Articles Posted in Procedural issues

We have added a new section to our website discussing a workers’ eligibility for healing period benefits if they are laid off or terminated.

Under Iowa workers’ compensation law an injured employee is entitled to receive healing period benefits if they are laid off or if their place of employment closes until the injured employee reaches maximum medical improvement.

If a worker is terminated after they are injured, they are generally eligible to receive healing period benefits until they reach maximum medical improvement.

We have added a new section to our website concerning light duty issues in Iowa work comp cases.  The topics relating to light duty work include:

  1. Employees being given light duty work that is too hard for their work restrictions.
  2. Situations where an employee is entitled to receive wages for light duty work and also receive workers’ compensation temporary partial disability benefits.

Unfortunately, employers and work comp insurance carriers end up filing for bankruptcy.  We have added a new section to our website that talks about the two main variations of this problem and how our law firm deals with them.

The first situation is where an employer files for bankruptcy while having a work comp insurance policy that has a very high deductible.  Our law firm has successfully argued that Iowa law makes both the employer and the insurance carrier jointly and severally responsible for all of the workers’ compensation liability, including the deductible.  Therefore, our law firm has been successful in persuading reluctant insurance companies to pay the entire claim.

The second problem area is when the workers’ compensation insurance carrier becomes insolvent.  The insolvency of the insurance company does lead to delays. However, the Iowa Insurance Guaranty Association does step in to cover for the insolvent insurance company.  Our law firm has had good success in dealing with the Insurance Guaranty Association.

We have added a new section to our website that covers trials in Iowa work comp cases.  The section talks about how our lawyers handle the major recurring issues in Iowa work comp trials, that include:

  1. Was there an employer-employee relationship?
  2. Did the worker sustain an injury which “arose out of and in the course of” employment?

A large percentage of Iowa work comp cases go to trial.  However, many cases are resolved through settlement negotiations.

The Iowa law concerning work injury settlements is fairly complicated.  We have added a new section to our website that talks about many of the factors to consider and the special issues that come up in settlements including:

  1. The two main categories of settlement in Iowa work comp cases are called open file settlements or closed file settlements. The new section discusses the differences between these types of settlements and the pros and cons of each settlement.

Our law firm accepts work injury case referrals from lawyers who do not regularly handle Iowa worker’s compensation claims. In the referral cases the clients pay the same one third contingent fee that we use in non-referral cases.

We have added a new section to our website that discusses how the referral of work comp claims work. You can see the new section here.

An important part of most the Iowa workers’ comp cases that I handle is to get a good medical report from a neutral doctor to support my client’s case. When I send my clients to see the doctor that will write the report, that appointment is called an Independent Medical Exam or IME. The written analysis that the doctor eventually provides is usually referred to as the IME report.

I pick the physicians that I use for the IME process based on my past experience with the doctors that provide this type of service. I also read the decisions that are issued by the Workers’ Compensation Judges to stay up to date on what the Judges think of the opinions of the various experts that perform IMEs in Iowa.

Today I am going to talk about my strategy for the letters, records and other items that I send to the IME doctor. The IME doctor will read my letter and the enclosed documents before seeing my clients. After seeing the injured worker the IME doctor will answer my questions as part of the doctor’s report on my client.

Last week the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in the case of Staff Management and New Hampshire Insurance Company v. Jimenez that an undocumented worker is entitled to receive work comp benefits for an Iowa job injury.

For many years undocumented workers that were hurt on the job in Iowa have been able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. However, in the Jimenez case the employer and the insurance company challenged whether an undocumented worker should be able to receive Iowa workers’ comp benefits.

The worker in the case was Pascuala Jimenez who was 45 years old at the time of the workers’ compensation trial. Ms. Jimenez was born in Mexico and first came to the United States in 1991. She entered the United States legally with a visa that was good for ten years. After her visa expired Ms. Jimenez was no longer legally able to work in the United States and became an undocumented worker.

To explain when work comp checks are due, I need to start by talking a little about the two general categories of weekly benefits under Iowa law. See here for a longer discussion about these two different kinds of benefits. The short version is that from the time of a work injury until you reach maximum medical improvement the payments are called either temporary total disability benefits or healing period benefits. The purpose of these benefits is to replace the wages that you missed as a result of your work injury. This category of benefits can theoretically last forever as long as your condition continues to improve.

As soon as your medical condition has reached maximum medical improvement then the nature of the payments change from the healing or temporary benefits to what is called permanent partial disability benefits. The purpose of the permanent partial disability benefits is to compensate you for the permanent disability that you will have for the rest of your life as a result of the work injury.

If you are injured on the job in Iowa and are unable to work there is an initial three day waiting period before you become eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. For example, if you are injured on December 31, and are able to return to work on January 1, 2, or 3 you are not eligible to receive any workers’ compensation benefits. See Iowa Code Section 85.32. (There is a classification issue that effects this waiting period. If you are going to end up with a permanent disability, then the payments should start immediately, and there should not be a healing period. See Iowa Code Section 85.34(1). However, if it is not clear that you are going to end up with a permanent disability, then the waiting period applies).