Articles Posted in Trial

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed a recent appeal decision in the case of Michael McBurney v. Agri Star Meat & Poultry.

Mr. McBurney’s claim was that he was knocked down by a fork lift and suffered a low back injury.

The Employer and Workers’ Compensation Insurance Company defended the case based on the following arguments:

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?

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.

People frequently ask me whether I can help them recover more money in an Iowa work injury case than they can get on their own. In this blog post I am going to talk about the benefits of hiring an experienced Iowa workers’ compensation attorney if you have been hurt on the job.

1. FREE CONSULTATIONS. Many Iowa attorneys, including lawyers at our firm, will talk to you for free about your case. In these meetings we probably will not be able to figure out everything about your case, but usually we can give you a pretty good idea of the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and an overview of what our strategy would be to handle your case if you wanted to hire us.

2. CONTINGENT FEE. We represent our clients in workers’ compensation, personal injury and wrongful death cases on what is called a contingent fee basis. This means that we get paid a percentage of what we are able to recover for our clients. It also means that if we don’t recover for our clients, then they do not have to pay us.

Back on July 31, 2013 I wrote about the discovery requests that defendants ask injured workers in Iowa workers’ compensation cases. You can see that post here.

Today I am going to talk about the discovery that I conduct on behalf of my injured clients in Iowa work comp cases.

The two types of written discovery are Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents. In Interrogatories I get to ask the defendants specific questions that they have to answer. With my Requests for Production of Documents I get to require the defendants to give me copies of records and reports that are relevant to the case.

I am giving a presentation at the Iowa Association for Justice Fall Work Comp Seminar that is coming up on September 6, 2013. Here is a modified version of that presentation in which I set out my thoughts on how to best represent injured workers in Iowa workers’ compensation cases.

I. General Philosophy

1. I have developed a lot of check lists and forms, and I keep expanding them every time I run across something good.

At an Iowa workers’ compensation trial I need to prove that my client’s injuries arose out of and in the course of their employment, and I have to prove the extent of their damages, and how much money they are entitled to receive. (See here for more detail on what happens at a workers’ compensation trial, and see here for more details on the factors that go into proving how much money an injured worker is entitled to receive). In order to be able to prove the amount of damages it is usually necessary to use one or more expert witnesses. (See here for more details on the use of medical experts, and see here for more details on the use of vocational rehabilitation experts).

In the Iowa workers’ compensation system there are a lot of time deadlines relating to evidence. For example, you simply can’t bring an expert to trial, or submit an expert report at trial without telling the other side. There are very specific time requirements about giving the other side notice of your intent to use experts, and providing the expert reports to opposing counsel a certain amount of time before trial.

In the rest of this blog post I will talk about how an injured worker’s medical status and the expert disclosure rules impact how quickly a case can be brought to trial.

Today I am going to write about the trial and appeal process in Iowa work comp cases. In doing this I am going to talk about how long the various steps take, and the main issues at each stage.

TRIAL LEVEL. This is the first stage in the process. Take a look at my blog post of December 28, 2012 which gives an overview of what goes on in an Iowa Workers’ Compensation trial.

After the trial, and depending on the complexity of the case, and the workload of the Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioner who heard the case, an arbitration decision will usually be issued within one to four months after the trial date. The decision will explain which side wins and what benefits the worker is entitled to receive.

In this post I am going to give an overview of Iowa Workers’ Compensation trials. Work comp trials are technically arbitration hearings. However, I am going to refer to the arbitration hearings as work comp trials because I think that terminology makes more sense and is easier to follow for most people. In this post I will be talking more about the rules and logistics relating to the trials. In future posts I will get more into trial strategies.

LOCATION OF THE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION TRIALS. The Commissioner’s office is currently holding work comp trials in eight locations. The headquarters of the Workers’ Compensation Commission is located in Des Moines, and 8 to 10 trial slots are available almost every day. The Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioners (the work comp judges) also travel around the State to seven other locations. The current “road” trial locations are: Cedar Rapids, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Iowa Falls, Ottumwa, Sioux City and Waterloo. Deputies generally are assigned to go to a “road” location for an entire week, and generally two trial slots are available for each day that week. Trials are currently held in each road location one or two weeks per month. The schedule for the road trial locations is generally very full, and it can be difficult to get a trial slot in one of the road locations. Therefore, if my clients are agreeable, I will frequently schedule trials in Des Moines because this allows the cases to be tried and decided more quickly. The schedule of all the work comp trials in Iowa is located here.

Another factor in favor of scheduling a trial in Des Moines is that the Des Moines trial slots are definite, and you only have to schedule one slot. By contrast, trials in the road location are scheduled two deep in each slot. Additionally, for each road location trial you schedule both a back up date and a primary date. When you are in the back up slot you don’t get to go to trial unless the case scheduled ahead of you ends up settling. If your back up hearing does not get to proceed to trial, your next scheduled slot is what is called the primary hearing, and you will definitely get to be heard on that date. A lot of people find that the additional time to travel to Des Moines for a single definite trial slot outweighs the uncertainty regarding the back up slots, and the longer waits to get to trial.