Articles Posted in Weekly Benefits

The Iowa Court of Appeals filed a Decision on November 8, 2017 in the case of Norton v. Hy-Vee, Inc. which addresses the Iowa law on the effect of accommodations to an employee after a work injury.   In the Norton case the Claimant was a pharmacy tech that suffered a soft tissue neck injury.  No surgery was required for the neck injury.  The Claimant and the employer both agreed that it was a permanent injury and that the Claimant’s ability to work had been reduced from 40 hours a week to 30 hours a week because of pain.   Hy-Vee did accommodate the worker’s limitations and allowed her to work 6 hours a day and 5 days per week.

The case also involved a disputed mental health claim.  The Claimant argued that she developed depression and anxiety from the injury.  The employer argued that the depression and anxiety were caused by stressors in her personal life.

The Claimant was injured prior to July 1, 2017 and therefore the traditional Iowa law on workers’ compensation damages applied.  (See here for an explanation of damages in post-July 1, 2017 Iowa work comp injuries).

Stealing is always a bad idea.  Stealing from your employer will usually cost you your job, and also has a negative effect on Iowa work comp claims.

If a worker is injured in Iowa before July 1, 2017, and has not yet reached maximum medical improvement, the employer needs to either provide appropriate light duty work for the injured worker, or pay weekly healing period benefits.

Sometimes an employer will terminate an injured worker before that worker reaches maximum medical improvement.  If the employer terminates the injured worker before the worker has reached maximum medical improvement, the worker must pay the terminated employee healing period benefits unless the worker was terminated for misconduct that is:

We have added a new section to our website discussing a workers’ eligibility for healing period benefits if they are laid off or terminated.

Under Iowa workers’ compensation law an injured employee is entitled to receive healing period benefits if they are laid off or if their place of employment closes until the injured employee reaches maximum medical improvement.

If a worker is terminated after they are injured, they are generally eligible to receive healing period benefits until they reach maximum medical improvement.

The human shoulder has a tremendous range of motion that allows us to perform a wide variety of activities. However, the shoulder is a very complex joint that can be hurt on the job from a wide variety of causes. Shoulder injuries are classified as unscheduled injuries and are therefore compensated based on the effect of the injury on a worker’s loss of future potential earning capacity.

We have added a new section to our website that talks about liability and payment for damages for shoulder injuries under Iowa workers’ compensation law. You can see this new section here.

Merry Christmas everyone. This is our holiday card from last year. My wife took it on her cell phone while we were putting up decorations.

Dirk & Dogs Christmas #1.jpg
Moose is on my right side, and Bub is on my left side. They are allegedly Jack Russell-Rat Terrier mixes, but they must have something else in them because they are a little bigger than either a Jack Russell Terrier or a Rat Terrier. They are siblings, and they have spent every day of their lives together. The only disagreements they ever have relate to chew toys. We always get two of each toy, but somehow they usually decide that one is better, and they both want that one.

You can see a picture of Bub illustrating a blog post about workers’ compensation and alcohol here. You can see another picture of Bub and Moose together featured in a personal injury blog post about dog bites here.

To explain when work comp checks are due, I need to start by talking a little about the two general categories of weekly benefits under Iowa law. See here for a longer discussion about these two different kinds of benefits. The short version is that from the time of a work injury until you reach maximum medical improvement the payments are called either temporary total disability benefits or healing period benefits. The purpose of these benefits is to replace the wages that you missed as a result of your work injury. This category of benefits can theoretically last forever as long as your condition continues to improve.

As soon as your medical condition has reached maximum medical improvement then the nature of the payments change from the healing or temporary benefits to what is called permanent partial disability benefits. The purpose of the permanent partial disability benefits is to compensate you for the permanent disability that you will have for the rest of your life as a result of the work injury.

If you are injured on the job in Iowa and are unable to work there is an initial three day waiting period before you become eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. For example, if you are injured on December 31, and are able to return to work on January 1, 2, or 3 you are not eligible to receive any workers’ compensation benefits. See Iowa Code Section 85.32. (There is a classification issue that effects this waiting period. If you are going to end up with a permanent disability, then the payments should start immediately, and there should not be a healing period. See Iowa Code Section 85.34(1). However, if it is not clear that you are going to end up with a permanent disability, then the waiting period applies).

Sometimes an employer will fail to purchase Iowa workers’ compensation insurance. If you end up getting hurt on the job when your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance there is a procedure for suing the employer in a civil action. I will write about the strategies for dealing with an uninsured employer in the future.

Today I am going to write about the situation in which an employer does have workers’ compensation insurance, but the employer has a very high deductible. This is similar to the situation in which you can get collision coverage as part of your auto insurance, and choose the amount of the deductible you want. You can get a very low deductible like $100 or a very high deductible like $5,000. Your auto insurance company does not have to chip in until you have paid the amount of your deductible. When an Iowa employer has a high deductible workers’ compensation insurance policy this means that the insurance company does not have to pay towards your work comp benefits until the employer has paid the amount of the deductible.

Recently we have run into a number of cases in which employers have deductibles in the area of $250,000 per injury. This means the employer has to pay for the first $250,000 of workers’ comp benefits for each injured worker before the insurance company is required to start paying. This is not a problem as long as the employer has the money to pay for the medical care and the weekly checks for the work injury.

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.

This article is about the duty of defendants in Iowa work comp cases to make good faith payments towards accepted work injuries, and how I handle attorney fees in situations like this where an injured worker is already receiving weekly benefits.

In Iowa workers’ compensation cases where the defendants have accepted or agreed that the injury was caused by work, the defendants have a duty to obtain impairment ratings to determine the extent of the injury, and a further duty to pay a reasonable amount of weekly benefits in the case. See for example Villea v. Lund Food Holdings, Inc., 737 N.W.2d 325 (Iowa App. 2007), Orris v. Kinze Manufacturing Inc., 742 N.W.2d 605 (Iowa App. 2007), and Williams v. K.W. Products, Inc., 784 N.W.2d 202 (Iowa App. 2010).

However, the fact that an employer makes good faith work comp payments toward the impairment rating does not mean that the good faith payments are all that an injured worker is entitled to receive. In most case there is plenty of room for disagreement about the extent of the injury and the resulting amount of weekly benefits that should be paid.

The short answer to this question is, “Probably not.” There is a longer answer, and I’ll talk about that below.

Part of the answer depends on whether you are receiving healing period benefits or permanent partial disability benefits at the time you are terminated. See here for a discussion and explanation about the differences between healing period benefits and permanent partial disability benefits.

If you have already reached maximum medical improvement, and are receiving permanent partial disability benefits, then the fact that you are terminated will definitely not stop your benefits. As a matter of fact, if you are terminated it might ultimately increase the amount of permanent partial disability benefits you are entitled to receive. See here for my May 29, 2012 blog post that talks about how industrial disability injuries are valued, and explains that if you are terminated from your job that can be interpreted as evidence that your usefulness to an employer has been lowered by your injury, and this in turn will entitle you to a higher industrial disability award.