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.