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What is an occupational disease?

As an Iowa worker, you may have questions about what constitutes an occupational disease in our state. Section 85A.8 of the Iowa Code defines an occupational disease as one that arises during the course of your employment and is directly connected to your job. In addition, it must arise as the direct result of your exposure to one or more dangerous substances while at work.

Your occupational disease need not have been specifically foreseeable by either you or your employer, but you must be able to prove that something about your job put you at risk for developing it. You likewise must be able to prove that the development of your disease is a rational consequence of the hazard(s) to which your work exposed you.

Employer liability

Section 85A.10 of the Iowa Code places occupational disease liability on the last employer you worked for who exposed you to the harmful substance(s). You must notify this employer both of your injury and of your claim therefor.

Occupational disease compensation

If your occupational disease is not severe enough to prevent you from working, you can recover your medical costs pertaining to it. If, on the other hand, your disease renders you unable to work, you likely can receive compensation for the following:

  • Medical and/or osteopathic treatment
  • Hospital treatment and supplies
  • Surgery
  • Nursing services
  • Chiropractic treatment
  • Physical rehabilitation

Preexisting diseases

If you eventually can resume working and apply for a job, be aware that your prospective employer has the right to require your examination by a doctor to determine if you suffer from an occupational disease. If you do, your prospective employer has the legal right to require you to sign a written waiver of compensation should this new employment exacerbate your existing disease.

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