After a workplace injury, your doctor may determine that your condition won’t improve further yet you will not regain full function in part of your body. North Carolina Workers Compensation pays permanent partial disability benefits if certain body parts are impaired.
Impairment ratings play a significant role in determining the benefits that injured workers are entitled to receive.
This article will delve into how impairment ratings work and the calculation of benefits based on ratings.
If you have been hurt on the job, don’t hesitate to contact our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers.
Understanding Impairment Ratings
The North Carolina Industrial Commission defines permanent disability as a reduction or absence of the ability to engage in gainful activity due to impairment, with no expectation of fundamental or marked improvement in the future.
To determine the impairment rating, a doctor assesses various parts of the worker’s body and identifies any limitations or damage. The doctor assigns a percentage based on the degree of impairment for each affected body part.
Previously, doctors performed impairment ratings, but now specialized physical therapists carry out detailed testing using guidelines established by the American Medical Association. This testing, a Functional Capacity Exam (FCE), evaluates the worker’s abilities and limitations.
It is essential to note that impairment ratings are only evaluated once the worker has reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). This means additional medical treatment will no longer improve the worker’s condition.
The worker may still be entitled to medical benefits if the treatments prevent their condition from worsening. However, the right to additional wage loss benefits is re-evaluated, requiring a physical examination by a physician, often followed by an extensive workup with a physical therapy facility.
How Authorized Treating Doctors Assign Impairment Ratings
Authorized treating doctors play a crucial role in assigning impairment ratings. These doctors evaluate the injured worker’s condition and determine the extent of impairment to specific body parts or functions.
In some cases, physical therapists may perform functional capacity exams (FCEs) to assess the worker’s abilities and provide guidance for the impairment rating.
While FCEs and guidelines from the American Medical Association are often used, the final impairment rating is ultimately based on the examining doctor’s independent opinion, knowledge, experience, and clinical examination. Injured workers have the right to seek a second opinion on their rating, which is paid for by the employer.
Calculating Benefits Based on Impairment Ratings
The calculation of benefits for permanent partial impairment (PPI) is based on three factors: the number of weeks set as a maximum for the specific type of injury, the impairment rating percentage, and the worker’s average weekly wage. These factors are multiplied to determine the compensation the injured worker owes.
For example, if an injured worker has a 25% impairment rating to their ankle, and the number of weeks assigned for ankle impairment is 144, the calculation would be as follows: 25% (rating) x 144 weeks x average weekly wage. The resulting amount would be the payment owed to the worker for their permanent partial impairment.
Section 97-31 of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act outlines the maximum number of weeks workers can receive permanent partial disability benefits for injuries to different body parts. Here are some examples:
- Thumb – 75 weeks
- Arm – 240 weeks
- Foot – 144 weeks
- Leg – 200 weeks
- Eye – 120 weeks
Reach Out To North Carolina Workers’ Comp Lawyers Today
You don’t have to navigate the complexities of a workers’ compensation claim alone. Don’t hesitate to contact our dedicated team of experienced North Carolina workers’ comp lawyers.
We understand the importance of impairment ratings in determining the benefits you deserve after a workplace injury. Our firm is here to provide you with the support and legal insights you need to navigate this intricate process.
Whether you have questions about calculating benefits based on impairment ratings, understanding the different classifications of work injury disability, or ensuring you make informed decisions about your claim, we’re here to help.
Call us today at 919-328-2336 to schedule a consultation and gain a clearer understanding of your rights and options.