The value of a permanently disabled back injury case in workman’s comp depends on the impairment rating assigned by the physician as well as the employee’s wages and ability to work. The employer chooses the doctor who provides treatment and ultimately issues an impairment rating and assessment.
Determining the Degree of Disability From a Permanent Back Injury
Back injuries are one of the most common types of permanent partial disabilities suffered at work. As opposed to other injuries that may fall under scheduled body members, an injury to the back is an industrial disability (body as a whole or unscheduled member disability), so it’s possible to receive benefits for a maximum of 500 weeks.
The rate at which permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits are paid is 80 percent of the employee’s spendable weekly wages (not to exceed the maximum, which is 184 percent state average weekly income). The minimum weekly amount is equal to the weekly benefit amount of someone whose gross weekly wages are 35 percent of the statewide average weekly wage.
PPD benefits start when healing period benefits end. PPD benefits end after a certain number of weeks dependent on the disability impairment rating.
Since 500 weeks is the maximum number of weeks for a permanent back injury, the worker’s impairment rating is multiplied by 500 to determine for how many weeks he or she will receive benefits. Let’s say the disability rating is 20 percent. Then the employee would be entitled to 100 weeks of benefits. If the disability rating assigned by the doctor is 10 percent, the employee would receive benefits for 50 weeks.
Therefore, the worth of a permanently disabling back injury is dependent on the employee’s wages and disability rating. If unable to work at all because of a permanent injury, the worker may receive permanent total disability benefits, which are also 80 percent of weekly wages for as long as permanent disability continues.
Factors That Determine the Degree of Disability
The disability rating given by a doctor is based on a variety of factors that may include:
- severity of injury;
- length of healing period;
- qualifications (physically, emotionally and intellectually);
- medical condition (pre-injury, immediately afterwards and presently);
- work experience;
- potential for rehabilitation;
- earnings (pre-injury and afterward);
- functional impairment; and
- loss of earnings as a result of a job transfer.
No one factor weighs more heavily than another. There is the possibility that an employee won’t agree with the doctor’s disability rating. If a worker feels it’s too low, he or she has the right to seek a second opinion from a doctor of his/her own choosing at the employer’s expense.
When an Attorney May Become Necessary
There can be numerous challenges that arise in a workman’s compensation case when an employee has suffered a permanent disability. The employer may try to avoid providing benefits in a number of ways in some cases.
Workers who sustain a serious on-the-job injury or who have problems recovering benefits to which they are entitled can benefit from legal representation. Walker, Billingsley & Bair can help workers in Des Moines pursue fair workers’ comp benefits, so call today: (515) 440-2852.