, both parties give up any future rights to further compensation for the settled injury.

Workers’ compensation statute of limitations in Iowa

In Iowa, employees with injuries must file a workers’ comp claim no later than two years after the injury or three years after the last benefit payment.

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