Workers’ compensation is the money or benefits paid to an injured Florida worker by an employer. Disability rating sometimes comes into play in calculating these benefits. Under Florida law, employers with four or more employees must have workers’ comp insurance. Since workers’ comp is a no-fault system, workers and employers don’t argue about negligence. Instead, what’s important is that the wound or illness happened during employment.
However, other issues arise during the work comp process. One of such problems is determining the severity of the employee’s injury. When injury severity is in dispute, employers and insurers send the employee to an independent medical examiner (IME) to determine their disability rating.
A disability rating is a crucial aspect of a work comp case. It determines the type of compensation you’ll get, whether permanent or temporary, total or partial, and the amount. This article looks at how disability ratings work for workers comp cases. If you suffer a work-related injury or illness, our Florida workers’ compensation attorneys at Work Injury Rights can help you get the benefits you deserve.
When Are Disability Ratings Assigned?
After a work accident, the first thing you need to do is get medical treatment. Depending on the work you do, your doctor may order you to stay off work for a while or impose work restrictions, like not lifting heavy items. During this time, you will receive temporary disability benefits for lost wages.
After completing the prescribed treatment and you get to a stage where you can no longer improve, the doctor will declare you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). This is a crucial stage in any work comp process. At this point, you will now get assessed for a disability rating. This rating allows employers and insurers to verify the depth of your disability, the type of work you can return to, and whether or not you’ll be able to return to the workplace.
What Is a Disability Rating?
A disability rating is a doctor’s judgment on the severity of your work injury. Doctors give disability ratings in percentages. For example, a doctor may assign a 20% disability rating to your injured foot, meaning you only have 80% functionality. Consequently, your benefit would be based on the 20% disability rating. It means that the higher your rating, the more compensation you get.
After the work injury or when you’ve reached MMI, the doctor will perform a physical examination. The examination tests your ability to function and perform daily activities. The tests may involve checking your range of motion, balance, lifting capacity, and any other tests the doctor or employer thinks are necessary.
After getting the test result, the doctor uses a set of guidelines to calculate your permanent disability rating, also known as an impairment rating. Sometimes, the doctor treating your work injury assigns the rating. However, this is often not the case because employers, insurers, and employees often have trust issues.
If the work comp doctor performs the evaluation, the employee may dispute the ratings. This is because the work comp doctor often works for the employer or their insurer. To resolve this issue, both parties opt for independent medical examination. The IME doctor is a neutral party that is neither on the employer, insurer, or employee side.
If the parties to the work comp case are still disputing the ratings after the IME, a workers’ compensation judge may step in to decide the appropriate rating. Alternatively, the parties may choose to take the average of the two conflicting ratings to arrive at the amount for the benefits.
How Does the Doctor Determine the Disability Rating?
The work comp doctor or independent medical examiner uses a set of guidelines establishing the workers’ permanent disability rating. For example, several states in the U.S. use the American Medical Association’s Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. With the guidelines, the doctor arrives at a rating on certain body parts like arms, legs, eyes, or ears.
The medical examiner may also describe the disability rating as a whole person impairment (WPI). The latter is the percentage of disability in the entire body and is used for injuries to the back, head, neck, occupational diseases, or injuries to the internal organs. Again, the percentage of WPI determines the work comp benefits.
Contact Experienced Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
As a workplace accident victim, you need an experienced Florida work comp lawyer to help you get the maximum benefits. If there is a dispute with your disability rating, we’ll also help you resolve it. Contact us today at Work Injury Rights for a free case review.