Many, if not all, of our workers’ compensation clients suffer from a Permanent Partial Disability (also referred to as a “PPD”) to one or more of their injured body parts. Sometimes, when you sustain a work-related injury or illness, you lose some percentage of use for your injured body part. In more severe instances, you lose the full functioning of the body part or lose the body part itself due to your workplace accident. Your doctors, despite their best treatment efforts, are unable to restore the functioning of your injured body part to normal. Workers’ compensation provides a remedy to compensate you for your permanent losses. It is called your Permanent Partial Disability benefit payment.
Permanent Partial Disability
For example, you have injured your right knee in a workplace accident. After surgery and lengthy follow-up medical treatment, your doctor believes that you have achieved the point of maximum medical improvement (referred to as “MMI”). This means that, regardless of any additional medical care, your injury will not continue to improve. You have reached the point where you can be discharged from active medical care. In an ideal world, your doctor can fully restore your right knee back to 100% functioning, and you won’t be left with any permanent effects. Unfortunately, we live in a less-than-ideal world. Most of our workers’ compensation clients, particularly those with serious long-term injuries, are left with permanent disabilities to their injured body parts resulting from their workplace accidents.
When your attending doctor determines that you have reached maximum medical improvement, your doctor should issue a written opinion about whether a permanent partial disability resulted from the injury by assigning a disability percentage rating to the specific body part involved. The disability rating is a diagnosis by your treating doctor regarding the percentage of loss of use or limitation of the injured body part.
For example, your injured right knee has reached the point of maximum medical improvement. It typically takes one year or more of consistent medical care and treatment to achieve the point of maximum medical improvement for an orthopedic injury. No amount of additional medical treatment, however well-intentioned, will improve your present condition. Let’s assume that you still have constant pain in your knee post-surgery, and you continue to suffer from weakness and restricted movements. Your right knee has not returned to its pre-accident condition. It hasn’t been restored to normal. Your right knee suffers from a permanently impaired condition.
When your active treatment concludes, your doctor will provide their written opinion about the degree of permanent harm sustained. Your physician will file a document with the Workers’ Compensation Commission known as a Form 42. This document, the “Physician’s Permanent Impairment Evaluation,” will contain your doctor’s opinion as to:
- The percentage of permanent loss (or loss of use).
- The date upon which you reached MMI.
- Whether you have a present work capacity (or a limited work capacity with specific restrictions).
The assigned disability rating is then used by all parties to calculate the permanent partial disability benefits that will be paid to you. Under the law, each body part is assigned a different total number of weeks for compensation, based on the assumption that the body part is lost or completely non-functional. Generally, the law assigns more complex body parts greater numbers of weeks for compensation. You should be able to reach a Voluntary Agreement concerning your PPD benefits with your employer’s insurance carrier.
For example, your master arm (the dominant arm) is allotted for a maximum of 208 weeks of payments by law. So, suppose you sustained a brutal crushing injury, where you completely lost use of your master arm in the accident. In that case, our workers’ compensation law provides that you would receive the maximum 208 weeks of compensation at your weekly compensation rate. In the more likely scenario, you did not lose your arm. Instead, you sustained a serious injury where your normal functioning has been impaired, and your doctor diagnoses a PPD rating of 20% loss of use.
In this case, you will receive 41.6 weeks of PPD benefit payments (equal to 20% of the 208-week maximum for the master arm). If your compensation benefit rate is $200.00 per week (75% of your after-tax income), you will receive a total PPD payment of $8,320.00. This payment could be paid in a single lump sum, or it could be paid weekly over 41 weeks. Keep in mind that each body part has been assigned a different maximum number of weeks for compensation under our law.
Help With Your Benefits
You enjoy the right both to return to full-time work and to receive your PPD benefit. The idea behind this is that you are being compensated for the value of your injured body part rather than receiving replacement wages. If you still can’t work, you may have options for additional benefits. Contact our office to discuss your case.