Today I am going to write about some of the situations that I have seen come up recently in work comp cases in which injured workers ran into trouble, or almost ran into trouble because they did not talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer about their claim. These examples are only the tip of the iceberg. There are an almost infinite number of things that can go wrong, and every case has its own wrinkles and variations.
MISCALCULATING YOUR DEADLINE FOR FILING A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PETITION. The general rule in Iowa is that if you are injured on the job, but are never paid workers’ compensation benefits, you have to file your workers’ compensation petition within two years of the date of injury. Alternately, if you are injured on the job and are paid workers’ compensation benefits, then your time deadline for filing your workers’ compensation petition is within three years of the last payment of monetary workers’ compensation benefits to you. See here for my March 27, 2013 blog entry which discusses Iowa work comp time limits in greater detail.
Lane v. Spencer Municipal Hospital, Case No. 3-226/12-1358 (June 26, 2013) is a recent decision from the Iowa Court of Appeals that talks about one of the ways that the time deadline can be miscalculated. In the Lane case the plaintiff was injured on February 28, 2010 and filed their petition on February 29, 2012. The plaintiff’s argument that the petition was timely was based in part on Iowa Code Section 4.1 that provides that in computing time limits the first day is excluded, and the last day is included. Therefore, the plaintiffs in Lane argued that they were entitled to exclude February 28, 2010 when they were injured, and the clock started ticking on March 1, 2010. They then reasoned that moving forward 24 months from March 1, 2010 took them to March 1, 2012. Therefore, the plaintiffs believed that they should have up until the last second of February 29, 2012 for filing their petition. The plaintiff’s position is reasonable, and one member of the Court of Appeals agreed with the plaintiff. However, the majority of the Court of Appeals found that the plaintiffs filed their petition one day too late, and therefore their claim was completely barred. The leap year angle in the Lane case is unusual, but there are literally hundreds of Iowa cases dealing with different disputes that arise in calculating the time limits for filing lawsuits.