Let us assume a scenario in which you are injured in a work-related accident, suffering a severe back sprain. Although you are eventually able to return to work, later on when you are helping a friend to move you sprain your back again, this time so seriously that corrective surgery becomes necessary. You believe that this new injury is an aggravation of the original injury that you experienced at work. Your employer and its workers’ compensation insurer, on the other hand, disagree and claim that the new treatment you required was because of a “superseding cause” — in other words, the injury you suffered while helping your friend was unconnected to your work, and therefore does not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
Which side has the better argument?
This was the question that the Iowa Court of Appeals had to grapple with in real life in arriving at a decision last month when it considered an appeal of a district court case that originally held that the plaintiff’s subsequent back injury was not subject to workers’ compensation. In this case, the appeals court ultimately decided that the second injury was not a case of superseding and intervening cause, and therefore qualified for workers’ compensation coverage. It also concluded that any medical cost-related benefits need to be paid directly to the injured worker.
Workers’ compensation claims do not always go smoothly. You can run into resistance from your employer, your workers’ compensation insurer, or both; your workers’ compensation hearing may not go in your favor at first. An appeal may become necessary to secure the benefits that you need, and even this may require more than one approach. Given that sometimes it may be necessary to fight for your right to benefits compensation, it is essential that if you encounter problems with your workers’ compensation benefits that your legal counsel be fully versed in how the appeals process works and with how Iowa courts have addressed cases similar to yours.