Permanent Partial Disability Claims

by IrwinMitchell on March 16, 2012

Each day workers are involved in serious on the job accidents than can result in life-changing injuries. Injured workers who sustain serious injuries that impair their ability to perform their job duties may be entitled to permanent partial disability claims.

Those who receive permanent partial disability benefits from state agencies or a private workers compensation insurer remain able to work in some capacity but are physically able to perform only certain duties for their employer. Employees can be injured in a wide range of work but some of the occupations that sustain the most injuries include loggers, fishermen, roofing, other construction jobs.

Permanent Partial Disability Schedules

According to the most recently available statistics, permanent partial disability claims constitute over one-half of all workers compensation claims. There are two basic ways to categorize injuries that make workers eligible for these claims: “scheduled” and “unscheduled,” with each varying somewhat in accordance with state law.

Scheduled injuries include maiming, in which a given body part is rendered permanently unusable; each body part, for example a finger or hand lost in an industrial accident, is assigned a certain monetary value and the worker is compensated through accident claims accordingly for its loss.

Unscheduled injuries tend to be more complex than a simple maiming and can include spine and head injuries, internal injuries, and certain job-related diseases like asbestosis, emphysema, and some cancers.

Permanent Disability Benefits and Wages

Workers who suffer unscheduled injuries, seek prompt medical treatment, and file the necessary accident reports and paperwork with their state worker services agencies may be awarded permanent partial disability claims based on their ability to continue working in a limited capacity.

Employers are not allowed to take permanent partial disability compensation into account when determining injured workers’ wages, although they may reduce their pay based on their inability to work as many hours as before. As with workers compensation benefits, employers in every state except Texas are required to carry insurance to cover the cost of permanent partial disability payments.

Different Approaches to Claims

The methodology for calculating disability benefits varies from state to state, with four principal methods. The most common, called the “impairment method,” takes into account the severity of the injury and the limitations it imposes on workers’ productivity without looking at potential lost wages. The “wage-loss” and “earning-capacity loss” methods take the opposite approach, determining how much less an injured worker can be expected to earn over the course of their working life as a result of their injury and compensating them accordingly.

Some states combine wage losses and impairment, compensating for lost wages if the claimant is no longer earning their previous wage and for impairment if their injury impacts their lifestyle.

Things to Remember

Because of the fragmented, state-based nature of disability benefits, workers who change their state of residence after being injured on the job and opening a compensation claim may be required to return to their home state for medical exams and claim hearings.

Most state worker services bureaus reimburse travel expenses associated with these trips, but they may nevertheless be difficult for folks recovering from serious injuries. As always, navigating the claim system is easier with a legal professional who specializes in benefit law.



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