The Iowa Supreme Court issued an outstanding ruling this month supporting the rights of injured Iowa workers to obtain more than one healing period resultant from a work injury. The decision is a win for workers who have sustained Iowa Workers Compensation injuries. A healing period is the time period which occurs when an employee is injured and is recovering from injury. Typically, an employee is hurt, then goes through a time where recovery happens, whether often times with surgery, but not always. Depending on the injury, normanal an injured employee is usually placed on work restrictions by his/her treating doctor. Eventually, after treatment the injured worker then reaches Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) where treatment and recovery plateau. When MMI is reached a doctor would normally return the injured worker back to regular job duties or other issue permanent restrictions. This is normally the time the insurance company requests that the doctor provide an impairment rating.
In many situations an injured worker reaches MMI, then some time latter needs further active care with the doctor placing the worker back on restrictions or otherwise ordering the injured worker to be off work completely. Under the majority of workers’ compensation agency decisions, the injured worker would be entitled to healing period benefits again even though the injured worker was previously placed at MMI. In Waldinger Corporation vs. Mettler the Court of Appeals disagreed, however, the Iowa Supreme Court decided to review the Court of Appeals decision. On July 6, 2012 the Supreme Court sided with the injured worker and finally established that an injured worker can have more than one healing period. This decision is extremely important to Iowa’s injured workers. Harry Dahl of the Dahl Law Firm represented the injured worker in the case and did an outstanding job.
The significance of the case is simple: If an injured worker has a first surgery, then reaches MMI and is paid permanency benefits, then sometime latter needs a second surgery resulting in time away from work, then the worker should be paid while he is off for that second surgery. The Iowa Supreme Court issued an outstanding ruling which conforms with the inherent principals of the legal system – fairness. This is a signficant decision for those involved in the Iowa Workers Compensation system.