Understanding the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner’s Role

The workers’ compensation commissioner serves as the head of the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). The agency as a whole oversees the state’s workers’ comp laws and helps parties settle disputes should they arise. The decisions made by the commissioner stand as final agency decisions, unless they are appealed through the district court. 

The Workers’ Compensation Commissioner’s Duties 

The DWC has the responsibility of administering, regulating, and enforcing the state’s workers’ comp laws. The commissioner has the duty of overseeing any disputes that arise. When an employee, employer, and insurance company cannot reach agreement on benefits, the worker has the right to initiate a contested case proceeding with the commissioner. 

The commissioner will then hear both sides of the case, evaluate the evidence, and then make a decision. 

A Wise Word of Advice 

Workers generally request a hearing with the commissioner when something is amiss with their claims, such as when: 

  • their employer doesn’t report the accident;
  • they have been wrongly denied benefits; or
  • they have received a much smaller benefit payment than what they’re entitled. 

During the hearing and through any communication with the DWC, the commissioner will not side with either party. He or she will not be able to provide legal advice or represent anyone. The commissioner is only there to provide information regarding the actual laws themselves, the employee rights, and dispute procedures. 

Because it’s not easy to appeal the commissioner’s decision once made, you’ll want to hire an attorney before moving forward with your hearing. Even the DWC admits, “Though not required, it is usually advisable to consider the need for legal representation when filing a contested-case proceeding.” 

Workers’ Comp Disputes and Appeals 

In a perfect world, every employer would pay their injured employees exactly what they are owed every time. However, even with attempts to arrive at a fair solution, disputes can and do arise.

When there is a dispute, there is a hierarchy of decisions and appeals as detailed by Iowa Code. When there is further disagreement, participants in the dispute can appeal to the next step of the hierarchy. If the parties cannot agree on what workers’ compensation benefits the employer owes the employee, the decision making hierarchy goes as follows: 

  • deputy worker’s compensation commissioner;
  • the Iowa workers’ compensation commissioner;
  • Iowa district court;
  • Iowa Supreme Court; and
  • Court of Appeals. 

All of the commissioner’s decisions, as well as the opinions of the Court of Appeals and the Iowa Supreme Court, are published on the Iowa Bar Association’s website, usually within a week of their issuance. 

Getting Legal Counsel When You Need It 

Anytime you are injured on the job, it’s prudent to at least run your case by an attorney to determine all possible avenues for compensation and to protect your rights during the claims process. If the insurance company has already wrongly denied your claim or if you suspect your benefits are far lower than what you’re entitled to, contact a local attorney as soon as possible. 

Our attorneys at Walker, Billingsley & Bair have helped numerous clients seek and obtain the benefits they deserve after serious work accidents. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation at 888-792-3595 and let us see how we may be of service to you.

About Corey Walker

Corey Walker has received various awards for his work as an attorney, including a 10 out of 10 superb rating from Avvo and an exclusive membership into the top 100 trial lawyers with The National Trial Lawyers Organization. Corey believes in providing free and reliable resources to injured workers and their families regarding the workers' compensation process, and dedicates himself to protecting their rights to fair treatment and compensation for their injuries. Mr. Walker possesses a keen understanding of the delicate nature of work comp cases, and therefore, fights to ensure the futures of his clients are safeguarded from physical and financial distress.

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