5 Things “To Do” If You Are Injured at Work in Iowa

You are injured at work.  Now what?  Do these things to protect your worker’s compensation rights.

1.) Report the injury (that you are injured and it was because of the work you do) to your manager/supervisor immediately 

You have a 90 day window from the date of your injury to provide notice to your employer.  If you miss this deadline, then you most likely will lose your right to pursue your worker’s compensation claim. Although there are some limited exceptions to this rule, you should notify your employer as soon as possible.  Make sure you tell your manager that a. you are injured and b. that the injury happened because of the work you do.

2.) Ask to fill out a “First Report of Injury” form and to get a copy for your records

Although oral notice is sufficient, it is recommended that you give notice to your employer in writing.  Your employer should have a “First Report of Injury” form that they submit to their worker’s compensation insurance carrier.  Written notice (and getting a copy of the form) prevents your employer from denying that you told the company about your work injury.

3.) Ask for / find out where to go for medical care and attend all medical appointments

Injured workers often think they will get better with time and put off seeking medical care.   However, it is important that you seek medical care immediately.  Your employer gets to select the medical provider so make sure if they say go to your own personal physician that your employer provides you workers’ compensation insurance information.  Do not run any work comp appointments/prescriptions through your personal health insurance.  Keep in mind that every time you go to a medical appointment, records are created.  Make sure you tell your provider when/how you were injured at work and all symptoms that you believe are because of the work injury.  Turn in all off work slips and/or light duty slips to your employer.

4.) Do not assume that the work comp insurance carrier is on your side

All insurance companies’ primary goal is to pay out as little as possible.  The work comp insurance company is not there to give you information on all your benefits.  They are attempting to minimize all costs paid on your behalf including medical care, temporary benefits and permanency benefits.  

5.) If light duty is offered IN WRITING, attempt to perform the light duty and if you are unable to perform the offered light duty, immediately let your employer know IN WRITING why you can’t do the work 

You need to know that in July 2017, your rights/obligations with regard to light duty changed significantly.  Your employer needs to communicate light duty work to you in writing AND any refusal by you also needs to be communicated to your employer in writing.   Additionally, you could be asked to perform light duty work through a vendor that provides such services and places employees in temporary positions, such as working at Goodwill.  In certain instances, you also may be asked to perform light duty work at a different location other than your main worksite.

Keeping your New Year's Resolution

Every year we make New Year’s resolutions revolving around travel, saving money, exercising, losing weight, jobs…the list goes on and on. And every year, after somewhere between 30 and 90 days (sometimes sooner), most of us give up on these resolutions. There are various reasons that this happens each and every year, but hopefully with some small steps, we can stop quitting our goals and dreams, and commit to achieving them. So how can we make and keep a New Year’s Resolution?

1. Write it down: This is step one. I’m a list maker, so I’m a huge advocate of writing those goals and resolutions down on paper. Daydreaming about your goals and dreams is wonderful, but writing those thoughts and dreams down is the first step to making them a reality. So step one to making and keeping your New Year’s Resolutions is getting a notebook and writing down your big goals for the New Year. I am a Rachel Hollis follower, and she advises writing down your goals as if you’ve already achieved them. Apparently it “tricks the brain” so to speak into thinking you’ve already accomplished them, so it might not be so hard! Examples of what you could write for your big goals: “I lost 50 pounds this year!” “I wrote a book and got published.” “I paid off 1/3 of my debt.”

2. Make a plan: How are you going to accomplish these goals? Maybe you’re overwhelmed or don’t know where to start. The answer is to start small and be specific. If you’re goal is to lose 50 pounds, perhaps having a weekly plan to hit the gym 4x a week and meal prep on Sundays would be a good start. If you’re like me and want to pay off some debt, attending a weekly Dave Ramsey class could be on the horizon. Make your plan specific so you’ll have the tools written down (in bite size pieces) as to how you WILL achieve your goal!

3. Be consistent: This is the hardest part. Choosing to make a change is easy, but sticking with it is where most people fail. Hopefully your goals and plans are clearly spelled out for you. But you have to keep at it. How will you do this? Surround yourself with encouragers and support. Tell them your goals and ask them to support you. Get rid of temptations that will steer you off course when you are vulnerable while trying to make a new habit. And write it down! That same notebook that you wrote down your goals and plans in can serve as a journal to help document and encourage you as you make daily progress. If you’re a list maker like me, make checkboxes that you can check each day you follow your plan. There’s something so satisfying about checking that box, isn’t there??

