Permanent Partial Disability
When Your Job-Related Injury or Illness Leaves You Unable to Work at Your Previous Full Capacity
Workers’ compensation is an extremely complicated area of the law. For one thing, each state has its own workers’ compensation laws. For another, although each state’s work comp system provides benefits for work-related permanent total disability, permanent partial disability, temporary total disability and temporary partial disability, the methods by which the benefits for each of these categories are calculated can vary even within a given state.
In general, if you sustained an on-the-job injury or developed an occupational illness or disease that resulted in an impairment that did not go away after your recovery, you fall within the permanent partial disability category. In other words, if what’s called your maximum medical improvement, often referred to as MMI, still leaves you in a state of partial impairment where you cannot work up to your pre-injury capacity, you are considered to have a permanent partial disability that qualifies for workers’ compensation permanent partial disability benefits, often referred to as PPD.
Say you sustained an illness or injury while working that required you to take substantial time off to recover. This likely qualifies you for temporary total or partial disability. However, once you completely recover and can go back to work, your benefits end.
Permanent Partial Disability Examples
Any number of job-related injuries and conditions can leave you permanently partially disabled. Some of the most common include the following:
- Partial vision loss in one or both eyes
- Partial hearing loss in either or both ears
- Amputation loss of part of one limb
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Nerve damage to one or more body parts
- Back injuries
Be aware that some states, including Virginia, do not pay permanent partial disability compensation for back injuries per se. The only way you receive workers’ compensation benefits for a back injury in these states is if your injury results in permanent impairment to one of the covered body parts.
Schedule of Losses Examples
Most states have their own schedules of losses. This specifies the maximum length of time you can receive permanent partial disability benefits.
For instance, in Virginia, if you suffer a work-related spinal cord injury that results in a 100% loss of the use of both of your legs, you will receive PPD benefits under Virginia’s schedule of losses for 175 weeks for each leg, amounting to 350 total weeks of benefits. Other maximum benefit periods under Virginia’s schedule or losses include 200 weeks for an arm injury, 150 weeks for a hand injury, 125 weeks for a foot injury, and 60 weeks for severe disfigurement.
Missouri’s schedule of losses allows you 175 weeks of benefits if you lose your hand or 100% of its usage at your wrist joint.
Partial Disability Approaches
Depending on which state you live in, your partial disability and the amount of compensation you can receive from it may be determined by one of the following methods:
- Impairment-based approach: Determines the extent of your partial disability in relation to your body as a whole
- Body parts approach: Determines your partial disability based on which body part(s) you lost
- Wage loss approach: Determines your partial disability compensation based on the amount of wages or salary you actually lost from the date of your injury or illness to the when you reached maximum medical improvement
- Loss of earning capacity approach: Determines your partial disability compensation based on a reasonable estimate of your capacity to earn a wage or salary in the future
- Bifurcated approach: Uses a combination of impairment-based and loss of earning capacity approaches depending on your precise situation
Permanent Partial Disability Rating
Once you reach your maximum medical improvement, most states require your doctor to give you a permanent partial disability rating. He or she refers to the Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment published by the American Medical Association. This book assigns your percentage of permanent partial disability based on either your loss in relation to your whole body or your loss of a specific body part. The higher your partial disability percentage, the more compensation you will receive.
Benefit Amount Calculation Examples
Each state likewise uses its own calculations when determining the amount of compensation you receive for your permanent partial disability. Missouri, for instance, multiplies the average weekly wage or salary you were earning on the date of your injury by your permanent partial disability percentage. Therefore, if your on-the-job injury caused you to lose 30% usage of one of your hands and you were earning $500 per week at the time of your accident, your weekly workers’ compensation PPD benefit would be $500 x 30% = $150.
For a 100% loss of the usage of one of your hands, the calculation uses two-thirds of your weekly salary. Consequently, using the above $500-per-week wage or salary, your weekly PPD benefit would be $500 x 66.7% = $333.05.
Be aware that most states place a cap on the amount of weekly permanent partial disability benefits you can receive. The current maximum in Missouri is $1,011.92, while in California, it’s $1,299.43; in Texas, it’s $971; and in New York, it’s $934.11.
Why You Need an Experienced Local Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
As originally stated, workers’ compensation is one of the most complicated areas of the law. Each state has its own procedures for filing a workers comp claim and a time limit in which to file. Furthermore, the initial claims of many injured or ill workers are almost always routinely denied since many employers dispute them.
If you suffer a work injury or develop a work-related illness or condition, contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. This is especially true if your injury or illness leaves you totally or partially disabled, either temporarily or permanently.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
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