Worker’s Comp Update: Some Clarity on Two-Shoulder Injuries

January 6, 2022

Since 2017, when shoulders became a scheduled injury, Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation deputies have not agreed on the proper compensation method for injuries involving bilateral shoulders or injuries involving a shoulder and another scheduled member.  A recent decision from the Commissioner brings some clarity.


All the deputies have agreed that compensation under § 85.34(t), which addresses “the loss of both arms, or both hands, or both feet . . . “, was not appropriate since shoulders are not identified in that section. 


However, some deputies held that compensation under § 85.34(2)(n), which provides for the loss of a shoulder was appropriate, and based their awards according to the functional ratings for each separate scheduled member. 


  • Manuel v. Gannett Publishing Services, File No. 5067758 (Arb. Dec. Feb. 4, 2021) (right shoulder; sequela left shoulder; benefits paid consecutively); Appeal Decision: Commissioner Cortese, July 22, 2021, affirmed in part with PPD award reduced);
  • Lund v. Mercy Medical Center, File No. 5066398 (Arb. Dec. March 9, 2021) (2 shoulders);
  • Barry v. John Deere Dubuque Works of Deere & Co., File No.  21003269.01 (Arb Dec Nov. 29, 2021) (2 shoulders).


Other deputies found that compensation under the catchall provision of § 85.34(2()v), which provides for all injuries not otherwise described, was proper and awarded industrial disability. 


  • Anderson v. Bridgestone Americas Inc./Second Injury Fund, File No. 5067475 (Arb. Dec. September 2, 2021) (right shoulder, right arm)
  • Carmer v. Nordstrom, Inc. File No. 1656062.01 (Arb. Dec. September 13, 2021) (right shoulder + sequelae left shoulder). 


The Carmer case was appealed and the Commissioner agreed with the deputy, holding bilateral shoulder injuries arising from a single accident should be compensated industrially under §85.34(2)(v).  Carmer v. Nordstrom, Inc. File No. 1656062.01 (Appeal Dec. 12/29/2021).  The Commissioner also confirmed the deputy’s finding that the claimant sustained a sequela injury to her left shoulder even though her left shoulder complaints did not manifest until more than a year after the original right shoulder injury. The finding was based on an expert’s opinion that the late onset of left shoulder symptoms was due to the claimant favoring her right arm and overusing her left arm, causing injury to both shoulders from the original incident. 


According to the schedule, a separate shoulder injury is compensated as a percentage of 400 weeks.  Thus, it is important to note there may be some instances where a bilateral shoulder industrial disability award amounts to less than if the two shoulders were compensated separately, per the schedule, based on their functional ratings alone.


Contact the Nyemaster workers' compensation team for guidance on navigating the changes resulting from 2017 workers' compensation legislation in Iowa.