On November 25, 2019 the Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner entered a very interesting appeal decision in the case of Myron Meader v. Second Injury Fund of Iowa which involves a Second Injury Fund claim.
The short version of how Second Injury Fund claims work is as follows:
- The injured worker has to have a previous injury to an arm, hand, leg, foot, or eye. This first injury does not have to be as a result of a work accident.
- The worker then has to suffer a second injury to a different arm, hand, leg, foot, or eye. This second injury must be a work injury.
- The Claimant is entitled to be compensated for the combination of these two injuries based on how much the injuries affect the worker’s ability to obtain employment in the competitive job market.
- The Second Injury Fund is entitled to receive a credit against the award for the scheduled value of the injuries the claim is based upon.
- The Second Injury Fund pays the awards. The Second Injury Fund is a government entity which is funded by the insurance industry.
- The Second Injury Fund is defended by the Iowa Attorney General’s Office.
The Meader case has a complicated set of facts. The Claimant enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 1973. While in the Marines he was a tank commander. After serving in the Marine Corps the Claimant served in the Army Reserves while he was working at Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Claimant first injured his left knee in the Army Reserves in approximately 1976. As a result of that 1976 injury he underwent a number of knee surgeries over the years including a knee replacement in 2013 and then a second knee replacement in 2014.
The Claimant was a skilled machine operator for Rockwell Collins for about 10 years and then began working for Cope Plastics in Cedar Rapids as a skilled machinist.
In 2003 the Claimant suffered a partial amputation of his left thumb while working at Cope Plastics.
Claimant was able to continue working at Cope Plastics until he was forced to retire in 2013 because of unrelated heart problems.
The Claimant quickly found that he did not enjoy being completely retired and obtained a job with the Cedar Rapids Kernels minor league baseball team as a part-time concession worker.
In 2015 the Claimant injured his left leg when he slipped and fell at the Cedar Rapids Kernels Baseball Stadium and suffered a very serious fracture of his left knee including the artificial parts of his knee joint.
Following a course of recovery the doctors found that the Claimant should avoid being on his feet for more than 10 minutes at a time, avoid long distance walking, and avoid sitting for long periods of time.
The Claimant brought a claim against the Kernels for the June 10, 2015 knee injury. The Claimant also brought a claim against the Second Injury Fund based on a combination of his thumb injury from 2003 and his left knee injury from 2015.
The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner found that the combination of the left knee injury and the thumb injury rendered the Claimant permanently and totally disabled. The Commissioner’s reasoning was that although the Claimant had successfully worked for about 10 years after his partial thumb amputation, when the amputation injury was combined with the serious restrictions against walking and standing, the Claimant was no longer able to obtain employment in the competitive job market.
The Commissioner found that the Second Injury Fund was entitled to the three different credits:
- The Second Injury Fund was entitled to a credit of 38 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits which was the scheduled value of the 2003 thumb injury.
- The Second Injury Fund was also entitled to a credit for 61.52 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits which was the scheduled value of the 2015 knee injury that occurred at the Cedar Rapids Kernel Baseball Stadium.
- A contested element of the Commissioner’s credit related to the Second Injury Fund’s argument that the Claimant’s left knee was in very bad shape prior to the injury at the Cedar Rapids Kernels Baseball Stadium, including two previous knee replacement surgeries. The Commissioner found that the Second Injury Fund should receive an additional credit of 81.4 weeks for the left knee disability which preexisted the 2015 injury at the Cedar Rapids Kernel’s Baseball Stadium.
Another important aspect of Second Injury Fund claims is that the Second Injury Fund does not have to begin paying benefits until its credit has expired starting from the date the injured worker reached maximum medical improvement. In this case the Claimant reached maximum medical improvement on March 26, 2016. Therefore, the Second Injury Fund did not have to begin paying benefits until 180.92 weeks after the maximum medical improvement date of March 26, 2016.
The fact that the Second Injury Fund receives credits and is not required to make payments for a period of time fairly frequently leads to settlements in which the claimants receive less money, but receives the money in a lump sum and immediately.
Second Injury Fund claims are particularly complicated. Please be sure to contact our office if you have any questions.