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Compensation For Personal Injuries As A Farm Worker

Ed Cox Jan. 13, 2023

There is no doubt about it – working as a farm hand or farm laborer subjects a person to a multitude of dangers. From working with unpredictable livestock to operating dangerous machinery, everyday farming activities risk the health and safety of agricultural workers.

Common farm-related injuries include:

  • Machinery wrecks and tractor rollovers;

  • Hand tool injuries;

  • Fertilizer burns;

  • Equipment defects;

  • Slip and falls;

  • Unmarked hazards;

  • Power Take-Off (PTO) Injuries;

  • Livestock attacks;

  • Grain Entrapments

  • And more.

How Worker's Comp Affects Your Rights

Many decades ago, Iowa adopted a workers' compensation law that potentially limits an injured farm worker's remedies. Under Iowa workers' compensation law, an injured employee cannot sue his/her employer for their on-the-job injuries. Furthermore, the employer can dictate which hospital the employee receives treatment from.

The good news for the employee is that the employee also does not have to prove the employer's fault to receive compensation. Injured employees are still entitled to compensation for their injuries. Iowa workers' compensation insurance compensates employees for their medical care and mileage to appointments. Workers' compensation insurance also provides employees with temporary disability benefits to replace lost wages during recovery as well as permanent disability benefits for any permanent injury. Other potential compensation benefits include but are not limited to interest on delayed benefits, future income losses, rehabilitation costs, and the cost of obtaining a second opinion. However, injured employees cannot sue their employers for pain and suffering.

It is important to note that Iowa farmers do not have to provide workers' compensation for their workers unless at the time of the injury the employer's total cash payroll to one or more employees amounts to at least $2,500 during the previous calendar year. Furthermore, parents, siblings, spouses, and children (including stepchildren) of the farmer and the members and officers of the farm corporation or company are all exempt from workers' compensation. Other individuals not mentioned are exempt from workers' compensation too, such as farmers exchanging labor with other farmers.

If Worker's Comp Doesn’t Apply

If exempt from workers' compensation, a worker will need to negotiate with the employer-farmer's insurance carrier or sue their employer-farmer for their sustained damages. Our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the process and retrieve the compensation that you are entitled to.

But What if I Am an Independent Contractor?

Employers are not required to carry workers' compensation insurance for independent contractors. However, independent contractors can formally elect to come under provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act. The Court determines if a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. Each case is decided on a case-by-case basis. Iowa Courts analyze certain factors when making a decision regarding a worker's status as an employee versus an independent contractor. No single factor is controlling in the decision. Some of the factors the courts consider are as follows:

  • The existence of a written contract (description of the relationship as independent contractor supports a finding of independent contractor)

  • The nature of the services provided by the worker (if the worker provides similar services for others, considers themselves as an independent business owner, or has other sources of similar income it favors a finding of independent contractor)

  • The exclusiveness of the relationship between the worker and the employer (a more exclusive relationship favors finding of an employee)

  • The workers' right to control the progress of the work (more control favors a finding of independent contractor while less favors a finding of employee)

  • Who supplies the tools (if the employer supplies the tools, it favors a finding of employee)

  • How long the worker is employed by the employer (a continuous relationship suggests a finding of employee)

  • Method of payment to the worker (payment by the hour favors an employee finding while payment by the job favors an independent contractor finding)

If a worker is an independent contractor and thus not covered by workers' compensation insurance, the worker CAN pursue an insurance claim or sue the employer for their injuries. So, regardless of a worker's classification by the court, the worker can receive compensation one way or another.

Furthermore, if an employer participates in bad faith claims practices, abuse of process, interference with contract, fraudulent misrepresentations, or failure to furnish medical care, then a worker can seek punitive damages.

If you have been injured at work, give our experienced attorneys a call to make sure you receive the compensation you deserve. We have offices in Centerville and Bloomfield with attorneys licensed in Iowa and Missouri ready to fight for your needs!