The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed an Appeal Decision on March 5, 2021 in the case of Brandt v. CRST Van Expedited, Inc. and Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. The case is a good example of how eye injuries are handled under Iowa workers’ compensation law.
The Claimant was born and raised in the Netherlands. The Claimant was injured in June of 2013 while she was working as a semi-truck driver in the United States. A bungee cord snapped, and the hook struck her directly in the right eyeball.
Generally, the maximum recovery for injury to a single eye is 140 weeks of PPD benefits. Injuries to both eyes can be compensated by up to 500 weeks of PPD benefits. In addition to her eye injury, the Claimant also suffered from post-traumatic headaches, dizziness, neck pain, shoulder pain and post-traumatic stress disorder. Under Iowa law the combination of a scheduled injury such as the Claimant’s eye injury along with these other injuries which are body as a whole injuries, results in all of the injuries being assessed and compensated together on the basis of industrial disability.
The defense tried to argue that the Claimant was exaggerating her injuries. However, all of the doctors, including the defense doctors, agreed that her post-accident vision in her injured eye was 20/200. That means that what a person with normal vision can clearly see at 200 feet requires the person with the 20/200 vision to stand 20 feet away to see clearly.
The work injury to the eye puts the Claimant on increased risk for glaucoma and other problems.
The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner awarded the Claimant 150 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits and ordered the Defendants to provide all future medical care for the eye injury.
Neither party appealed this award, and it became permanent and final. The Claimant moved back to the Netherlands shortly after the workers’ compensation trial, and the Defendants began to resist providing medical care. As a result, the Claimant filed a Petition for medical care benefits that came on for hearing on May 11, 2020.
Under Iowa law the employer and work comp insurance company are required to furnish all reasonable surgical, medical, dental, osteopathic, chiropractic, podiatric, physical rehabilitation, nursing, ambulance and hospital services. The question of what medical care is necessary is essentially within the domain of expert opinion. All of the findings of the Deputy Commissioner in the medical care hearing were affirmed by the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner in the Appeal Decision. The Deputy and the Commissioner ordered the Defendants to provide the following medical care:
- The Claimant remains entitled to treatment for her neck and upper back and the Defendants were ordered to provide and authorize medical care providers for these problems in Netherlands within 20 days. If the Defendants fail to do so, then the Claimant may arrange her own treatment at the expense of the Defendants.
- The Defendants were ordered to provide a gym membership for the Claimant based on medical recommendations that working out would help with her neck and back problems.
- The Claimant had also set up her own message therapy at a facility in the Netherlands, and this care was approved on an ongoing basis.
- The Defendants are also responsible for annual eye exams, including eye pressure measurements. The Claimant had set up her own eye exams at Leads University in the Netherlands, and that provider was approved by the Commissioner.
- The Defendants were ordered to provide prescription sunglasses every two years because of the Claimant’s injured eyes sensitivity to sunlight.
- Finally, the Defendants were also ordered to provide psychological treatment for the Claimant’s post-traumatic stress disorder with a provider in the Netherlands.