Unfortunately, some serious injuries sometimes do not completely heal. Even with good medical treatment, serious injuries often cause some amount of permanent impairment. Sometimes this permanent impairment is reduced strength. Other times it is reduced range of motion.
Georgia’s workers compensation system considers permanent impairment from an injury when deciding what workers compensation benefits you can receive. If you have a permanent impairment from an injury at work, your doctor should determine the amount of your permanent partial disability.
But, how does that happen?
What is permanent partial disability?
Before discussing how doctors determine permanent impairment ratings, I would like to explain a little bit about what permanent impairment is. There are two different terms that workers compensation uses to describe permanent impairment. One is permanent partial impairment which is often abbreviated as PPI. The other is permanent partial disability which is often abbreviated as PPD.
There is really no difference between permanent partial impairment and permanent partial disability. Both of these terms really mean the same thing. The official term used in Georgia is permanent partial disability, but some doctors will refer to it as permanent partial impairment.
The idea behind permanent partial disability is that you receive some compensation if you suffer a permanent loss of function as a result of your work-related injury. The amount of compensation will depend on the percent rating that you receive as well as how much you were earning before you got hurt.
When does a doctor determine my permanent partial disability rating?
In order for you to have a permanent partial disability rating, your injury must be expected to be permanent. So, doctors generally wait until you reach maximum medical improvement before assigning you a permanent partial disability rating.
Maximum medical improvement is basically a concept that says you are as good as you are likely to get in recovering from your injury. It does not necessarily mean that you will not improve anymore. it just means that doctors have done everything for you that they can at this point, and they really do not see anything more to offer you.
How do doctors determine permanent partial disability ratings?
There was a time when doctors did not have any set standards for determine permanent partial disability ratings. As you might expect, this led to unfairness because the doctor just picking a rating out of thin air did not result in consistent ratings that reflected the amount of permanent loss of function.
Fortunately, Georgia workers compensation law has a method that doctors must follow now when they determine the amount of permanent partial disability. Georgia law requires doctors to use a certain book to give you a permanent partial disability rating.
The book that doctors are required to use is called The American Medical Associations’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Doctors are required to use the 5th edition of that book. It is a big thick green book, and it tries to cover any sort of impairment that you might suffer as a result of an injury or a disease.
If you reach maximum medical improvement and your doctor thinks that you may have some permanent impairment, they should consult the Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment book to determine what your rating should be.
The Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment has 18 different chapters. 16 of these chapters focus on body systems.
Here are some of the chapters of the book that are used most often in workers compensation cases:
- Chapter 13 – The Central and Peripheral Nervous System – serious injuries often result in some form of nerve damage
- Chapter 15 – The Spine – this chapter covers injuries to the back and neck
- Chapter 16 – The Upper Extremities – this chapter covers injuries to the shoulders, arms, and hands
- Chapter 17 – The Lower Extremities – this chapter covers injuries to the legs and feet
By looking at the appropriate chapter for your injury, the doctor will get instructions on how to determine your permanent partial disability rating. The doctor will then assign a rating to the body as a whole or to some specific part of your body.
How does that permanent partial disability percentage rating compensate me for my loss of function?
The percent rating you receive affects the number of weeks of permanent partial disability benefit checks you will receive. If you want to find out more about how long and how much you receive based on these ratings, just read this short article which explains those things.