Top 10 Proposed Changes to Iowa's Workers' Compensation Law

by Davis Brown Law Firm
Contact

The Iowa Legislature is currently reviewing proposed legislation pertaining to Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation laws. 

The proposed legislation has been introduced as House File 518, with companion Senate File 435.  The legislation passed the commerce committees of both the House and Senate.  Amendments are now being filed by legislators in both the House and Senate. 

The proposed legislation offers the most substantial changes we’ve seen in over 75 years.

Below is an overview and summary of the bills and what appear to be the biggest proposed changes.  Please note that these are only proposed changes. 

1. "Predominant Factor" Causation Standard (85.61(7)) 
  • PROPOSED CHANGE:  Would only make personal injuries arising out of and in the course of employment compensable “if such injuries are found to be the predominant factor in causing the disability for which compensation is claimed under this chapter, or chapter 85A or 85B.”
  • FUNCTION:  This changes the current causation standard from a “probable cause” analysis to a “predominant factor” analysis.  Under the Explanation section of the proposed legislation, it is noted, “An injury is the predominant factor in causing a disability if more than 50 percent of the disability is attributable to the injury.”
2. Shoulder is scheduled member (85.34(2)(m) 
  • PROPOSED CHANGE: Includes the shoulder joint as a scheduled member injury to the arm, compensable on a schedule of 250 weeks.
  • FUNCTION: Takes shoulder injuries out of the purview of section 85.34(2)(u), which employs an industrial disability analysis based on 500 weeks.

3. Age 67 determinative of termination of permanent partial and permanent total disability benefits (85.34(2)(U); 85.34(3)) 

  • PROPOSED CHANGE 1: If an employee sustains an injury compensable under 85.34(2)(u) (body-as-a-whole injury), an employee of age 67 or older may not receive in excess of 150 weeks of compensation.

  • FUNCTION: Utilizing age 67 as the retirement age, this section limits the amount of wage replacement an employee receives from the workers’ compensation system in the form of permanent partial disability benefits for a body-as-a-whole injury.
  • PROPOSED CHANGE 2: Language added to 85.34(3)states that for permanent total disability, “[W]eekly compensation is payable during the period of the employee’s disability until the employee is no longer permanently and totally disabled or until the employee reaches the age of sixty-seven, whichever occurs first. If an employee sustains an injury compensable under this subsection after reaching the age of sixty-seven, compensation shall be paid to the employee so long as the employee remains permanently and totally disabled not to exceed an amount equal to one hundred fifty weeks of compensation.”
  • FUNCTION: Utilizing age 67 as the retirement age, this section caps the amount of permanent total disability benefits an employee may receive on the earlier of (1) no longer being permanently and totally disabled; or (2) reaching the age of 67. In addition, an employee age 67 or older is limited to 150 weeks of compensation. Under these changes, employees would no longer be entitled to benefits indefinitely.
4. Industrial disability analysis can take into consideration retirement age  (85.34(2)(u)) 
  • PROPOSED CHANGE: Add the following language to 85.34(2)(u): “A determination of the reduction in the employee’s earning capacity caused by the disability shall take into account the permanent partial disability of the employee and the number of years in the future it was reasonably anticipated that the employee would work at the time of the injury.”
  • FUNCTION: Under current case law, an industrial disability analysis does not take into consideration an employee’s retirement age or years remaining in the work force. This statutory change would allow the agency and courts to take into consideration the years an employee is anticipated to remain in the work force.
5. Functional loss sole consideration if employee returns to work or is offered to return to work without loss of salary/wages/earning (85.34(2)(u)) 
  • PROPOSED CHANGE: Add the following language to 85.34(2)(u): “If an employee who is eligible for compensation under this paragraph returns to work or is offered work for which the employee receives or would receive the same or greater salary, wages, or earnings than the employee received at the time of the injury, the employee shall be compensated based only upon the employee’s functional disability resulting from the injury, and not in relation to the employee’s earning capacity.”
  • FUNCTION: This change would take away an industrial disability under 85.34(2)(u) and limit recovery to the functional loss under circumstances where an employee is offered to return to work for the same or greater salary/wages/earnings than prior to the injury. There is incentive to return the employee to work in order to limit loss to a functional basis; however, there is also risk to the employee that the work offered may not be permanent in nature and may only last through pending litigation.
6. Clarify what constitutes an offer of “suitable work” (85.33) 
  • PROPOSED CHANGE: The most notable change concerns what constitutes “suitable work” with respect to geographic location of the offered work. Among the changes to this code section, the following language would be added to the statute: “Work offered at the employer’s principal place of business or established place of operation where the employee has previously worked is presumed to be geographically suitable for an employee whose duties involve travel away from the employer’s principal place of business or established place of operation more than fifty percent of the time.” Additional language would also require the employer to communicate the offer in writing and set forth the details of lodging, meals, and transportation. There are also provisions outlining how the employee should communicate the refusal and reasons for refusal.
  • FUNCTION: Provides that traveling employees may be offered suitable work at the employer’s principal place of business and sets standards by which the employer and employee communicate regarding the terms of the offered work.
7. Date of Injury (85.23 and 85.24) 
  • PROPOSED CHANGE: The new legislation would add the following language: “For the purposes of this section, ‘date of the occurrence of the injury’ means the date that the employee knew or should have known that the injury was work-related.”
  • FUNCTION: The legislation codifies the definition of “date of the occurrence of the injury,” which will lead to more consistency in decisions and clarifies the standard versus relying on case law that utilizes different standards.
8. Commencement date for permanent partial disability is date of MMI (85.34(2)) 
  • PROPOSED CHANGE: Compensation for permanent partial disability begins when the Claimant reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI) and the extent of the injury can be determined based on the AMA Guides.
  • FUNCTION: Prevents employees from concurrently receiving temporary benefits and permanency benefits. Helps employers avoid interest payments until the time Claimant reaches MMI.
9. AMA Guides must be used when determining functional impairment (85.34(2)(w))
  • PROPOSED CHANGE: Add a subsection (w) to section 85.34(2), which prohibits the use of lay testimony or agency expertise and requires use of the AMA Guides.
  • FUNCTION: Uniformity in determination of functional disability.
10. Jurisdiction for Claims Occurring Outside of Iowa (85.71) 
  • PROPOSED CHANGE: Removes language stating that for an injury occurring outside the state, an employee is entitled to the benefits of Chapter 85 where “the employer has a place of business in this state and the employee is domiciled in this state.”
  • FUNCTION: The existence of an employer’s location of business in the state of Iowa, paired with an employee’s domicile in the state of Iowa, does not entitle an employee to benefits under Chapter 85. If the employee meets any of the five other tests under 85.71, the employee may still be entitled to benefits for an injury occurring outside of Iowa.
Bottom line

The above list is only proposed changes at this time. The House Republicans caucus again today, March 14, at 3:00 p.m. It’s still unclear as to whether they have the votes to pass it yet. 

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Davis Brown Law Firm | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Davis Brown Law Firm
Contact
more
less

Davis Brown Law Firm on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):
hide

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.

Security

JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.
Feedback? Tell us what you think of the new jdsupra.com!