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What is Permanent Disability in Workers’ Compensation Claims?

In Workers’ Comp. Permanent disability (PD) is any lasting disability from a work injury or illness that affects an employee’s ability to earn a living. If the injury or illness results in PD they are entitled to PD benefits, even if the employee able to go back to work.

   Who decides if an employee should get PD benefits?

A doctor decides if the injury or illness caused PD. The doctor’s report is then turned into a PD rating. The process used to turn the doctor’s report into a rating can vary depending on the date of injury and other factors. The PD rating determines the benefits they’ll receive.

After the doctor decides the injury or illness has stabilized and no change is likely, PD is evaluated. At that time, the employee’s condition has become permanent and stationary (P&S). The doctor might use the termmaximal medical improvement (MMI) instead of P&S.

Once P&S or reached MMI, the doctor will send a report to the claims administrator telling them whether the employee has any PD. The doctor also decides if any of the disability was caused by something other than the work injury, such as a previous injury or another condition. This is called apportionment.

   What is a PD rating and how is it calculated?

First, after an exam, the doctor will write a medical report about the employee’s impairment. Impairment means how the injury affects the employee’s ability to do normal life activities. The report includes whether any portion of the impairment was caused by something other than the work injury. The doctor’s report ends with an impairment number. Next, the impairment number is put into a formula to calculate the percentage of disability. Disability means how the impairment affects the employee’s ability to work. The employee’s occupation and age at the time of the injury affect the PD calculation.

The disability will then be stated as a percentage. The percentage of disability equals a specific dollar amount, depending on the date of injury and the employee’s average weekly wages at the time of injury.

If the employer has 50 or more employees, and they were injured before 2013, the amount also may be affected by whether or not the employer makes a suitable return to work offer. For injuries occurring on or after Jan. 1, 2013 all permanent disability ratings will be increased by a Whole Person Impairment factor of 1.4.

Rene Sanchez