4. Expect a lifestyle change: This goes hand in hand with the consistency step above. The biggest and best changes in our lives usually take time and continuous effort. We won’t get to that 50lbs weight loss overnight, and even if you do, it won’t be maintained if you go back to your old ways. Achieving big goals and making changes is about breaking habits and forming new ones. This takes time. Know that some of the change may be uncomfortable. Expect a change in your lifestyle permanently to maintain your goal once it’s been reached, not just a temporary plan to reach your goal and return to your old ways. When you acknowledge it’s a lifestyle change versus a temporary diet or change, it’s easier not to give up or quit.

Cheers to 2019 and all our New Year’s Resolutions! May we make them, plan them out, keep them and maintain them!

Evictions in Iowa from the Landlord’s Perspective, Part II

III. Forcible Entry and Detainer Filing and Notice Requirements

A. Notice to Quit

Iowa law requires that, prior to a forcible entry and detainer action being filed, the landlord serve the tenant with a notice to quit demanding that the tenant surrender and vacate the premises within 3 days. At this point, the tenant may simply move out and the process would be complete. As a practical matter, the landlord should not stop the procedure until the landlord is certain the tenant has actually vacated and when the tenant returns the keys to the landlord. The best practice at that point is to change the locks so as to eliminate any “spare key” issues. If three days expire and the tenant has not vacated, the landlord may begin the actual court proceeding to evict the tenant.

B. Filing of Forcible Entry and Detainer Petition and the Perils of Providing Proper Notice of Hearing Date.

The first actual filing in court in a forcible entry and detainer action is the Petition and Original Notice. This is filed in small claims court and requires an $85.00 filing fee. The Petition states the ground(s) for the eviction and warns the tenant that failure to appear may result in judgment for possession and for court costs. The Petition also allows the landlord to select from one of two options related to the length of time until the hearing is scheduled. The landlord can request that the Court set the hearing within eight days of the filing of the Petition or within fifteen days.

The choice on whether to have the hearing scheduled within eight or fifteen days is often determined by the landlord’s confidence in getting the tenant served with notice in a short period of time. The tenant needs three days of notice of the hearing date prior to the hearing date. The landlord may serve the Petition through personal service or through acknowledgment but this has to be done “not less than three days prior to the hearing.” As one would imagine, having a person served at least three days prior to the hearing when the hearing date is only eight days away can prove troublesome. If confident, the landlord may select the eight-day option. Generally, the best course of action is to allow fifteen days because of the rules related to service of the Petition if the tenant cannot be served personally by the Sheriff or will not sign an acknowledgment of receipt of the Petition.

The rule states that two attempts must be made to have the tenant served personally or to get an acknowledgment before a different form of notice may be employed. If those two attempts have been made but the tenant has not been served, the landlord may post the Petition on the primary entrance door and mail by regular and certified mail to the tenant’s last known address (usually the rental unit unless they have moved). The rub lies in the fact that the rule states that the mailed notice is not deemed received until four days after it is postmarked and deposited in the mail. So, in order to serve the Petition by posting and mailing, two attempts have to be made at personally delivering the Petition and the mailing has to occur at least eight days prior to the hearing which all but eliminates any chance of proper service within eight days.

Properly serving the Petition on the tenant is fraught with potential complications. The rules cannot be overlooked as proper service is jurisdictional, meaning the court is in no position to hear the merits of the case without the required notice. If service is properly made, the small claims court will have a hearing which will be discussed in Part 3 of this blog post.

Call BKFL if you need assistance or have any questions.


Sit and Be Fit

As an attorney, I sit in a chair for hours on end: typing, reading, listening, thinking, organizing files (ok, you get the picture). But nonetheless, I am constantly sitting. Research shows that people who sit at a desk for 8 hours a day are at risk for many health problems: organ damage, trouble with brain fog, pain in the neck and shoulders, muscle degeneration, back problems, leg disorders, and ultimately a higher mortality rate. In fact, those that sit for extended periods of time have a 61% higher risk of dying at an earlier age than those who sit for less than 1 hour a day.* Reading statistics like that freaks me out! So back in my first year of practice, I decided I needed to do something to change my sedentary lifestyle! I was already feeling the ache in my neck and shoulders on a daily basis from slumping at my computer all day. My brain felt like mush by the end of the day. And I could feel my back screaming at me from slouching. So I decided to start implementing some small healthy changes to mix things up and counteract some of those ominous health concerns. Here are some tips to help you at your workplace to balance out all that sitting!

