Cutler Law Firm, P.C.

An Injury to the Shoulder and Arm is to Two Scheduled Members

In Iowa, when a worker is permanently injured in an industrial accident, his or her compensation to permanent disability is calculated depending on the body part(s) involved. An injury is either a “scheduled” injury or an “unscheduled” injury. A scheduled injury is an injury to one of the body parts listed in paragraphs (a) through (u) of section 85.34(2). They include injuries to the hand, arm, foot, leg, etc. In contrast, an unscheduled injury is an injury to a body part not listed on the schedule. They include injuries to the back, neck, hip, head, etc. Scheduled injuries are compensated by multiplying the percentage of functional impairment by the number of weeks identified on the schedule. Unscheduled injuries are compensated based on the employee’s loss of earning capacity (commonly referred to as “industrial disability”). Generally, but not always, an employee’s compensation for an unscheduled injury is much greater than compensation for a scheduled member injury.

In 2017, the Iowa Legislature amended section 85.34(2) to include the shoulder as a scheduled member body part. Overall, this has resulted in a significant decrease in compensation for workers with shoulder injuries. In turn, many employees started arguing that their “shoulder” injury was not only an injury to their shoulder, but was also an injury to their arm. They argued that because they had permanent impairment to both their shoulder and their arm, their injury left the schedule and resulted in an industrial disability.

On March 29, 2024, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected this argument and concluded that an injury to the shoulder plus another scheduled member is not an unscheduled injury, but rather is compensated based on two scheduled member injuries. Bridgestone Americas, Inc. and Old Republic Ins. Co. v. Anderson, ___ N.W.2d ___ (Iowa 2024). Accordingly, the Court held that an employee with a shoulder injury and another scheduled member injury is entitled to permanent disability benefits based only on the functional impairment of both scheduled members, not based on a loss of earning capacity.

This is a very important decision that will unquestionably affect how current claims are being handled. As always, please feel free to contact any of our attorneys with questions regarding this or any other workers’ compensation matters.

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