Serious back injuries and back surgeries often result in some amount of permanent impairment. Basically, this means that you do not have a full recovery.
Permanent impairment could result from limited range of motion. You might not be able to lift as much as you did before. Pain could potentially cause permanent impairment as well.
PPD benefits are the way that Georgia’s workers’ compensation law pays you for permanent impairment from an injury at work. PPD benefits are one of three basic types of benefits paid under Georgia law. The other two basic types of benefits are wage loss benefits (TTD or TPD) and medical benefits.
What types of back injuries cause permanent impairment?
Workers’ compensation back injuries can occur many different ways. Some of the common causes of work-related back injuries include:
- Vehicular accidents
- Slip and falls
- Lifting injuries
- Crush injuries
These types of accidents and others can cause serious back injuries. While back sprains and strains may heal up without permanent impairment, work injuries often can cause herniated discs, lumbar and thoracic fractures, and other spinal injuries.
While they do not always caused permanent impairment, spinal injuries often do. When you need surgery as a result of a back injury, you will very likely end up with some permanent impairment.
How do doctors determine my PPD rating for my back injury?
Your authorized treating physician should give you a permanent partial disability rating. But, in Georgia, doctors cannot just assign any number that they want.
Georgia law requires doctors to use a book that is published by the American Medical Association. This book is called The Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Georgia law currently requires doctors to use the 5th edition of this book.
The primary part of the AMA Guides that cover back injuries is Chapter 15, “The Spine”. Your doctor will probably use this chapter to determine your back injury PPD rating.
The two methods for calculating PPD rating in the spine chapter are the Diagnosis-Related Estimates Method (DRE) and the Range-Of-Motion Method (ROM).
The method used by your doctor will depend on several different factors. Sometimes, your doctor will use both methods and take the higher rating.
What PPD rating will I receive for my back injury?
The answer to this question depends on what your injury is. It also depends on which method your doctor uses to rate your injury.
But, there are some basic rules that you can understand about the DRE method of rating back injuries. The DRE method has three tables doctors uses to rate spinal injuries:
- Lumbar spine table
- Thoracic spine table
- Cervical spine table
These tables refer to three sections of your spine. The lumbar spine is your lower back area. The thoracic spine is your middle and upper back. The cervical spine is primarily your neck.
Each one of these tables is broken down into five different categories which are number one through five. The higher the number of the category, the higher the permanent partial disability rating.
For lumbar and thoracic injuries, the lowest rating is 0 percent which is Category I. The highest rating is Category V which is a rating of 25 to 28 percent. Cervical spine injuries also have a 0 percent rating for Category I, but the Category V rating is 35 to 38 percent.
When does my doctor determine if I have permanent impairment as a result of my back injury?
The doctor will not be able to determine your permanent partial disability rating until you reach maximum medical improvement. Before that point, your doctor cannot really say what permanent impairment you have.
Once you reach maximum medical improvement, your workers compensation doctor should determine whether you have a permanent partial disability rating. The insurance company may request the doctor to determine the rating.
When will I receive PPD benefits once my doctor gives me a PPD rating?
This depends. If you are still getting either temporary total disability or temporary partial disability benefits, you may not receive PPD benefits for a while. If you are not getting TTD or TPD benefits, your PPD benefits may start fairly immediately.
What if I have other questions about PPD benefits?
I have written another article that has more information about workers compensation PPD benefits. This article may help answer some of your questions.