Unfortunately, injuries happen at work but after injury, comes the question of impairment when determining workers’ compensation. The extent an accident or injury has effected or will continue to affect an employee’s physical or mental ability to perform their work. In New York State this is done through the Permanent Impairment Guidelines, a standard for determining the level of impairment by defining the injured body parts and the severity of the injury. With Permanent Impairment Guidelines in place, settlements can be determined more easily. However, navigating the medical and legal systems can be difficult.
At Erwin, McCane and Daly we recommend seeking experienced legal counsel in matters concerning Workers’ Compensation Benefits pertaining to the determination of Permanent Impairment and Loss of Wage Earning Capacity.
Permanent Impairment Guideline Reform in 2017
A recent change to the New York State Permanent Impairment Guidelines states that “There is no simple formula to determine loss of wage earning capacity”.
With the passing of the 2017 New York State Executive Budget we were informed of Reform being made within NYS Workers’ Compensation, some effective immediately and some to come within the year. Specifically noted within the budget was the adoption of new Permanent Impairment Guidelines by the Workers’ Compensation Board by January 1, 2018. These changes will include advances in medicine for workers to use in Impairment Rating Evaluations. We will keep you informed of these changes to Workers Compensation as we learn more about them, until then here are some important things to know.
Making An Impairment Claim
Impairments can be classified as permanent or temporary, and are dependent on a combination of where on the body an injury is and the degree of disability. Degree of disability and the determination of loss of wage earning capacity is based on medical evidence of the nature of an injury and if the worker is able to return to the workplace and in what capacity.
- The classification an injured employee is awarded upon permanency can have a large impact on benefits and compensation they are able to receive.
- Permanent impairment claims are subject to Impairment Rating Evaluations (IRE), all injured workers in New York State seeking permanent disability will undergo an impairment evaluation performed by a doctor once it has been determined they have reached maximum medical improvement.
- Litigation is common in claims for permanent impairment where the treating physician or IME will be cross-examined in order to determine the degree of disability.
*It is important to note that:
The Existing Permanent Impairment Guidelines state that before an impairment rating is considered, the patient must reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI cannot be determined prior to 6 months from the date of injury in cases that do not involve surgery or fractures.
- 2012 Impairment Guide
- The Workers’ Compensation Board has ruled that medical impairment ratings are not to be used as a direct translation to Loss of Wage Earning Capacity (LWEC).