Articles Posted in Trial

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.