What Qualifies as Permanent Partial Disability for Workers’ Comp?
Ryan Zavodnick | October 13, 2019 | Workers' Compensation
A worker injured on the job in Pennsylvania can receive workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits pay for required medical treatment for work injuries. In addition, workers’ comp benefits include disability payments if the employee cannot work because of a work injury.
What Is Permanent Partial Disability for a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Workers can receive temporary disability benefits if they cannot work during their recovery from a work-related injury. The temporary disability payments compensate the worker for a portion of their lost wages. The temporary benefits cease when the doctor states the employee can return to work.
However, some workers sustain permanent impairments because of an injury or accident at work. The workers’ compensation system provides benefits to compensate workers for permanent disability.
Permanent partial disability (PPD) occurs when a worker recovers from an injury and can return to work, but the doctor states the worker has a permanent impairment. The permanent impairment prevents the person from returning to work at full pre-injury capacity. Therefore, the worker cannot earn the same level of income as they did before they were injured.
Common Injuries That Can Cause Permanent Partial Disability
- Repetitive strain injuries cause damage to the nerves, muscles, tendons, and ligaments
- Back injuries can result in chronic pain and limited mobility
- Loss of body parts and amputations
- Traumatic brain injuries can cause cognitive, physical, and psychological impairments
- Decreased hearing and deafness
- Knee injuries can result in limited mobility and chronic pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome from performing repetitive motion with the hands and wrists
- Reduced vision or loss of eyesight in one
Any work-related accident or injury has the potential to cause permanent partial impairment. Prompt medical treatment and following your doctor’s treatment plan can help reduce the risk. However, you could still develop PPD if you do everything your doctor tells you to do.
Using Medical Evidence to Prove Lost Function and Permanent Impairment
A workers’ compensation patient achieves maximum medical improvement or MMI when they recover fully from a work injury or the doctor states that additional medical treatment will not improve their condition. The doctor would assign a permanent impairment rating if the worker did not recover fully from the injury.
The permanent impairment rating measures the extent and severity of the impairment on the person’s whole-body function. The rating is designated as a percentage. The impairment rating is used to calculate the amount of permanent partial disability the worker receives.
Doctors must use the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of a Permanent Impairment to assess the loss of function and assign an impairment rating. The calculations for impairment ratings are complicated. A workers’ compensation lawyer can calculate the amount of PPD you should receive and help you obtain expert medical opinions to help prove impairment, if necessary.
How Much Can a Worker Receive for Permanent Partial Disability Under Pennsylvania Workers’ Comp Laws?
The amount you receive for permanent partial disability depends on several factors, including:
- Your average weekly wages (AWW) before your work injury or occupational illness
- The percent of your impairment rating
- The income you can earn after returning to work with a permanent impairment
The compensation you receive equals two-thirds of the difference between your AWW before the injury and your AWW after returning to work. However, permanent partial disability benefits do not last your entire life, even though the impairment is permanent. PPD benefits are capped at 500 weeks or 10 years.
However, you could be entitled to additional workers’ comp benefits for permanent impairment.
Other Workers’ Comp Benefits for Permanent Impairments
You can receive specific loss benefits for some permanent impairments. Specific loss benefits include injuries that result in hearing or vision loss. These benefits also apply to amputations and loss of the use of limbs or parts of limbs, including fingers and toes. The payment for a specific loss is a lump sum payment.
Workers’ comp also provides disfigurement benefits for workers who sustain a serious and unsightly permanent scar or disfigurement to the face, head, or neck. The benefits for scarring and disfigurement are paid up to a maximum of 275 weeks.
There is not a set amount that an employer must pay for disfigurement benefits. If the employee and the employer/workers’ comp insurance carrier cannot agree to an amount, the employee may petition for a hearing before a Workers’ Compensation Judge.
Workers’ compensation insurance companies might try to undervalue your PPD benefits. If you are concerned that you are not receiving the workers’ comp benefits provided by law, you have the right to seek legal advice from a workers’ comp attorney of your choice.