Liability Without Fault : An Analysis of the Scope of Workmen's Compensation With Specific Emphasis on its Development in Iowa
Patramanis, John G.
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Several million persons become the victims of industrial accidents annually. The suffering of an occupational injury by a wage earner is a severe blow. His income may be temporarily or permanently interrupted while at the same time his expenses increase because of the need for medical care. In the event of a permanent disability, his future earning power may be decreased. Workmen's compensation laws are designed to indemnify injured workers and their families. Their objective is the payment of medical costs, the continuance of the worker's income during the entire period of his disability, the compensation of a permanently disabled worker for any future reductions in earning power and the payment of benefits to the dependents of a fatally injured worker. This study examines the scope and development of workmen's compensation and the extent to which Iowa's law meets the goals of providing sure, prompt and reasonable income and medical benefits to work-accident victims, or income benefits to their dependents, regardless of fault. The current benefit provisions of Iowa's Workmen's Compensation Law in relation to selected states and to wage and income data are examined in order to evaluate their adequacy in terms of the benefits that currently accrue to a worker. Survey data is used to determine an approximation of the weekly disability payment in Iowa due to the general lack of statistics in the area of workmen's compensation paid. Iowa was among the first states to recognize the plight of the injured worker and to enact a workmen's compensation statute. The benefits provided include periodic cash payments, lump-sum payments, medical care to the worker during the period of disability and death benefits to the worker's survivors. However, the stated intent of Iowa's Workmen's Compensation Law to replace two-thirds of a worker's weekly wage during total disability is defeated by the existence of weekly maximum dollar limits on benefits. Iowa's workmen's compensation benefits also fall short of the poverty income guidelines established by the Social Security Administration. Employees who suffer a disabling injury of long duration and the dependents of fatally injured workers are most affected. Unless persons in this group have some supplementary income, the workmen's compensation benefits they receive are not sufficient to keep them above the level of poverty.