If a work-related injury or illness has left you unable to do your job, you may be able to receive permanent disability benefits from workers’ compensation. Even if you can still return to work in some capacity, however, you might still be eligible to receive permanent partial disability benefits. Here’s how impairment is rated in a Massachusetts workers’ compensation case, and how it may affect your claim.
Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation, you must satisfy four requirements. They are:
- Have an employer that carries workers’ compensation insurance.
- Be an employee (not a contractor or volunteer, in most cases).
- Have an injury or illness that you got while on the job.
- Meet the workers’ compensation filing deadlines.
Permanent Disability and Maximal Medical Improvement
When you are injured on the job, you will likely be treated by a workers’ compensation doctor. There may come a time when your workers’ comp doctor doesn’t think you will get any better, even with more treatment. This is called maximal medical improvement, or MMI.
If you still have limited function when you have reached MMI, your doctor will need to determine if you have any permanent disabilities. This is done by performing a complete physical exam (and/or mental exam, if applicable). In this exam, the doctor will evaluate the severity of your disabilities. This information will be sent to the insurance company so that they can process your workers’ comp benefits.
Independent Medical Examination (IME)
Your ability to collect permanent disability depends on your doctor’s evaluation of your impairments. If the insurance company feels that your doctor is exaggerating the severity of your injuries, it may require you to get a second medical examination. This is called an independent medical examination, or an IME.
Don’t expect an IME to follow the same rules as a regular doctor visit. There is no code of ethics or doctor-patient confidentiality. The examiner might even work for the insurance company. If this is the case, they may have a financial incentive to save the insurance company money.
Always assume that the IME’s goal is to lower your insurance benefits by downplaying the severity of your injuries. They might even question whether your injuries really happened at work.
If you have been asked to undergo an IME, consult with an experienced workplace compensation lawyer. They will help uphold your rights and protect your interests.
Determining Impairment Ratings
Your doctor will represent your disability as a percentage from zero to 100% for each body part or area. Zero indicates no functionality at all. One hundred percent indicates full capability. This measurement is known as your impairment rating. It quantifies the severity of your injuries and describes your limitations when performing various tasks.
Here is an example. Say you receive a 50% impairment rating in your back and a 10% impairment rating in your right shoulder. You may not be able to lift heavy objects or reach overhead like you could before you were injured. If you have many injuries, the percentage may even add up to a 100% impairment rating.
Partial Permanent Disability Benefits
If these movements are important functions of your job, you may be able to earn partial permanent disability benefits. These benefits are intended to compensate you for your limitations. The idea is that your limitations are restricting you from reaching your full earning potential. Once the doctor informs the insurance company that you have a permanent disability, you should begin receiving checks within a few weeks.
There is a chance the insurance company will dispute your claim. If there is a dispute, it is important to contact a workers’ compensation attorney promptly. Your choice of representation could make or break your case, making all the difference in your financial future.
In some workers’ compensation claims, the insurance company will offer a lump sum settlement instead of monthly payments. Be cautious as you may be signing away your rights in the future by taking the deal. Before you agree to such a settlement, consult with an attorney to ensure that you are making the best decision for your future.
Explore Your Options with a Worcester Personal Injury Lawyer
If a workplace injury has left you disabled, you have probably been out of work for quite a while. With decades of experience, Worcester personal injury lawyer Peter Ventura can help you find a swift resolution and receive the compensation you deserve. Protect your rights and your future by contacting us today.