Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation Injuries

In some Iowa work comp cases foot or leg injuries end up causing low back problems to the injured worker because of changes in their gait.  Iowa workers’ compensation law provides that if a worker suffers an injury to one part of the body that ends up causing an injury to a second part of the body, both of the injured body parts are compensable under Iowa work comp law.  The most common type of a spill over injury is a worker who injures his foot or leg and ends up with a limp.  Sometimes the limp will unfortunately cause hip or low back problems.  In this situation the worker is entitled to receive compensation for both the original leg injury and the later back injury that develops as a result of the limp.

Additionally, an injury to a scheduled member that results in an injury to an unscheduled member will be treated as a combined unscheduled injury.  For example, if the worker injures his leg, the maximum recovery the worker can receive is 220 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.  If the worker has a 10% impairment of the leg, he is therefore entitled to 22 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.

If the same worker’s leg injury causes back problems, the injury to both the leg and back shift out of the scheduled injury category to the unscheduled category.  For unscheduled injuries the worker is entitled to be compensated for the extent to which the injuries affect the worker’s future earning capacity.  Generally, a worker will receive higher compensation for an unscheduled injury than for a scheduled injury.

I.  MEDICAL BACKGROUND OF COMPLEX REGIONAL PAIN SYNDROME

The cause of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is not well understood.  The current theories are that CRPS is caused by an injury or an abnormality of the peripheral and central nervous systems.  CRPS generally occurs as the result of a physical injury or trauma such as infections, surgery and heart attacks.

There are two main types of CRPS.  Type 1 is also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD).  Type 1 CRPS develops after an injury or illness that does not directly damage the nerves in the affected limb.

Under Iowa workers’ compensation law a worker can receive substantially more benefits for injuries to certain body parts if the worker also had a prior injury to a different body part.  These types of cases are called Second Injury Fund claims.  The law relating to the Second Injury Fund of Iowa is set out in Iowa Code Sections 85.63 to 85.69.  The requirements for a worker to receive a Second Injury Fund award are as follows:

  1. The worker must have a work injury that results in permanent disability to one of his hands, arms, feet, legs or eyes.
  1. The worker must have suffered an earlier permanent loss to one of those same body parts. The earlier loss does not have to be related to a work injury.

Sometimes a relatively minor physical injury can lead to a very severe mental injury, and even an inability to work.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner recently addressed such a situation in an Appeal Decision issued on December 12, 2017 in the case of Fitch v. Des Moines Public Schools and EMC Insurance Companies.

The Claimant in the Fitch case was a special education teacher who was assaulted by a student.  The Claimant suffered substantial cuts and bruises in the attack, but the physical injuries healed within several weeks.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed an Appeal Decision on December 1, 2017 in the case of Wilson v. Idex Corporation and Liberty Mutual Insurance.  One of the issues in the Wilson case was how non-work health problems that the Claimant developed after his work injury should affect the amount of disability to be awarded.

Under Iowa Work Comp law post-injury accidents are not to be used to reduce the amount of disability awarded.  The measurement of industrial disability is determined at the time healing period ends.

In the Wilson case the Claimant had worked for Viking Pump for 38 years.  At the time of his work injury the Claimant was a furnace tender.  The furnace tender job was very physically demanding and the furnace tenders worked a great deal of overtime.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner entered an appeal decision on November 29, 2017 in the case of Heim v. A.Y. McDonald Mfg. Co.  The main issue in the Heim case was whether the worker had suffered permanent total disability.

Under Iowa law permanent total disability does not mean that a worker is injured so severely that they are helpless.  Instead, the test is whether the injury disables the employee from performing the type of work that their experience, training, education, intelligence and prior physical ability would otherwise permit them to perform.  (See here for a longer explanation of how pre-July 1, 2017 permanent total disability injuries are analyzed under the workers’ compensation system.  See here for an explanation of the change in how injuries are analyzed for post-July 1, 2017 Iowa work comp injuries.)

The claimant in the Heim case was 63 years old at the time of the workers’ compensation trial.  His formal education ended with high school.  His work history had generally involved physically demanding jobs.

The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner issued an appeal decision on November 20, 2017 in the case of Kvidera v. Windows By Pella, Inc. and Selective Insurance Company of the Southeast.  The case involved a claimant who was seriously injured in a motor vehicle accident while driving a work truck.  The issue in the case was whether he had deviated from his employment duties to such an extent that he would no longer be eligible for workers’ compensation coverage.

Under Iowa law there is generally no work comp coverage for employees while they are commuting to and from work.

However, Iowa law does provide that a worker who is required to travel for his job does have workers’ compensation protection from the time they leave their home until they return to their home.

Our website has a new section that discusses the Iowa work comp law relating to permanent total disability.  The new section covers:

  1. The general law on permanent total disability cases.
  1. How older workers frequently are more likely to receive a permanent total disability award.

Under Iowa workers’ compensation law most of the injuries that occur to a truck driver while he is on the road will be considered to be a work injury which entitles the truck driver to work comp benefits.

Truck driving is very strenuous and dangerous work.  Truck drivers can be injured in a wide variety of ways, and many of the injuries are very serious.  Additionally, the legal issues surrounding work comp injuries to truck drivers are very complex.

We have added a new section to our website that discusses the many issues that come up in workers’ compensation litigation involving truck drivers, including:

lCNAs have very physically demanding jobs that lead to a wide variety of work injuries.  We have posted a new section in our website discussing Iowa workers’ compensation cases involving injuries to CNAs.

The new section talks about causes of workers’ compensation injuries to Certified Nursing Assistants.  This section also deals with the recurring issue of aggravations of pre-existing injuries in CNA cases.  This section also discusses the Iowa law that determines the amount of work comp benefits that an injured CNA is entitled to receive.  You can view the new section on CNA injuries here.