Most of us spend a lot of time on our feet every day. Almost all jobs require some amount of standing and walking. Some jobs require you to be on your feet almost constantly.
Because of this, serious feet and ankle injuries cause big problems for many people. Often, these injuries occur as a result some of the following types of accidents:
- Falls (especially from heights)
- Car, truck, and motorcycle accidents
- Crush injuries
- Stepping into a hole
If you suffer a serious foot or ankle injury, that injury often has a permanent effect on your body. This permanent effect can affect your ability to work. It can also prevent you from doing things you enjoy doing outside of work.
Georgia’s workers compensation law has rules for compensating you when you suffer a permanent impairment. One way that Georgia’s law compensation you is through the payment of permanent partial disability benefits. This article will discuss permanent partial disability to your feet or ankles.
What is permanent partial disability?
Permanent partial disability benefits compensate injured workers when they suffer permanent impairment as a result of a work-related injury. In Georgia, doctors assign a permanent partial disability rating using the 5th Edition of the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.
Attorneys and doctors often refer to this book as the AMA Guides. The AMA Guides attempts to assign a rating to any sort of permanent impairment you might suffer as a result of an injury at work.
Serious foot and ankle injuries often lead to some permanent impairment. The permanency of the impairment occurs when your doctor indicates that you are not expected to get any better.
Some common permanent impairments suffered from foot and ankle injuries include:
- Limited ability to stand or walk
- Difficulty or pain when running
- Inability or limited ability to climb stairs and ladders
Your doctor should use the AMA Guides to determine your permanent partial disability rating once you reach maximum medical improvement. Chapter 17 in that book focuses on injuries to the leg. Your doctor should use this chapter to determine what permanent impairment you have to your feet and ankles.
This article will focus on PPD benefits for foot and ankle injuries. If you want a more complete understanding of permanent partial disability benefits, please check out this article that covers permanent partial disability benefits generally.
What permanent partial disability does Georgia workers compensation law assign to my foot?
The Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act has a specific part of the law that covers permanent partial disability. Part of that law is a “schedule of income benefits”. This schedule assigns a different amount of weekly benefits to many different body parts.
That schedule of benefits does not cover all body parts, but it does cover the feet. Under that schedule, your right foot is worth 135 weeks of PPD benefits and your left foot is worth 135 weeks of PPD benefits.
Even though Georgia law assigns a specific number of benefits to your foot, your doctor may also provide permanent partial disability ratings to your lower extremity and to the body as a whole for a foot injury. When your doctor assigns multiple ratings for one injury, there are special rules that apply which determine which permanent partial disability rating gets paid.
What permanent partial disability does Georgia workers compensation law assign to my ankle?
Georgia’s schedule of income benefits does not specifically list the ankle as a body part. Because the ankle is not a specifically listed body part, your ankle injury will probably be rated under one of two different body systems that are listed.
Your ankle injury could be rated under the lower extremity body system. Lower extremity just means your leg. Under the schedule of benefits, your right lower extremity is worth 225 weeks of PPD benefits and your left lower extremity is worth 225 weeks of PPD benefits.
The other body system under which your ankle could be rated is to the body as a whole. Your body as a whole is worth 300 weeks of PPD benefits.
How long will I receive permanent partial disability benefits for my foot or ankle injury
You do not usually receive the full number of weeks indicated in the schedule of income benefits. In fact, you would only receive the full number of weeks of benefits if you had a 100 percent disability to that body system.
The full number of weeks of benefits is usually only paid if you have an amputation injury. For example, if your foot was amputated completely, you should receive a 100 percent loss of use of your foot which would pay 135 weeks of PPD benefits.
Most of the time, the doctor assigns you some lesser percentage of disability to your body system. For example, your doctor might assign you a 10% PPD rating to your right foot. Since the whole right foot is worth 135 weeks of PPD benefits, a rating of 10% to your right foot would be worth 13.5 week of PPD benefits (which is 10% of 135 weeks).
This same principle outlined above applies regardless of which body system the doctor rates. So, a 10% PPD rating to your lower extremity would be worth 22.5 weeks of PPD benefits. This is the case since the lower extremity is worth 225 weeks of benefits and 10% of 225 weeks is 22.5 weeks.
How do I get my permanent partial disability rating?
Often, your treating doctor will give you a PPD rating without one being requested. So, you may get a rating without even having to ask. This often happens when you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) because your doctor has determined that any impairment you have is likely to be permanent.
Georgia law also requires the insurance company to request a PPD rating in certain situations. The main situation where the insurance company has to request a rating is where you stop getting other weekly income benefits and the doctor has not already given you a PPD rating.
The rule which requires the insurance company to request this rating is Board Rule 263. If the insurance company does not follow this rule and get the rating, it is possible they may have to pay penalties and assessed attorney’s fees.
What can I do if the doctor does not give me a permanent partial disability rating?
If you do not get a rating, you may need to request that the doctor give you one. You do not want to wait around for too long because there are time limits that apply to all three different types of Georgia workers compensation benefits.
These time limits are called statutes of limitation. As crazy as it seems, delay could cause you to lose your entitlement to workers compensation benefits you should receive. In other words, if you wait too long, Georgia’s law can allow the insurance company to avoid paying you the benefits they should.
However, if the insurance company tells you that you have waited too long, you should not just take their word for it. Be sure and talk to an attorney to get answers. Many times, the insurance company is not correct.
Can I do anything if I do not agree with the PPD rating the doctor gives me?
Yes. I have seen many situations where someone receives an incorrect PPD rating. Fortunately, there are ways you can contest your PPD rating.
To successfully challenge a rating, you first need to make sure you do it timely. There are deadlines that apply to contesting the rating. So, make sure to act quickly if you think the doctor’s rating is not correct.
Also, successfully contesting the rating will likely require evidence that the rating is wrong. This usually requires getting the doctor to change the rating. Another way to do that is to get an opinion from another doctor about what your permanent partial disability rating should be.
After getting this evidence, you may be able to get the insurance company to agree the rating is incorrect. But, many times you have to go to workers compensation court to prove what the correct rating is.
What other types of benefits does Georgia’s workers compensation law pay for permanent impairments?
Georgia law does not specifically pay other benefits for permanent impairment, but there are other Georgia workers compensation benefits that are affected by you having a permanent impairment. The main benefit to which this applies is the weekly wage loss benefits. These are known as temporary total disability and temporary partial disability.
The reason that temporary total and temporary partial disability benefits get affected is that permanent impairments often make it difficult to return to work. If your injury keeps you from returning to work, you will likely continue to receive wage loss benefits.
Also, permanent impairments often factor into workers compensation settlements as well. Calculating proper amount for workers compensation settlements is complicated, but you can find out more about what settlements are in this article.