HOFFMANN LAW FIRM, PC

WHO CAN CLAIM IOWA BENEFITS:

Q: Is an owner-operator who, has an ownership interest in the truck he is driving at the time of injury in Iowa covered by the Iowa workers' compensation policy of the company he is under contract with?

A: Possibly, but, not likely.

Iowa Code §85.61(13) states that:

The following persons shall not be deemed "workers" or "employees":

b. An independent contractor.

c. An owner-operator who, as an individual or partner, or shareholder of a corporate owner-operator, owns a vehicle licensed and registered as a truck, road tractor, or truck tractor by a governmental agency, is an independent contractor while performing services in the operation of the owner-operator's vehicle if all of the following conditions are substantially present:

(1) The owner-operator is responsible for the maintenance of the vehicle.

(2) The owner-operator bears the principal burden of the vehicle's operating costs, including fuel, repairs, supplies, collision insurance, and personal expenses for the operator while on the road.

(3) The owner-operator is responsible for supplying the necessary personnel to operate the vehicle, and the personnel are considered the owner-operator's employees.

(4) The owner-operator's compensation is based on factors related to the work performed, including a percentage of any schedule of rates or lawfully published tariff, and not on the basis of the hours or time expended.

(5) The owner-operator determines the details and means of performing the services, in conformance with regulatory requirements, operating procedures of the carrier, and specifications of the shipper.

(6) The owner-operator enters into a contract which specifies the relationship to be that of an independent contractor and not that of an employee.

You should never assume that anyone working for you is an independent contractor, and should always consult your insurance representative, and attorney, promptly whenever a claim for benefits, of any kind, is made. (top)

Q: I own a small trucking company based outside of Iowa. A driver of ours was injured in an accident in yet another State. He also lives outside Iowa, but says he is planning to bring a workers' compensation claim in Iowa, because he has driven for us there and says the weekly rate is higher in Iowa. Can he get Iowa benefits?

A: Probably not, but read on. Under Iowa law the employee must show that the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner has jurisdiction to consider the claim. There are two types of jurisdiction: 1) subject matter jurisdiction, which is the power of the agency to hear and determine a class of cases, and 2) personal jurisdiction, which is the power of an agency over a person or entity.

Through June 30, 2008, Iowa law requires for there to be subject matter jurisdiction, one of the following:

1) the employer has a place of business in Iowa or some other state and the employee regularly works in Iowa,

2) the employee lives (is domiciled) in Iowa and the employer has a place of business in Iowa,

3) the employee works under a contract of hire made in Iowa in employment not principally localized in any other State and the employee spends a substantial part of the time working in Iowa,

4) the employee works under a contract of hire made in Iowa, in employment principally located in another State, where that State's compensation law does not apply to the employee's employer, or,

5) the employer has a place of business in Iowa AND the employee is working under a contract of hire which provides that the employee's workers' compensation claims be governed by Iowa law.

Iowa law, also, requires for there to be personal jurisdiction over an employer, either of the following:

1) at least part of the employee's work for the employer is to be performed in Iowa, or

2) the employer has employees who perform substantial services for the employer in Iowa.

As of July 1, 2008, Iowa law requires, for there to be jurisdiction, both subject matter and personal, one of the following:

a) the employer has a place of business in Iowa and the employee regularly works at or from that place of business,

b) the employee works under a contract of hire made in Iowa and the employee regularly works in Iowa,

c) the employee works under a contract of hire made in Iowa and sustains an injury for which no remedy is available under the workers' compensation laws of another State,

d) the employee is working under a contract of hire made in this state for employment outside the United States,

e) the employer has a place of business in Iowa, and the employee is working under a contract of hire which provides that the employee's workers' compensation claims be governed by Iowa law.

As of July 1, 2009, the following has been added:

a) the employer has a place of business in Iowa and the employee regularly works at or from that place of business, or the employer has a place of business in this state and the employee is domiciled in this state.

If your driver does not regularly work in Iowa, or if you have no employees who work in Iowa, you can argue that the Iowa Workers Compensation Commissioner cannot hear your driver's claim. As you can tell, however, this can be a very complicated issue. This is also an area where the law and controlling court decisions may change. As an employer, you should never assume that the the Iowa Workers Compensation Commissioner does not have jurisdiction sufficient to order payment of weekly and medical benefits, and should always consult your insurance representative, and attorney, promptly whenever a claim for benefits, of any kind, is made. Failure to do could result in a substantial judgment being entered against you in Iowa, and then that judgment being transferred to your home State for collection. Also, keep in mind that he will probable be entitled to seek benefits in one, or more, other States. (top)

Q: I drive over-the-road for a trucking company based on the East coast. I live in another mid-western State. While driving a load of produce through Iowa, I was injured when I slipped and fell while climbing down from a company cab-over. Can I bring my claim in Iowa, where I'm told weekly benefits may be higher?

A: Yes, provided there are no valid defenses, employees sustaining injuries arising out of and in the course of employment while physically in the State of Iowa may be entitled to Iowa benefits. Iowa weekly benefits may be more than many other States. You should consult attorneys in Iowa, your home State and all States connected with your injury and employment, however, as State laws vary greatly on many different issues which may arise out your having been injured here.

As of July 1, 2012, however, the maximum Iowa weekly benefits for temporary total disability, healing period and death went to $ 1,498.00, and the weekly permanent partial disability maximum went to $ 1,378.00. However, please, note, that only the highest paid employees may be entitled to these rates, and you should contact an Iowa attorney for Iowa rates.

Truck drivers and construction workers most often do not know about the possibility of higher benefits in Iowa, and insurance carriers and employers often quietly pay lower benefits under another State's laws. Or, if your injuury did not occur in Iowa, and jurisdiction is questionable, they may pay Iowa benefits until the statute of limitations in other States, where you may have had jurisdiction have run, then stop their Iowa payments and deny jurisdiction here.

Note, also, that, if, you have started a judicial proceeding or a contested case or similar proceeding for the same injury under the laws of another State, and received benefits following final resolution of your proceeding by settlement, judgment or award under that State's laws, you may NOT claim Iowa benefits, and that if you have started such proceedings in another State and not yet reached a final resolution, any claim you file in Iowa will be stayed, not allowed to proceed, until your out-of-state claim is resolved. (If you have already started litigation in another State, you may find yourself in this Catch 22 set up to keep the Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner's office from becoming cloged with cases which can be litigated in other States.)

THUS YOU SHOULD CONSULT ATTORNEYS IN ALL STATES CONNECTED WITH YOUR EMPLOYMENT AND INJURY PROMPTLY AND BEFORE FILING IN ANY STATE, SO THEY CAN HELP YOU DECIDE WHERE TO BRING YOUR CLAIM. (top)

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