Articles Posted in Procedural issues

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.

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.