Several changes in Iowa's workers' compensation law will take effect on July 1, 2017 due to the signing into law of controversial HF 518 by Governor Branstad. Below are some of the changes we feel will impact injured workers the most although this is certainly not an exhaustive list. We would encourage any worker who was injured at work to consult with an attorney as soon as possible so that your workers' compensation claim can be processed under the current workers' compensation law if possible, which is much fairer to injured workers.
Shoulder injuries: This may be the biggest change in Iowa law given that shoulder injuries had always been treated as "body as a whole injuries" that took into account the employee's loss of earning capacity. These injuries will now be treated as "scheduled member" injuries similar to the hand, foot, leg, arm, etc. The loss of a shoulder is now based on 400 weeks of benefits instead of the 500 weeks applicable for industrial disabilities. Without a doubt, this provision will drastically reduce the benefits of many Iowa workers who suffer work-related shoulder injuries.
Pre-existing conditions/successive disabilities: Employers are now only liable for compensating that part of a work-related disability that arises out of and in the course of the employee's employment with that employer. In very basic terms, this gives the employer a way to argue that work injuries are, in fact, preexisting conditions and the employer is not liable for the same. Many workers may be affected by this new provision due to the fact that almost all of us acquire age-related wear and tear over the years.
Permanent Partial Disability benefits: These payments will now begin when the employee is at maximum medical improvement (MMI) and the permanent impairment can be determined by utilizing the AMA Guides. The previous law triggered permanent partial disability benefits at the "termination of the healing period."
Jurisdiction: An employee can now bring an action in Iowa for workers' compensation benefits if "the employer has a place of business in this state and the employee regularly workers at or from that place of business." Previously, an employee could sue under this section utilizing the language just cited and if "the employer has a place of business in this state and the employee is domiciled in this state." The removal of this language restricts the ability of Iowa workers to bring actions in Iowa.
Forfeiting benefits due to other employment: The new law states an employee forfeits weekly compensation for a permanent total disability "for a week in which the employee is receiving a payment equal to or greater than fifty percent of the statewide average weekly wage from any of the following sources: (1) gross earnings from any employer. (2) payment for current services from any source."
Please contact one of our firm's workers' compensation attorneys if you have any questions regarding your specific situation: