Under workers compensation law, an employee injured at job is eligible to collect benefits including medical and indemnity payment for missing work. In this process, it is the insurance company that is responsible to pay the claim but they may offer settlement. This means the worker collects lump-sum payment and waiver any future claim. Actually, future claim depends on impairment or disability rating determined by the treating doctor.
Impairment versus disability
According to American Medical Association, impairment is defined as a variation in a person’s health or deviation from common body functions.
- In workers compensation process impairments are rated as permanent. Permanent impairments are the ones, which reached beyond medical improvements or there is no possibility of improvement in future.
- Disability is defined as reduction in person’s wage-earning capacity due to occupational disease or injury that arose during or out of employment.
This tiny but significant difference between ‘disability’ and ‘impairment’, doctors need to rate impairment on the performance basis of how much the persons daily functions and life gets disrupted.
Who performs impairment rating?
Workers comp disability rating scale is determined by specific licensed doctors in every state. The doctor treating the employee’s injury is not assigned to evaluate disability rating until he/she believes that the patient has reached a phase called maximum medical improvement. At this point, if the employee displays decrease in functionality because of impairment then the treating doctor is eligible to assign disability rating.
Types of disability scale
Temporary total disability [TTD]
Recovered employee eventually returns to work but during recovery the employee is made TTD payments.
Temporary partial disability [TPD]
If impairment prevents the employee from returning for full duty and needs to work part-time or need less demanding job then TPD payments are made.
Both are payments for compensating lost wages as the employee recovers from work-related illness or injury.
Permanent total disability [PTD]
Severely impaired employee, who has no chances to ever work again. It is a very serious and incapacitating condition like loss of legs or arms or total blindness.
Permanent partial disability [PPD]
All kind of permanent disabilities are regarded as partial disabilities. These can be either scheduled loss [disabilities of extremities like fingers, arms, leg, feet, hand, etc.] that are stated in state’s list but unscheduled loss are not stated.
Unscheduled loss is complicated to evaluate and differs from one state to another. Some states evaluate the employee’s real wage loss because of impairment by comparing what worker made prior and post injury. Few states calculate the employee’s future earning capacity loss considering his/her age, education, and experience.
Workers compensation rule vary, so approach an experienced worker comp lawyer to make an informed decision!