On December 28, 2016 Pothitakis Law Firm received an excellent award for one of our clients. The case was based upon a claim of hearing loss and tinnitus (ears ringing). The Claimant, W.M. had been employed by a local manufacturing company since 1977. He worked in an environment that was extremely noisy. Although the employer provided hearing protection it was not sufficient to avoid the long term effects of the noise on the Claimant’s ears. In addition to the Claimant’s hearing decreasing over time, the Claimant began suffering from ringing in his ears. This ringing affected his ability to concentrate and sleep. The Claimant was told that there was nothing that could be done to stop the ringing and that it was a permanent condition. The ringing is referred to as tinnitus by physicians. In April of 2015 the Claimant decided to retire. At that time the Claimant contacted the Pothitakis Law Firm. Under Iowa law, the date of injury for hearing loss claim is the date of retirement, the date the person has transferred from the excessive noise environment, or the termination date. The date of injury for a tinnitus claim is a different date. That date is based upon when the Claimant realizes that the tinnitus is a serious condition connected to his employment that may have an impact on his future earnings.
The claim was highly contested and the Defendants did not make an offer of settlement before hearing. The parties proceeded to hearing before a Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioner on August 29, 2016. The deputies’ decision on December 28, 2016 found in favor of the Claimant, W.M. The judge awarded the Claimant a 35% industrial disability (loss of future earning capacity) as a result of his hearing loss and tinnitus. This entitled the Claimant to 175 weeks of benefits or an award of approximately $125,000. Further, the Defendants will be responsible for the Claimant’s hearing aids associated with this occupational hearing loss. Pothitakis Law Firm believes an appeal will be filed by the Defendants.
As the decision illustrates, it is very important for long term employees who suffer hearing loss or tinnitus to discuss the matter with a qualified Iowa workers’ compensation lawyer as they may be entitled to significant benefits as a result of the same.