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Friday, June 23, 2017

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Quality and prompt medical care is essential for those recovering from an injury. The work comp system allows the employer and their insurance company to select the injured workers doctor. While the insurance company likes to refer to this position as “your doctor” when discussing the case with the injured worker, make no mistake about it. This doctor is not “your doctor” but rather your “treating physician”. Often times, these doctors are more loyal to the insurance carrier than the injured worker as shown by their propensity to minimize the injury, issue low ratings and display dismissive attitudes towards the injured workers. Some treating physicians have a decent bedside manner only to find that their medical records are filled with entries designed to compromise or minimize the injured worker's claim. Some “treating physicians” out right ignore the injured worker altogether.

Iowa law provides an expedited procedure for the injured worker to challenge the selection of the doctor the insurance company selects and allows the injured worker to select their own doctor in these circumstances. This is referred to as the “alternate care” rule.

Lipman Law Firm has filed several alternate care petitions lately. One in particular was tried and argued before a Deputy Workers Compensation Commissioner in July. The injured worker, who sustained a knee injury, alleged the treating physician selected by the insurance carrier was dismissive towards him and ignored his condition. When the injured worker questioned the doctor's recommendation for knee surgery, the physician released the injured worker back to full duty. The injured worker testified that the physician then refused to take his telephone calls and schedule a follow up appointment. The injured worker was even required to seek treatment at an emergency department when his leg swelled to the size of a grapefruit - a photo of which was introduced at the hearing. The judge in this case granted the petition for alternate care and allowed the injured worker to select his own doctor who is now treating his injuries. A copy of the alternate medical care decision can be found by clicking here .

The lesson we can take from this is that while the injured worker is not allowed to select his or her initial physician, he has a remedy where the employer and their insurance company’s “directed care” doctor does not provide quality and prompt care. Remember, the “directed care” doctor is your “treating physician” and not “your doctor”.

Lipman Law Firm handles claims for several truck drivers, many of whom live from outside of Iowa but who are either injured in Iowa or work for Iowa employers. We recently had a favorable decision in a case where the trucking company sought to have our client’s cased dismissed for lack of jurisdiction where the client from Virginia who was injured in outside of Iowa worked for a company with its home office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In this case, William McGregor’s employer was CRST Van Expedited, Inc.. Mr. McGregor alleged that not only was CRST located in Iowa, it also dispatched drivers through Iowa, he drover through Iowa frequently and CRST’s terminal was also located in Iowa. Thus the Employer’s Iowa location was the “hub and brain-center” of the employment relationship.

This decision that can be found by clicking( this link and this link) is significant because many companies attempt to avoid the State of Iowa due to what the Employer feels is a favorable State for injured workers as completed to the state the Employer seeks to have the case processed in. For those who desire to read the brief we filed for a more complete statement of the law and the arguments we advanced, be sure to click on this link for our Brief in Support of Claimant’s Resistance to Employer’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

June was a big month for the Elsie Mason / Liguti class action clients of Lipman Law Firm. Polk County District Court Judge Robert Blink approved a $2,450,000 settlement to tenants of the two buildings. The Elsie Mason class action was the nation's first bed bug class action to be certified by the court, survive an appeal to the Supreme Court and ultimately settle. The settlement was funded by the full $1,000,000 limits of two insurance policies, one for each building, $350,000 from the sale of the buildings and $100,000 from a contribution claim against a third party.

Equally important, the lawsuit resulted in both buildings going through a comprehensive inspection and thermal heat remediation process. As a condition of the Plaintiffs lifting a lis pendens off the building, the new owners agreed to implement a state of the art bed bug protocol including an on-site pest management professional, rewiring of the building for on-site thermal heat, and the purchase of an on-site heat chamber for personal belongings when tenants move in and out of the buildings.

Tenant class members received compensation based on the number of months they lived in the buildings during the infested period. Claims paid to tenants ranged from a few hundred dollars for those who only lived in the buildings for one month to over $11,000 for those who endured the bed bugs during the class period. Class representatives received an additional $1,000 incentive award.

This case has opened the door to other class action cases involving bed bug infestations to be pursued throughout the United States.

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