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Workers’ Compensation Impairment Ratings and Settlements

In the event that a worker or employee has been injured in the workplace, or through a work-related activity, a workers’ compensation case may be claimed. Although potentially trying, workers’ compensation is instituted in order to provide injured or impaired employees with the care they need and deserve. Once a workers’ comp case has been put into effect, however, additional steps may need to be taken to determine the future of the employee as well as the benefits owed to the employee. This is where impairment ratings come into consideration.

What is a Permanent Partial Impairment (PPI) Rating?

An impairment rating is a medical determination after an injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement. This determination is typically made by the treating physician. The treating physician often uses the results from a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE) to get an accurate and objective assessment on the injured worker’s lasting limitations. The bottom line is the percentage rating that the injured worker receives. Percentages are delivered between 0 and 100. 0% ratings are the result of the physician concluding the injured worker will have no lasting impact from the injury. A 100% rating is only assigned when the body part is amputated. Most often, workers are assigned ratings for less than 50%. Employees who are deemed totally disabled, however, can usually receive disability payments for 500 weeks or longer.

How Are Impairment Ratings Used For Workers’ Comp Settlements?

Impairment ratings are the go-to case settlement type when an injured worker is able to earn the same amount of wages they earned before their injury. Even if injured workers fail to suffer a loss of earning capacity, the injured worker will still be entitled to a disability rating if one is assigned.

In North Carolina, a statute dictates how much an injured worker receives for a permanent partial disability rating. North Carolina General Statute §97-31 lists the following body parts: thumb, each finger, each toe, hand, arm, foot, leg, eye, and back.

The permanent partial disability rating value is calculated by taking the number of weeks listed in the statute, multiplying that by the percentage assigned by the treating physician, and then multiplying that number of weeks by the injured workers’ compensation rate.

Is There a Way to Challenge the Physician’s Rating?

Injured workers in North Carolina have a right to a second opinion on the rating. If the insurance company chose a physician for you that assigned a disability rating they feel is too low, the Workers’ Compensation Act allows the injured worker to choose their own physician to assign a disability rating. The insurance company pays for this evaluation (the injured worker does not get mileage to this visit).

In North Carolina, it is typical that the permanent partial disability rating that the Industrial Commission recognizes is the average between the treating physician’s rating and the second opinion physician rating.

If you or a family member have questions about a medical impairment rating for the settlement of your worker’s compensation case, call the team at Cardinal Law Partners today. Our staff is experienced in handling all areas of workers’ comp and will help you navigate your way through your workers’ compensation situation in North Carolina and the surrounding areas. Call 833-444-4257 to contact us today!