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What are Impairment Ratings in a Workers Compensation Case?


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In a workers’ compensation case, once you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), your doctor might assign you a medical impairment rating using the American Medical Association’s Guide to Permanent Impairment. In most states, the medical impairment rating must be based upon objective evidence. Basically, once a doctor tells you, “you are as good as you are going to get,” you have reached MMI. This is the point when an impairment rating will be assigned.

The purpose of the impairment rating is to describe the effect of the workers’ injury and its impact on their ability to return to their regular tasks. In some cases, the impairment rating will indicate that a worker is permanently disabled. Our workers’ compensation lawyers are committed to assisting injured workers in receiving the benefits they deserve based on their impairment rating.

Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, has spent more than the last two decades handling complicated workers’ compensation cases. If you are injured on the job, you and your family could be facing a difficult financial crisis in addition to your road to recovery. Having a law firm with the resources and attorneys to help you navigate the challenging workers’ compensation process could make everything easier. Call our law offices at (479) 316-0438 to schedule a free appointment.

What is an Impairment Rating?

If you are injured at work, an independent medical professional will examine you during an Impairment Rating Evaluation (IRE). The rating will indicate the level of your impairment on a scale of 1 and 100 or a percentage. This rating allows the worker, their employer, and the insurance provider to understand how much their injury has impaired the worker and how their ability to work will be impacted. The resulting impairment rating will be used to determine how long an injured worker could receive benefits, the amount of compensation, and when they are anticipated to return to work.

When a medical impairment rating shows that an injured worker is able to return to work in a different but lower-paying, capacity, they could be considered partially disabled. When the rating indicates that a worker is unable to return to work, then they could be considered permanently disabled. The medical impairment rating is critical in obtaining the benefits a person requires for everyday expenses. Our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys could play a significant role in ensuring your medical impairment rating reflects your true condition.

Determining a Medical Impairment Rating

Your doctor, typically a medical professional hired by your employer’s insurance company, will use a set of guidelines to determine your impairment rating. In nearly every state, doctors are required to use the guidelines outlined in the American Medical Association’s Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.

Using the provided guidelines, your doctor will determine a disability rating. The impairment rating is usually described in terms of a percentage, such as 20% or 45%. Depending on the injury, an impairment rating could relate to a specific body part, such as your hand, leg, eyes, or arm. For instance, if you fell from scaffolding, you could receive multiple impairment ratings for induvial body parts. Your doctor could assign a 35% disability of your right hand, 20% disability of your right arm, and 60% disability of your right leg.

In other cases, an impairment rating could be assigned to your entire body, or a whole person impairment (WPI). Typically, WPI ratings are used for back, neck, or head injuries and in cases of occupational diseases. For example, if after suffering an injury to your back, a doctor could assign a 40% whole person impairment. These ratings are also used in cases when an employee suffered multiple severe injuries.

The Purpose of Medical Impairment Ratings

Probably the most important thing that will arise out of the impairment rating evaluation is determining the extent of your disability. If an employee is able to return to work and earn the same income or close, then they will not require workers’ compensation benefits. The medical impairment rating could be the deciding factor in determining whether a worker is eligible for temporary or permanent benefits. The higher the rating, the more compensation an injured employee is likely to receive. In nearly every situation, an employee who needs workers’ compensation benefits will want a high percentage.

However, medical impairment ratings are open to interpretation. Our knowledgeable Rogers, AR workers’ compensation lawyers will advocate for a rating that accurately reflects your medical condition – especially when an assigned rating appears lower than it should be.

The doctors that perform impairment rating evaluations are paid by workers’ compensation insurance companies. While there are supposed to be completely impartial, their findings are subjective. Insurance carriers are in business to make a profit. While this does not mean that a doctor will purposefully assign an inaccurate impairment rating, they might err on the side of a lower rating when the medical evidence presented is not completely conclusive. Our team of dedicated workers’ compensation lawyers will work closely with you to help determine if the rating accurately reflects your present condition and physical abilities. To receive the maximum amount of compensation you are entitled to, you need a strong and knowledgeable advocate.

Contact Our Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorneys

The workers’ compensation process is challenging and has many levels that an injured employee needs to understand. The medical impairment rating is a critical component in receiving the benefits you deserve. Ken Kieklak, Attorney at Law, has the experience to help you during this difficult time. Call our skilled Bentonville workers’ compensation attorneys (479) 316-0438 with any questions or concerns regarding your benefits.

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