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Where the injured worker and the employer and insurance carrier cannot come to an agreement, there may be no choice but to file a Petition for Arbitration with the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation, asking for a hearing. After the Petition is sent to the employer and the insurance carrier or administrator, a lawyer will file an Answer on behalf of the employer and insurance carrier, and the lawyers will then exchange information, including medical records and answers to questions sent by the other side. They are not doing that to make the other side upset, but to get a clearer picture of the other side’s position. Not only does that help to prepare for hearing, it also helps both sides determine the chances of settling the case.

An injured worker can plan on spending several hours preparing to answer the questions sent by the defense attorney, called “Interrogatories.” They will go into work history, past medical history, past marriages, criminal and military history, among other things. That information helps the defense to find out if the worker has had previous injuries similar to the one at issue in the present case, has had claims for previous work injuries or personal injuries, and what problems the worker has now.

Often, the defense lawyer will arrange to take a sworn statement of the claimant before a Court reporter, and will ask questions about the issues set out above. That is not unusual, and can help get the case settled in some cases. The injured worker has to be available for that statement, which usually takes from 45 minutes to 2 hours, but in unusual cases can take longer. No evidence can be offered after the close of the hearing; that is the one chance the parties have to state their case.

After the answers have been exchanged, parties will often attempt a mediation, or settlement conference, either arranged through the agency or through a private mediator. Those are usually successful, if the parties participate in them in an effort to get the case resolved.

A recent appeal ruling in the Iowa workers’ compensation agency allows the prevailing party to recover more costs from the losing party; that was more recently upheld in the Iowa Court of Appeals. Click here to see the ruling, Deere v.  Caven.That means that an attorney should be more careful to take a case to hearing, and it also allows the claimant to obtain medical reports, with confidence that the full amount can be recovered.

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