Refresher – Compensability of Emotional and Psychological Injuries in Iowa

by | Aug 30, 2018

In Iowa, the term “injury” is broadly defined which allows injured employees to receive compensation for psychological as well as physical impairments. Dunlavey v. Economy Fire & Casualty Co., 526 N.W.2d 845 (Iowa 1995). Stated another way, purely non-traumatic mental injuries are compensable. Under Iowa Code § 85.34(2)(u), mental disability are compensated as a body-as-a-whole injury.

Unlike traditional physical injuries, to prove a mental injury is causally related to the workplace or a workplace incident, the claimant must show both medical causation and legal causation. Legal causation requires the claimant to prove that the mental injury was proximately caused by workplace stress of greater magnitude than day-to-day mental stress experienced by other workers employed in the same or similar jobs, regardless of their employer. In other words, the claimant must establish that his or her stress is not common to other employees in similar work. If the claimant can establish legal causation, he must then show medical causation. Medical causation requires a showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the employee’s injury is causally connected to the employee’s employment. The test is an objective one rather than as the employee perceived them.

In addition to showing causation, a claimant must also provide expert medical testimony proving the permanency of a mental injury. Contrary to other types of workplace injuries, permanency may not be inferred from the nature of the injury alone. Dubinovic v. Des Moines Public Schools, 2015 WL 7199359 (Iowa Nov. 12, 2015).

For questions or additional information on this topic, please contact Baylor Evnen Iowa Workers’ Compensation attorney Paul T. Barta at or by phone at 402.475.1075.