What Is a Permanent Disability Rating and How Do I Know What Mine Is?

 Dear Mr. Hawkins: An insurance adjuster said to me that my permanent disability rating was about 10% and that entitled me to $5,000. What is a permanent disability rating and how do I know they are telling me the truth? -Craig, Thomasville, GA

Thank you for your question Craig. I imagine this particular adjuster threw this number at you as a settlement offer? If so, do not sign anything and do not accept this amount without talking to an experienced workers' compensation attorney. Permanent partial disability is another benefit injured workers are entitled to under the Georgia Workers' Compensation Act that insurance adjusters do not want you to know about. About the only time they will tell you about permanent partial disability, or PPD for short, is when they want you to settle the case and they know you are unrepresented by counsel. 

A permanent partial disability rating, or "PPD" rating, should be issued by the authorized treating physician when the injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement or "MMI." MMI does not occur until your doctor, or medicine in general, has nothing left to offer you to make you better. The rating is a percentage of permanent impairment the injured worker has sustained as result of the workers' compensation accident. It is often issued either to the body part injured or to the body as a whole. For example, one may sustain a 40% impairment rating to the body as a whole for a serious leg injury or an 85% impairment rating to the lower extremity. Under Georgia law, the percentage is then multiplied by a certain number of weeks under the Georgia Workers' Compensation Act. The Code section which provides these numbers is O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-263 which can be viewed by the public for free here. That number is then multiplied by the injured workers' comp rate (which is the same as the injured workers' temporary total disability rate - see "How Much Do They Owe Me? Calculating Your Workers' Comp. Check in Georgia."  article on this site). That amount is how much money an injured worker is entitled to under the Georgia Workers' Compensation Act for their PPD rating; however, that is not the full extent of the value of the case, and you should not settle your case for that amount.

An experienced workers' compensation attorney will review the doctor's permanent partial disability rating and compare it to the American Medical Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 5th Ed. to ensure the injured employee is receiving a fair rating. Additionally, an experienced workers' compensation attorney will review your average weekly wage to ensure your comp rate is accurate under the law. Often, the insurance company makes a mistake or intentionally miscalculates your average weekly wage to save money. Several other factors need to be considered when settling a case for a lump sum settlement. These other factors will have a significant impact on how much you are entitled to under the Georgia Workers' Compensation Act. If you have sustained a work-related injury, and have been offered a settlement based on the insurance company's estimated average weekly wage, comp. rate, and/or permanent partial disability rate, I recommend you talk with an experienced workers' compensation attorney prior to accepting or signing anything. If you would like to discuss your case with me at no obligation, please feel free to call either one of our offices today. The consultation is always free and will remain confidential until you instruct us otherwise. 

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Comments (1) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Jack Brown - May 2, 2012 2:16 PM

Thank you Mr. Hawkins for this article/blog. Working through a situation like this is daunting for someone unfamiliar with legal actions, and it can be tough to know where to start. I agree that speaking with a good WC attorney is necessary. In our case we got very little real useful information from the employer.

One thing you don't mention is if there is any difference to the process or approach if the employee wants to continue employment or resign/quit that job. Does it matter how you would handle it or are any factors significantly different?

I wonder what your opinion is about the approach in general- if the case is fairly straightforward (medical issues handled, recovery is complete etc.) paying for 1-2 hours of consulting just to "sanity check" still sounds like a good idea. As opposed to accepting a contingency agreement if the PPD amount was unlikely to change. I want to avoid asking for a specific recommendation- just a general guideline. I guess a free consultation would answer that question based on the situation for each case.

I understand many situations will not be simple and an attorney can help the process from beginning to end- so I would advise people to make the call earlier rather than wait until they have a PPD offer.

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