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What Does A Permanent Partial Disability Rating Mean?6 minute read

We often get calls or e-mails from injured workers.  They have received a permanent partial disability benefits check in the mail paying them a lump sum of money after the doctor has given them an impairment rating.  They wonder why they are getting a check and what it is paying.

Many of them have concerns over whether this is the end of their workers’ compensation case.  Is this check a settlement check? If they cash the check, will it end their case?

This article on permanent partial disability benefits will discuss the answers to these questions and a few others as well.

Permanent Partial Disability Benefit Overview

People with serious injuries often suffer permanent impairment.  Permanent partial disability benefits are how the workers’ compensation system pays you for permanent impairment that you may have because of your work injury.

You only receive permanent partial disability benefits if you have some permanent impairment from your injury.  Because of this, the doctor will probably not give you a permanent partial disability rating until the doctor places you at “maximum medical improvement”.  Maximum medical improvement means the doctor thinks your injury is as good as it is going to get.

Doctor examining womans kneeHow Does the Doctor Come Up with a Rating

When you reach this point, the workers’ compensation law requires your treating doctor to use a book that is published by the American Medical Association to determine your disability rating.  This book is called the Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.

Georgia law currently requires doctors to use the 5th edition of that book.  This book attempts to provide ratings for any type of injury suffered to any part of the human body.

Using this book, the doctor will determine a permanent partial disability rating.  This rating will either be to a specific body area (finger, hand, upper extremity, etc.) or to the “body as a whole”.

When Permanent Partial Disability Benefits Start

Before you can receive PPD benefits, you first have to had a permanent partial disability rating.  Your doctor will give you that.

Also, under Georgia law, your employer does not have to start paying you permanent partial disability benefits until you stop receiving temporary total and temporary partial disability benefits.  If your temporary total disability benefits stop and the doctor has not yet given you a PPD rating, the law requires your employer to request a rating.

Once you stop receiving temporary total disability benefits and have a PPD rating, the law requires your employer to start paying PPD benefits.    Your employer must start paying the benefits within twenty one days.

So, if your doctor has not given you a PPD rating yet when your temporary disability benefits stop, it may be a month or more before you start receiving PPD benefits.  If you already have a rating, you should start receiving those benefits quicker.

How Long Are Permanent Partial Disability Benefits Paid

When your employer starts paying permanent partial disability benefits, they can pay it in two different ways:

    • They can pay the entire amount in one lump sum payment
    • They can pay benefits the benefits on a weekly basis

If the employer starts paying you weekly benefits, the amount per week will be the same as what you receive for temporary total disability benefits (see how that amount is calculated here).  The number of weeks that you will receive benefits will depend on:

  1. How high a disability rating the doctors gives you; and
  2. What part of your body was rated.

Different Types of Ratings and What They Mean

The most common disability rating is to the “body as a whole”.  This type of rating pays you receive three weeks of benefits for every one percent that you are rated.  So, a 10% disability rating to the body as a whole will pay you 30 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.

You might receive a rating to a specific part of your body.  The most common type is a rating to the upper extremity or lower extremity. If you receive an upper or lower extremity rating, then you will receive 2.25 weeks of benefits for every percent of the rating.  So, a rating of 10% to the upper extremity would pay you 22.5 weeks of benefits.

There are also a number of other specific body part ratings and each one of them entitles you to a different number of weeks of benefits per percent that you are rated.  Just take a look at this article if you would like more information about all the different specific body part ratings.

Man and woman use calculator to pay bills when missing checksWill Cashing A Permanent Partial Disability Check End My Case?

Sometimes, the insurance company pays your permanent partial disability benefits in a lump sum.  Other times, they pay these benefits weekly.  Regardless of which way they pay them, acceptance of permanent partial disability checks does not settle or end your case.

In order to settle your workers’ compensation case in Georgia, the following things would need to happen:

  1. You sign paperwork agreeing to settle your case for a certain amount of money;
  2. An insurance company representative signs that same paperwork; and
  3. A judge at the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation approves that settlement paperwork.

When the insurance company pays you a check for permanent partial disability benefits, they are simply paying you something they owe you under the law.  Settlement is different.  Settlement involves an agreement to give up your case in exchange for money.

Although acceptance of this check will not settle your case, you should  remember that time limits (called statutes of limitation) may affect how long you have to pursue additional workers compensation benefits.  The rules on these deadlines are tricky.

Many people find it difficult to determine how long they have to pursue additional benefits for wage loss, medical treatment, or permanent partial disability.  Waiting too long often means that you do not receive the benefits that you should.

Woman with back painContesting an Incorrect Permanent Partial Disability Rating

Another concern many people have about accepting permanent partial disability benefits is that the disability rating may be incorrect.  They also believe that accepting the permanent partial disability check may mean that they legally agree with the rating.

You can still disagree with the permanent partial disability rating the doctor gave you even if you accept some or all of checks that the insurance company pays you.  Generally, the way that you would contest the amount of a PPD rating is by filing a Form WC-14 requesting a workers’ compensation hearing.

What if I have other questions about workers compensation?

Georgia’s workers compensation system can be very confusing.  You have to worry about getting the treatment you need and paying your bills while also worrying about not missing any deadlines that could cause you to lose your right to receive workers compensation benefits.

If you have questions, I would recommend that you try to get answers.  To find out more about how to schedule a time to talk to me about your workers compensation questions, just read this short article.

Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers.  He regularly publishes videos and write blog articles about Georgia’s workers compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families.

To be notified of Jason’s new workers compensation videos, subscribe to his Georgia Workers Compensation Video Series channel on YouTube by clicking the subscribe button below.

Brittney-lee orourkeBrittney-lee orourke
05:23 18 Feb 22
Amazing! Jason and his team were very helpful and had the best communication by far. Walked me though every step with great detail and had answers for any question I had. They handled my case better then I could imagine, it was a weird case and they stayed on top of it and kept me updated every step of the way! Highly recommend this Team! Thanks so much to Jason and his Awesome team!-Brittney
China JonesChina Jones
18:58 08 Feb 22
I absolutely love this group of attorneys, when I was at my lowest they did everything they could to help me get justice for my injury. I believe if I were to have never picked my phone up and called the amazing group that helped me I definitely would not have received my idea of rights. If you have an issue and are just not sure please understand that they will help you, stay in contact, answer any question you have, and for sure get you the justice you deserve I thank them from the bottom of my heart and I will definitely refer them to anyone who has been hurt because they most definitely care about their work and clients.
Luv LocsLuv Locs
16:08 15 Jan 22
The entire law office was attentive and responsive to all of my concerns dealing with my workers compensation case.
moombimoombi
21:14 02 Jan 22
If you must get a lawyer involved, you’d do well to work with Jason Perkins and his team at Perkins Studdard Law.They were thorough in gathering information and in sharing all the steps in the workers comp process specific to my case. Jason and the team were responsive to my bevy of questions and concerns.I appreciated the informative videos and consultations provided by Jason over video meetings and multiple phone calls.I hope I’m never injured on the job again. However, if I am and if my employer responds as my previous employer did, I’ll contact Perkins Studdard Law immediately to handle the case.
Dana BessDana Bess
23:57 10 Dec 21
Everyone at Perkins Studdard was kind and professional. They were always extremely responsive and answered all questions that I had and followed up to make sure I had an understanding of what was going on along with emailing videos to explain every step of my case so I would know what to expect and be prepared. Jason is a very genuine person and I trusted him with my case. He answered so many questions for me even before I retained him as my WC lawyer. I highly recommend him and his associates at Perkins Studdard.
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