Legislative Update - Workers' Compensation Legislation

  • Jul 01, 2017

Legislative Update by Attorney Lee Hook

Major legislative changes occurred in Iowa effective for all injuries that occur on or after July 1, 2017. Under prior law injured workers were awarded permanency benefits based on loss of earning capacity for non-extremity type injuries including the neck, shoulders, back and hips ("body as a whole" injuries). Under the new law shoulders are no longer injuries to the body as a whole, but are rather considered scheduled member-type injuries. Workers with shoulder injuries are now entitled to receive permanency benefits only to the extent of his/her functional impairment, and are not entitled to receive benefits for loss of earning capacity.

Further, after July 1, 2017, if the injured worker sustains an injury to his/her body as a whole and returns to work or is offered work for which he/she receives or would receive the same or greater salary, wages, or earnings, than the injured worker received at the time of the injury, the injured worker is compensated based only upon his/her functional impairment resulting from the injury.

Legislative changes also stiffened the employer’s intoxication defense adding a presumption that an employee was intoxicated at the time of his or her injury if the employee had a positive test result reflecting the presence of alcohol, narcotic, depressant, stimulant, hallucinogenic or hypnotic drug not prescribed by a medical practitioner or not used in accordance with prescribed use. The new law made changes with respect to independent medical evaluations, pre-existing conditions, vocational rehabilitation, and commencement date for the payment of permanency benefits.

Legislative changes will most certainly result in a very significant decrease in the value of claims.

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