There are many changes, both procedurally and substantively, that became law during the last legislative session. Overall, they were not beneficial to injured workers. A few of the changes which will have the most effect on injured workers are discussed below. All of the following changes relate to injury dates AFTER July 1, 2017.

  1. The employer shows at the time of injury or immediately following the injury, the employee had a positive test  result reflecting the presence in their body of alcohol or another intoxicant not prescribed by a physician or used in accordance with the prescription, it will be presumed that the employee was intoxicated at the time of injury and that the intoxication was a substantial factor in causing the injury. The employee can offer evidence that they were not intoxicated or that the intoxication did not cause the injury once the presence of alcohol is proven by the employer.
  2. Under Iowa Workers Compensation Law, the employer has the right to choose and authorize medical care. If the employee does not appear for medical examinations, the employee forfeits benefits for the period of the refusal. This has changed from a suspension of benefits to a forfeiture.
  3. One of the biggest changes has to do with injuries to an employees’ shoulder(s). Shoulder injuries after July 1, 2017 are now considered to be “scheduled” injuries as opposed to injuries to the whole body. (even if the shoulder injury renders the employee incapable of working). This means that the recovery is much lower for a shoulder injury after July 1, 2017 as opposed to the same injury pre- July 1, 2017.
  4. If an employee is returned to work by the physician chosen by the employer in work deemed “suitable” and the employee is not able to perform the work, then the employee forfeits their benefits while they are not working if the work is deemed suitable. If the employee refuses the work offered then the employee must communicate the refusal in writing to the employer or carrier or the benefits cannot be recovered.
  5. If the employee is able to return to work after reaching the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI) then the employee is not owed any permanent disability benefits, only benefits for the functional rating issued by the authorized physician. However, if the employment is terminated at any time, the employee can bring a review-reopening claim at that time for permanent benefits.

When suffering an injury at work, it is important to contact an attorney who is familiar with the recent legislative changes and how to preserve your right to benefits and comply with the recent law. Contact the attorneys at Spellman & McDevitt Law to ensure you are treated fairly.