1. Stand up every hour! If you have an Iphone or Apple watch, Fitbit or any other kind of fitness tracker, you can create a setting to remind you to stand up at least once an hour. Your body will thank you!

2. Exercise challenges – I regularly (at least once a week) challenge another “sedentary” working friend to do a squat challenge. Every hour of our 8-hour-workday we do 20 squats. It takes less than a minute to accomplish this each hour. But it makes you move, gets your blood pumping, raises your heart rate, and gives you a quick break and burst of energy to get back into your work! I mix it up and do plié squats one hour, split squats the next, sumo squats…you get the idea!

3. Alternate sitting and standing at your desk. Stand up desks are great, but can be pretty pricey. For me, it is awkward to have a meeting with a client while at a stand up desk, and sometimes, I just want to be able to sit down to get work done. But having the option to stand occasionally is good for your posture, muscles, and provides a nice change in routine. I have a lift for my laptop that when stacked on my giant dictionary, creates an optional stand up desk. If I’m having a sluggish day and feel like my eyelids are getting heavy, I’ll prop my laptop on the make-shift stand up desk and work on projects while standing.

4. Water water water! Hydration is key! Even though our bodies aren’t doing a lot of physical work to get dehydrated while sitting down, our brains need water to stay sharp. It is recommended to drink half your body weight in ounces of water a day to stay properly hydrated for full body efficiency (and more if you exercise!)** If you’re not a big water drinker, that might seem like a lot of water! I used to HATE drinking water! In order to get myself into the habit, I drank water out of bottles with a straw. Naturally, you consume more liquids through a straw – it’s magic! I also put zero calorie flavors in my water to get me used to the habit. I slowly stopped having to use those and now I am RARELY seen without my water bottle!

I hope you can use one of these tips to help balance out your sedentary lifestyle!

** https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2013/09/13/the-truth-about-how-much-water-you-should-really-drink

Evictions in Iowa from the Landlord’s Perspective, Part I

I. Introduction

Iowa law requires landlords to strictly comply with a number of procedural requirements prior to being able to evict an individual or individuals from a rental unit. Following the rules is imperative as any slight failure could result in an action being dismissed, thereby requiring the landlord to repeat the steps again which will, in turn, increase the time and expense of the eviction and prevent the re-renting or other intended disposition of the rental unit.

Iowa eviction actions are controlled by Iowa Code Chapter 648 and are referred to as actions for “forcible entry and detainer.” That Chapter intersects with Iowa’s Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Law which is found at Chapter 562A of the Iowa Code. This blog post will be broken into separate parts dealing with lease termination, notice requirements, and the eviction hearing itself.

II. Lease Termination

To evict a tenant, the tenant’s lease must be terminated. The notice required to terminate a lease is often dictated by the terms of the rental agreement itself but may also be determined by law depending on the reason for the termination.

A. Expiration of the Lease Term

If the lease term is simply ending (e.g. the year-long lease is up) and there is no written lease dictating the notice required or the written lease does not address the issue, the amount of notice required depends on the length of the lease:
• If week to week, then 10 days’ notice is required;
• If month-to-month, then 30 days’ notice is required; or
• If longer than month-to-month, then 30 days’ notice prior to the expiration of the term is required.

B. Holding Contrary to the Terms of the Lease

If the tenant is using the property in some way that violates the agreement of the parties (e.g. allowing more people to live in the unit than allowed or smoking inside the unit), the landlord must provide the tenant with a “cure notice” giving the tenant 7 days from the date they receive the notice to remedy the violation. This requirement also applies to a situation where the tenant is not complying with the landlord-tenant law and such noncompliance materially affects health and safety. Failure to cure the violation is grounds for termination.

C. Nonpayment of Rent when Due

Where the tenant has not paid rent, the landlord does not have to provide any notice greater than a 3-day notice of termination of tenancy which should be combined with a notice of nonpayment of rent and the 3-day Notice to Quit described in the next edition of this post. If the tenant does not pay the rent within 3 days, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process regardless of the length of the lease.

Call today or schedule an appointment if you have questions.