Articles Posted in Strategy Advice

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed an Appeal Decision in the case of Mynor Ferrez v. Wyckoff Heating & Cooling and LeMars Insurance Company.  This case is a good illustration of the importance of following up and pursuing a workers’ compensation claim quickly.

In May of 2014 the claimant was 35 years old and working as a heating and cooling technician for Wyckoff Heating & Cooling.  His main job was installing air conditioning systems in new commercial buildings.

On May 21, 2014 the claimant tripped and fell down a flight of stairs.  The claimant had low back and right shoulder pain after the fall.  The claimant went to the doctor a few times, but then returned to his regular duties without pursuing additional medical care.  The claimant was terminated from his job on October 10, 2014.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed an appeal decision on January 10, 2020 in the case of Sherilyn Fasig Snitker v. Birdnow Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Birdnow Motors and Seabright Insurance Co.  The case is an example of how an injury will be compensated differently for someone that does physical labor versus someone who has a lighter duty job.

The claimant worked as a car salesperson.  She injured her low back on February 8, 2013 when she fell on the car lot.

The claimant underwent six weeks of physical therapy that did not help her condition.  She then had an MRI which showed a number of problems in the lumbar spine.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed an appeal decision on December 19, 2019 in the case of Nguyen v. Des Moines Public Schools and EMC Risk Services.  I think the case is a good example of the situation where there are a lot of complicated and conflicting factors that the Work Comp Commissioner has to take into account in assessing the extent of damages.

In this case the claimant was a 34 year old woman who was born in Vietnam.  She graduated from high school and attended one year of college in Vietnam.  When the claimant was 18 she married her husband moved with him to the United States. The claimant became a U.S. Citizen in 2008.

The claimant has never taken any formal language classes, but speaks English well.  The claimant explained that she has more difficulty reading and writing the English language.

On November 25, 2019 the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner entered a very interesting appeal decision in the case of Myron Meader v. Second Injury Fund of Iowa which involves a Second Injury Fund claim.

The short version of how Second Injury Fund claims work is as follows:

  1. The injured worker has to have a previous injury to an arm, hand, leg, foot, or eye. This first injury does not have to be as a result of a work accident.

The details of workers’ compensation cases are critical, and our lawyers are always available for no cost and no obligation discussions. However, in this post I am going to try to answer the most common questions that we receive.

WORK COMP BENEFITS

What are the work comp benefits I am entitled to receive? There are three main areas of benefits:

Here is my advice on what to do if you get hurt on the job.

  1. Report the injury to your supervisor. If you fail to report an injury within 90 days of it occurring you will be barred from receiving any money or medical care no matter how clear it was that you were hurt on the job. Report injuries right away. Do not wait.
  2. Make sure your report of injury is turned into a written document. Many employers will have forms for reports of injury. Make sure the report gets completely filled out and keep a copy for yourself. If your employer doesn’t have forms, you can give your own written notice. Make sure your notice explains:

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed an interesting appeal decision on November 1, 2019 in the case of Peckham v. Roberts Construction and Auto Owners Insurance Group.  The claimant was helping to build a home addition when he fell from an elevated position on July 6, 2013 and suffered severe injuries to his ankles and knees that required surgery.

The case went to trial in front of a Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioner.  The Deputy found that the claimant’s knee and ankle injuries constituted bilateral leg injuries.  The bilateral injuries needed to be assessed pursuant to Iowa Code Section 85.34(2)(s) and were worth a maximum of 500 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.  The Deputy found that the worker had suffered a 20% whole person impairment from his ankle and knee injuries and therefore was awarded 100 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.  (500 weeks x 20% = 100 weeks).

The Deputy found that the claimant did not prove that he had suffered injuries to his back or hips.

The Iowa legislature enacted a number of new work comp laws that took effect on July 1, 2017.  See here for a summary of the new laws. These new laws apply to injuries that occur on and after July 1, 2017.

A number of cases in which the new laws apply have been tried at the Deputy Commissioner level.  The case of Reiter v. Incorporated City of Remsen and EMC Insurance involves a stipulated shoulder injury.  The Reiter case interprets and applies two of the legal changes.

The first change is Iowa Code Section 85.34(2)(x) which provides:

Under Iowa law if the payment of weekly benefits to an injured employee is denied, delayed or terminated, and the employer cannot show a reasonable cause or excuse, then the injured worker is entitled to be awarded penalty benefits.  Penalty benefits are in addition to the benefits that were not properly paid.  The penalty benefits can be up to 50% of the amount of the weekly benefits that were not properly paid.  The exact amount of the penalty benefits is up to the discretion of the work comp judges.

Unfortunately, some employers and insurance companies do a very poor job of paying weekly benefits in the correct amount and in a timely manner.

Set out below is a modified version of a Post Trial Brief I filed in a case involving very serious injuries and terrible compliance by the insurance company in paying the benefits that were owed.  I have changed the names and dates for privacy purposes.

The Iowa Workers Compensation Commissioner entered a recent Appeal Decision on March 19, 2019 in the case of Tammy Roberson v. Sears Holdings Corporation and Indemnity Insurance Company of North America which  highlights the importance of expert opinions in Iowa work comp cases.  In some situations it is very clear that an injury was caused by work.  This would be where a worker is struck by a forklift, cut by a knife, etc.  However, in many other situations, it is not always clear whether an injury was caused by cumulative trauma at work or whether an injury was unrelated to work and just caused by natural degenerative changes.

Under Iowa law, the cause of an injury is essentially within the domain of expert testimony.  The Work Comp Commissioner considers the expert medical evidence along with all of the other evidence in the case.  Testimony from non-medical witnesses may be used to support or attack expert opinions.  The amount of weight to be given to an expert opinion is determined initially by the Deputy Work Comp Commissioners at trial, and then by the Commissioner if the case is appealed.  The Deputy Commissioners and the Commission have the power to accept or reject expert opinion either in whole or in part.

In the Roberson case, the Claimant was 53 years old at the time of trial.  She had a high school education.  The Claimant also had an extensive and varied work history.  She had worked as a flagger on a construction crew.  She had worked as a supervisor of tar pickers, power washers and ropers.  The Claimant had also worked as a bartender, waitress and a cook.  She had worked as a shipping and receiving clerk.  She had worked as a CNA.  She had worked as a planter in a greenhouse. She had worked in a grocery store as a cash register operator and stocking shelves and working at the customer service desk.  She had worked for a railroad support company and drove railroad crews around the country.  Her job with Sears Holdings Corporation included customer service, stocking, inventory, assembly, shipping, and operating a forklift.