There are generally four types of workers’ compensation disability ratings, three of which result in benefits for an injured employee.
What is the requirement for a disability rating, and who is responsible for assigning the rating?
Understanding disability versus impairment
When considering workers’ compensation ratings, the first task is to differentiate between disability and impairment. According to the American Medical Association (AMA), impairment refers to a change in health. Workers’ compensation programs define disability as a reduction in wage-earning ability due to an employment-related injury or illness.
Assigning a rating
Physicians assign disability ratings. However, a doctor will only assign such a rating if the patient reaches maximum medical improvement and still suffers some level of functional disability. Only those physicians certified by the American Board of Medical Specialties can provide impairment ratings.
Looking at types of disability ratings
The four types of disability ratings are:
- Temporary total disability
- Temporary partial disability
- Permanent total disability
- Permanent partial disability
Of these, worker’s compensation does not cover temporary total disability because the employee, once recovered, usually returns to work. On the other hand, an injured employee may receive a temporary partial disability award if the impairment prevents a return to full-time work. In this case, the injured employee may have to take a less-demanding job or settle for part-time work. An employee who sustains a severe injury and can never go back to work usually qualifies for permanent total disability benefits.
Given the different types of disability and their outcome, an injured employee may not feel confident in submitting a workers’ compensation claim. An advocate can assist and ensure that the employee’s claim is presented in the best light possible.