What is My Shoulder Injury Worth Under Iowa’s New Workers’ Compensation Laws?

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Posted by Emily Anderson

In July 2017, Iowa legislators made drastic changes to Iowa’s workers’ compensation laws.  One of the most drastic changes made was how shoulder injuries were compensated.

In Iowa work comp law, there are two main types of work injuries: “scheduled member” injuries and “body as a whole” injuries.

Scheduled Member Work Injuries

Scheduled member injuries are injuries to a limb or an eye.  Once the injured worker is released by their doctor, the injured body part is assigned an impairment rating.  The rating comes in the form of a percentage and is assigned by a doctor.  This rating dictates the maximum number of weeks an injured worker can receive permanent disability benefits.

Body as a Whole Work Injuries

“Body as a whole” injuries are injuries to the core of the body like the neck, back, or head.  These types of injuries are treated much differently than scheduled member injuries.  The amount of permanent disability benefits an injured worker can receive is based on an injured workers’ “loss of earning capacity.”

This term refers to how your injury has affected your ability to earn.  The physical impairment rating given by a doctor is only one part of how that calculation is made.  It is not the whole picture.  If you are awarded benefits based upon your loss of earning capacity, it generally means you will receive more compensation.

How Shoulder Injuries Have Changed Under the New Iowa Law

The reason that this is important is because shoulder injuries have changed from “body as a whole” injuries to “scheduled member” injuries.  Prior to July 2017, if you had a shoulder injury, the amount of permanent disability benefits you would receive was based on your loss of earning capacity.

The law that went into effect in 2017 was designed to reduce benefits for injured workers with shoulder injuries.  It did so in two major ways:

  • By reducing the maximum amount of permanent disability benefits from 500 weeks to 400 weeks.
  • Changing the way to determine how many of the 400 weeks an injured worker can receive. Now the injured worker is limited to the percentage of 400 weeks equal to their physical impairment rating, instead of an amount equal to their loss of earning capacity.

What Iowa work comp lawyers are now arguing in the courts is what constitutes the shoulder.  If you injured a part of your body that is legally considered the “shoulder,” you will be limited in the amount of permanent disability benefits you can receive.  If, however, you injure a part of your body that extends beyond the shoulder, like your neck or your back, you could be entitled to significantly more permanent disability benefits.

Don’t let the work comp insurance company tell you what kind of injury you have.  If you have an injury to your arm, your shoulder, or your neck, consult an Iowa workers’ compensation attorney to learn your rights.  You might be surprised to learn you could receive more benefits than you originally thought.

Second Injury Fund Benefits

There may be another way you can receive benefits if your shoulder injury cannot be claimed as a “body as a whole” injury.  This is known as Second Injury Fund benefits.  If you have suffered an injury in the past to a different limb or eye than the one currently injured, you may be eligible for Second Injury Fund benefits.  This could result in more compensation for your shoulder injury.

Second Injury Fund benefits can be complex, so we recommend contacting an experienced Iowa work comp attorney for a free consultation about your situation.

If you still have questions about your shoulder injury and Iowa workers’ compensation benefits, call RSH Legal today at 1-319-774-1783.

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