Unfortunately, injuries will sometimes worsen after a workers’ compensation case is resolved.  The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner recently issued an Appeal Decision in the case of Dautovic v. Concord Hospitality and PMA Insurance Group and Zurich American Insurance which analyzes the legal implications of a worsening injury.

The claimant in Dautovic began working for a Marriott Hotel run by Concord Hospitality in 1997.  The claimant’s job involved a lot of heavy work including deep cleaning of rooms and hallways, working with laundry, and moving furniture.

The claimant originally injured his low back on the job in early 2006 when lifting a bed frame.

Sometimes a relatively minor physical injury can lead to a very severe mental injury, and even an inability to work.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner recently addressed such a situation in an Appeal Decision issued on December 12, 2017 in the case of Fitch v. Des Moines Public Schools and EMC Insurance Companies.

The Claimant in the Fitch case was a special education teacher who was assaulted by a student.  The Claimant suffered substantial cuts and bruises in the attack, but the physical injuries healed within several weeks.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed an Appeal Decision on December 1, 2017 in the case of Wilson v. Idex Corporation and Liberty Mutual Insurance.  One of the issues in the Wilson case was how non-work health problems that the Claimant developed after his work injury should affect the amount of disability to be awarded.

Under Iowa Work Comp law post-injury accidents are not to be used to reduce the amount of disability awarded.  The measurement of industrial disability is determined at the time healing period ends.

In the Wilson case the Claimant had worked for Viking Pump for 38 years.  At the time of his work injury the Claimant was a furnace tender.  The furnace tender job was very physically demanding and the furnace tenders worked a great deal of overtime.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner entered an appeal decision on November 29, 2017 in the case of Heim v. A.Y. McDonald Mfg. Co.  The main issue in the Heim case was whether the worker had suffered permanent total disability.

Under Iowa law permanent total disability does not mean that a worker is injured so severely that they are helpless.  Instead, the test is whether the injury disables the employee from performing the type of work that their experience, training, education, intelligence and prior physical ability would otherwise permit them to perform.  (See here for a longer explanation of how pre-July 1, 2017 permanent total disability injuries are analyzed under the workers’ compensation system.  See here for an explanation of the change in how injuries are analyzed for post-July 1, 2017 Iowa work comp injuries.)

The claimant in the Heim case was 63 years old at the time of the workers’ compensation trial.  His formal education ended with high school.  His work history had generally involved physically demanding jobs.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner issued an appeal decision on November 20, 2017 in the case of Kvidera v. Windows By Pella, Inc. and Selective Insurance Company of the Southeast.  The case involved a claimant who was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident while driving a work truck.  The issue in the case was whether he had deviated from his employment duties to such an extent that he would no longer be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage.

Under Iowa law there is generally no work comp coverage for employees while they are commuting to and from work.

However, Iowa law does provide that a worker who is required to travel for his job does have workers’ compensation protection from the time they leave their home until they return to their home.

The Iowa Court of Appeals filed a Decision on November 8, 2017 in the case of Norton v. Hy-Vee, Inc. which addresses the Iowa law on the effect of accommodations to an employee after a work injury.   In the Norton case the Claimant was a pharmacy tech that suffered a soft tissue neck injury.  No surgery was required for the neck injury.  The Claimant and the employer both agreed that it was a permanent injury and that the Claimant’s ability to work had been reduced from 40 hours a week to 30 hours a week because of pain.   Hy-Vee did accommodate the worker’s limitations and allowed her to work 6 hours a day and 5 days per week.

The case also involved a disputed mental health claim.  The Claimant argued that she developed depression and anxiety from the injury.  The employer argued that the depression and anxiety were caused by stressors in her personal life.

The Claimant was injured prior to July 1, 2017 and therefore the traditional Iowa law on workers’ compensation damages applied.  (See here for an explanation of damages in post-July 1, 2017 Iowa work comp injuries).

Stealing is always a bad idea.  Stealing from your employer will usually cost you your job, and also has a negative effect on Iowa work comp claims.

If a worker is injured in Iowa before July 1, 2017, and has not yet reached maximum medical improvement, the employer needs to either provide appropriate light duty work for the injured worker, or pay weekly healing period benefits.

Sometimes an employer will terminate an injured worker before that worker reaches maximum medical improvement.  If the employer terminates the injured worker before the worker has reached maximum medical improvement, the worker must pay the terminated employee healing period benefits unless the worker was terminated for misconduct that is:

Under Iowa law a worker is entitled to be compensated for mental injuries that are caused or aggravated by a physical work injury.

The recent Iowa Workers’ Compensation Appeal Decision of Justin Doty v. Clearly Builders Corporation and Zurich North American Insurance Company is a good example of a mental injury developing from a physical injury.

The Appeal Decision also addresses an unusual dispute over the correct weekly workers’ compensation rate.

Under Iowa workers’ compensation law if there has been a change of condition in a worker’s situation since the case was settled or went to hearing the worker can receive additional disability benefits.  The worker needs to show that the change in condition was related to the original injury.  The change can be either economic or physical.

The recent case of Dante Toriello v. Mercy Medical Center is an interesting example of a review-reopening situation.

Dante Toriello was an osteopathic physician and surgeon who was employed by Mercy Medical Center. In 2006 Dr. Toriello injured his neck while performing an osteopathic manipulation on a patient. Dr. Toriello was 58 at the time of the injury.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed a recent appeal decision in the case of Michael McBurney v. Agri Star Meat & Poultry.

Mr. McBurney’s claim was that he was knocked down by a fork lift and suffered a low back injury.

The Employer and Workers’ Compensation Insurance Company defended the case based on the following arguments: