Articles Posted in 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.