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Understanding more about permanent impairment

While the majority of injured workers are typically able to return to their old roles or take new positions with modified duties, there are some workers for whom this is impossible owing to the severity of their bodily trauma. By way of example, consider workers who have lost limbs, suffered traumatic brain injuries or endured spinal trauma.

As discouraging as this is, workers in this position can derive some measure of comfort from the fact that they may be found to have a permanent impairment and, by extension, be eligible for regular benefits.

Those individuals unable to fully recover from their work injuries will see their authorized treating physician who will make a decision as to whether there is a permanent impairment or refer them to a physician able to make this determination.

In the event the physician conducting an exam determines that the worker is indeed suffering from a functional impairment relating to the underlying injury, the next step is to assign what is known as an impairment rating. This impairment rating will be based on the criteria set forth in the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, third edition revised.

In general, there are three different forms of permanent impairment, including:

  • Scheduled impairment: A loss of function relating to the legs, feet, toes, arms, hands, fingers, hearing, vision or teeth
  • Whole person impairment: A loss of function concerning those parts of the body not included under scheduled impairment, including the lungs, spine and brain
  • Permanent total disability: An inability to earn wages

We'll continue this discussion in a future post, exploring what is known as the Final Admission of Liability and payment eligibility.

Please consider speaking with a skilled professional as soon as possible if you have questions relating to this or any other work comp issue.

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