What are an injured employee’s rights to permanent disability?
If an employee does not fully recover, an injured employee’s rights to permanent disability become the most critical component of a Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorney’s job in representing the client.
Fortunately, most workers completely recover from their job injuries. For those employees who do not fully recover, the resulting injury is characterized as permanent disability. Stated more technically, permanent disability (PD) is any remaining disability that results in a reduced earning capacity after maximum medical improvement is reached. If an employee’s injury or illness results in permanent disability, they are entitled to permanent disability benefits even if they are able to return to work.
Whether or not an employee is considered to have a permanent disability caused by an on-the-job injury is initially determined by a doctor. Generally, a doctor does not decide if there is a permanent disability until the injury or illness has stabilized and no change is likely. A common phrase to describe this status is when the condition is determined to be permanent and stationary (P&S). Some doctors are now using a similar phrase, “maximal medical improvement,” (MMI) to describe this status as well.
Once an employee is permanent and stationary, the physician is required to send a report to the claims administrator telling them that the employee has a permanent disability as opposed to just a temporary disability. The doctor is also required to determine if any part of the disability was caused by something other than the work injury. This is sometimes referred to as “apportionment.” Typical apportionment examples would be from a previous injury or other condition.
Another significant result of being declared permanent and stationary is that your temporary disability payments will likely stop at this point. If you likely will have a permanent disability, you may be eligible for permanent disability advances from this point. If there is a dispute as to whether you will likely have a permanent disability, of you your permanent disability is minimal, you may find your income being shut-off completely. Consequently, it is usually a good idea to have a workers’ compensation attorney handling your case to help during this transition period.
How is a permanent disability rating calculated?
Doctors that examine you for rating purposes are required to write a medical report about your impairment. Impairment is a way of describing how your normal life activities are changed or impacted. In the written report, we request the examiner to also include whether any portion of your disability was caused by something besides your work injury. Typically, the doctor will also include an impairment number in the report.
If the report appears to be accurate, we utilize the impairment number in a formula to calculate your percentage of disability. Disability (in this context) means how the impairment affects your ability to work. Your age at the time you were injured, your future earning capacity, and your occupation all factor into the ultimate calculation. The portion of your disability caused by something else, if any, is then factored out of the calculation, and a percentage is attributed to the rating. The amount of money you receive for your disability is then determined using that percentage as one of the primary components.
If you have questions about calculating your permanent disability, or believe that you are not being compensated adequately for your injuries, please do not hesitate to contact one of our Sacramento Workers’ Compensation Attorneys for a free consultation.