Computation of Permanent Partial Disability Benefits Under Iowa Law When Impairment is to Two Scheduled Members

by | Jul 15, 2013

In Iowa, the question is often raised as to the proper method for determining permanent partial disability indemnity benefits when a claimant has permanent injuries to two scheduled members. The answer to that question lies in large part on the determination of whether the permanent impairment to the two scheduled members arose out of the same or different accidents. In situations where an employee has incurred permanent impairment to two different scheduled members but arising out of different acute accidents, each individual injury is measures against the schedule of weeks provided in I.C.A. §85.34.

However, if one acute event causes permanent impairment to two scheduled members, the combined impairment is measured against 500 weeks pursuant to I.C.A. §85.34(2)(s). The fact that 500 weeks are utilized can sometimes cause confusion as to whether bilateral permanent impairment arising out of one acute event entitles a claimant to assessment of industrial disability. The Iowa Supreme Court has previously determined that the fact that bilateral permanent impairment is to be measured against 500 weeks does not entitle the claimant to assessment of industrial disability. Therefore, when faced with bilateral permanent impairment arising out of one acute event, the most prudent course is to request that the assigning physician translate the effect of the two permanent impairments in the scheduled members to a body-as-a-whole injury and then measure the percentage of body-as-a-whole impairment against 500 weeks.

For more information regarding calculation of benefits under Iowa workers’ compensation law, please contact Paul Barta at 402-475-1075 or