The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner filed an Appeal Decision in the case of Mynor Ferrez v. Wyckoff Heating & Cooling and LeMars Insurance Company. This case is a good illustration of the importance of following up and pursuing a workers’ compensation claim quickly.
In May of 2014 the claimant was 35 years old and working as a heating and cooling technician for Wyckoff Heating & Cooling. His main job was installing air conditioning systems in new commercial buildings.
On May 21, 2014 the claimant tripped and fell down a flight of stairs. The claimant had low back and right shoulder pain after the fall. The claimant went to the doctor a few times, but then returned to his regular duties without pursuing additional medical care. The claimant was terminated from his job on October 10, 2014.
The claimant testified at trial that he still had low back and right shoulder pain at the time he was terminated. The claimant further testified that he thought that once he was terminated he was no longer eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
The claimant was quickly able to get a new full-time job installing insulation. Unfortunately, the claimant was hurt on this insulation job on February 21, 2015 when he fell 10 feet off a ladder and landed on his right hand. The claimant had a severe fracture of the right wrist that had to be repaired by implanting a metal plate.
After his wrist surgery the claimant brought up the fact that he was having low back and shoulder pain, and asked for additional medical care for these injuries. The claimant had a low back MRI on December 14, 2015 which showed a severe disk herniation in his low back. The claimant also had an MRI taken of his shoulder which did not show any clear injuries.
The claimant eventually underwent low back surgery on March 9, 2016.
The result of the low back injury and the surgery was severe enough that the claimant was prohibited from doing any heavy manual labor including the type of construction-related work he had done most of his adult life.
The claimant did not look for a new job for about nine months after his back surgery.
The claimant was eventually able to get a job as a hotel maintenance supervisor that did not require physical labor. However, the job only paid $10.00 per hour and his weekly hours could be low at times.
The Workers’ Compensation Commissioner found that the claimant did not prove that he injured his right shoulder while working for Wyckoff Heating & Cooling back on May 21, 2014. The long passage of time without medical care, and the intervening fall while installing insulation prevented the claimant from carrying his burden of proof concerning the right shoulder.
The Commissioner found that the claimant did prove that he injured his low back while working for Wyckoff Heating & Cooling. However, the Commissioner had some concerns about the claimant’s credibility and motivation based on some of the gaps in medical treatment, and the nine months without a job search following his back surgery.
Therefore, the Work Comp Commissioner lowered the trial award of the Deputy Commissioner that heard the case at trial, and reduced the award from permanent total disability to 65% industrial disability.
Therefore, the award to the claimant was changed from the claimant being entitled to permanent total disability payments for the rest of his life to 325 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.