Workers' Compensation Update

  • Feb 08, 2022

Legal Update by Attorney Alison Stewart and Law Clerk Jordan Gehlhaar

The Iowa Court of Appeals and the Workers’ Compensation Commissioner recently ruled on several important workers’ compensation topics:

Compensation when Shoulder Injury is Combined with another Scheduled Member Injury

Commissioner Joseph Cortese affirmed a finding that a shoulder injury combined with an injury to another scheduled member is to be compensated industrially under “catch all” provision 85.34(2)(v). In his analysis, the Commissioner provided: “while the legislature made the shoulder a scheduled member, it did not add the shoulder to the list of scheduled members that can be compensated on a 500-week basis when two are injured in a single accident.” Additionally, this conclusion was found to be consistent with prior agency determinations and avoidance absurd results. See Carmer v. Nordstrom, Inc., File No. 1656062.01 (Appeal Dec. Dec. 21, 2021).

Sufficiency of Employee Notice

The main issue in Taylor v. Iowa State University Extension was whether the employee gave sufficient 90 day notice as required by Iowa Code 85.23. The claimant was injured in a vehicle accident on the way back to the office from a work presentation. The following day, when the supervisor inquired about her whereabouts, the claimant replied via email that she had a “vehicle problem” and was out seeking medical attention. The Iowa Court of Appeals affirmed denial of benefits, finding the email insufficient notice, as it did not notify the employer that the accident was work-related.

Reasonable Delay in Obtaining Impairment Rating

The Iowa Court of Appeals held that when a claimant challenges the authorized physicians’ opinion that the claimant has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), this affords the employer a reasonable basis to defer seeking an impairment rating. The employer was reasonable to assume that if the employee was challenging the MMI determination, they were also challenging the entitlement to permanent partial disability benefits. Under this reasoning, the employer has a basis to defer seeking an impairment rating without facing penalty benefits. See Cochran v. Quest Liner, Inc., 2022 WL 122358 (Iowa Ct. App. Jan. 12, 2022).

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