Articles Posted in Procedural issues

If an injured worker is found to be an employee, then they are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits.  However, if an injured worker is found to be an independent contractor, then they are not entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits.  Iowa Code Section 85.61(11) defines an employee as someone who has entered into the employment of or is working under a contract of service, express or implied, for an employer.

Where the employer-employee relationship is in dispute, the worker has the initial duty to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that they were an employee within the meaning of the law. If the worker can establish a prima facie case that they were an employee, then the burden shifts to the Defendant to rebut the presumption that the worker was an employee.

Determining whether or not a worker is an employee relies on analyzing multiple factors.  No one factor is controlling.  The factors are:

Iowa law provides that for work injuries prior to July 1, 2017 an employer is fully liable for compensating all of an injured worker’s disability that arises out of and in the course of the employee’s employment with the employer.

However, Iowa Code Section 85.34(7)(b)(2) provides that where a worker suffers two industrial disability injuries with the same employer, the worker should be paid industrial disability based on the combined disability from the two injuries; and the employer should receive a credit for the benefits paid for the first injury.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed an Appeal Decision on November 5, 2018 in the case of Ditsworth v. ICON Ag, Federated Insurance and Nationwide Insurance examining an apportionment situation.

Under Iowa workers’ compensation law the issue of apportionment has been an unclear area that has led to a great deal of litigation.  Iowa Code Section 85.34(7)(b)(1) covers injuries that occurred before July 1, 2017 and provides:

“If an injured employee has a preexisting disability that was caused by a prior injury arising out of and in the course of employment with the same employer, and the preexisting disability was compensable under the same paragraph of subsection 2 as the employee’s present injury, the employer is liable for the combined disability that is caused by the injuries, measured in relation to the employee’s condition immediately prior to the first injury.  In this instance, the employer’s liability for the combined disability shall be considered to be already partially satisfied to the extent of the percentage of disability for which the employee was previously compensated by the employer.”

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner issued a decision on August 31, 2018 in the case of Haltom v. JBS USA, LLC and American Zurich Insurance Company.  The Haltom case deals with the issue of apportionment, and also addresses a complex set of facts involving multiple injuries.

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.