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July 2011 Archives


The Commissioner and politics…..Clients need to understand that "elections have consequences."  In 2011 we are seeing that prove true in many areas including workers' compensation cases.  In the last election the voters of Iowa bought into the "Tea Party" philosophy and voted out democratic majorities in the legislature and voted out the democratic governor.  In large part the defeat of the democrats was driven by the ongoing economic problems at the time of the election.One consequence of the republican victory for the Governor’s office is that the new governor gets to pick his own team to head the various agencies.  The division of Worker's Compensation is not such an agency.  The Commissioner of the work comp division serves a full six-year term specifically to avoid the influence of politics in the selection process.  But politics is a rough-and-tumble game and the current Republican governor is trying to force out Commissioner Chris Godfrey.  So far the governor has not provided any good reasons to remove the Commissioner which leaves everyone speculating that only bad reasons are behind the move to oust the current Commissioner.  Because the governor can't actually replace the current Commissioner he instead cut the salary of the Commissioner by more than $36,000 and is trying to starve him out. Commissioner Godfrey has been even-handed in his official activity during his years as Commissioner.  The Iowa Association of Business and Industry does not object to him.  Likewise, the legislature in Iowa has unanimously confirmed him in the past.  He also received top marks in the review performed by the state government.  This makes no difference to our governor.  He has an agenda and he's going to carry it out to the fullest degree.So if you are reading this, and you have a workers' compensation case in this state, think twice the next time you walk into the voting booth.  On the other hand, if your only goal is to weaken the rights of injured workers then … Congratulations!


 Just to update the earlier discussion on the mileage, the Iowa Worker's Compensation Commissioner has now increased the mileage reimbursement rate effective July 1, 2011 to 55.5 cents per mile.  This is tied to the IRS business rate but it is still a silly way to do this in light of rapidly rising fuel prices.


One aspect of our representation is to advance the "cost" of litigation.  This means as expenses come up in the case, we pay it.  Understanding cost is important to understanding the commitment that is being made by the attorney on behalf of your case.  Some attorneys refer to this advancing of cost as a "loan" on your case.  This is not really accurate for our firm as we do not charge any interest on the monies we advance, but it does demonstrate the process that goes on.  The attorney pays the cost as it comes due, and then deducts the cost from the clients two thirds share at the end of the case.Here are a couple examples about cost:1)  In a modern workers compensation case we have to pay $100 simply to file your case.  In the future this will be done electronically and it will become even more cumbersome and tricky.  We expect additional fees will likely be tacked on to that filing system.  You can serve a work comp lawsuit on the insurance company and employer by mail.  But each active service generally ranges between $5 and $10 per mailing.  Again this is advanced by the attorneys.2) In a personal injury case the state District Court requires $185 for the paperwork to be filed.  These types of cases generally require personal service which can add another $65 – $100 per person served to the process of getting the case on file and served.Things like postage, copier, acquiring medical bills, and conferences with the doctors are other types of expense which we advance.  Believe it or not, some doctors will charge $700 just for a 15 min. conference.  They do it because they can get away with it.Most clients don't think about the actual cost involved in the handling of a file, but costs do mount up, and can be a substantial investment first by the attorney, and ultimately by the client at the time of settlement.


So much per mile.... In a workers' compensation case it is important to think about mileage reimbursement. The problem is that the price of gasoline seems to trend upwards on a weekly basis, with only a slight dip down every once in a while. This puts the worker at a real disadvantage because while the gas prices rise rapidly, the Industrial Commissioner does not allow you to be reimbursed based on the realistic cost. Instead, once a year the Commissioner looks at the statistics in June and picks a gas price for the next 365 days. Here's a link to the Commissioner's website that will show you the current reimbursement rate: (In 2010 the rate is $.50 per mile) This is why it's a smart idea to talk with us about changes in the gas mileage reimbursement system. In this era of declining oil production worldwide, and the resulting increase in gas prices, it seems reasonable to take the position with the insurance carriers that the reimbursement rate should be adjusted regularly, not just once a year. With a flexible approach to reimbursement the insurance industry will benefit as well. If the price of gas dips dramatically (what do you think the chances are of that?) then the insurance company would benefit from a flexible plan as well. As with many things in work comp it seems unfair to make the worker wait one year to receive the compensation based on factors that the worker cannot control.

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Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake, L.L.P.

Lawyer, Lawyer, Dutton & Drake, L.L.P.
1415 Grand Ave.
West Des Moines, IA 50265

Phone: 515-421-8825
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