Iowa workers’ comp changes coming July 1

by Tara Hall and Rebecca Duffy

Changes to Iowa’s workers’ compensation law—changes seen as mostly beneficial to employers—are set to take effect July 1.

The employer-friendly changes to the state’s workers’ comp law include a new provision classifying shoulder injuries as scheduled-member injuries rather than body-as-a-whole injuries, which force an industrial disability analysis. Another change limits compensation for body-as-a-whole injuries to functional disability when the employee returns to work or is offered work at the same or higher pay than he earned at the time of the injury. Another employer-friendly provision places burdens regarding an offer of suitable work on both the employer and the employee.

The law includes many other changes. For example, under the new law, there is a presumption of intoxication—and that intoxication was a substantial factor causing the injury—if an employer shows at the time of the injury or immediately following it that the employee had positive test results for alcohol or drugs not prescribed by a medical practitioner or not used in accordance with the prescribed use. To overcome the presumption, the employee must establish that (1) he was not intoxicated at the time of the injury or (2) his intoxication was not a substantial factor in causing the injury.

Another change addresses preexisting conditions. A new section of the law states, “An employer is liable for compensating only the portion of an employee’s disability that arises out of and in the course of the employee’s employment with the employer and that relates to the injury that serves as the basis for the employee’s claim for compensation under this chapter.”

Among the other changes are provisions related to the date of injury, recovery of attorneys’ fees, permanent total disability benefits, commutations (settlement agreements between the parties that provide for a preset lump-sum payment of probable future benefits), and jurisdiction.

For more information on the changes to Iowa’s workers’ comp law, see the May issue of Iowa Employment Law Letter.

Tara Hall and Rebecca Duffy are attorneys with Davis Brown Law Firm in Des Moines, Iowa. They can be reached at tarahall@davisbrownlaw.com or rebeccaduffy@davisbrownlaw.com.

About Iowa Employment Law Letter:
Excerpted from Iowa Employment Law Letter, and written by attorneys at the law firm of Davis Brown Law Firm. IOWA EMPLOYMENT LAW LETTER does not attempt to offer solutions to individual legal problems nor does it provide legal advice. The newsletter provides general information on current developments on Iowa employment issues. Questions about individual legal problems should be addressed to the attorney of your choice. Contact the attorneys at Davis Brown Law Firm.
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