What Is a Permanent Impairment Rating and How Is it Measured?

Any injury that impairs your ability to work could entitle you to compensation from your employer. The exact amount of compensation you receive depends on a number of factors that are specific to your case and the nature of your injury. An injury that at least partially disables you for life constitutes a permanent impairment. In Georgia, the workers’ compensation board considers permanent impairment when determining how much compensation you will receive. There are different levels of impairment that doctors differentiate using specific criteria. If you have experienced a catastrophic work accident and are permanently impaired, there several important questions you need to ask. 

How Will I Be Assigned a Permanent Impairment Rating? 

In order to determine how severe your permanent impairment is, doctors must first wait until you fully recover as best you can to ensure they are accurately measuring how you will be permanently affected. The legal term for this is “maximum medical improvement” and it is done to make sure no temporary aspects of your injury are being considered when determining your permanent impairment rating. The timeline for “maximum medical improvement” varies depending on your specific injury, but it is only after doctors decide that nothing more can be done to improve your condition that you will be assigned a rating. 

How Will my Level of Impairment Be Assessed? 

According to Georgia law, doctors must follow the criteria outlined in the 5th edition of The American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. This is a large, 18-chapter volume that covers injuries to each of the body’s systems. The nervous system, spine, and upper and lower extremities each have their own chapter in the guide. 

Your doctor should look at the appropriate chapter for your injury, and assign an impairment rating to your injury based on the criteria laid out in the chapter.  

Your doctor will assign an impairment percentage that your injury causes to your body as a whole or a specific part of your body. That number will be used to determine the number of disability benefits you receive. For example, if you are found to have a 10% permanent impairment to your whole body due to a workplace crush injury, then you will receive 30 weeks of permanent partial disability pay. Injury to specific sections of the body or extremities pays out less relative to the percent impairment.

Workers’ compensation law is very nuanced and these cases are usually challenging for an injured worker to navigate without the right legal help. If you have been injured at work and want to make sure you are compensated fairly, reach out to The Law Offices of Darwin F Johnson today for more information.