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A look into the how and why of workers’ comp disability ratings

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2022 | blog, workers' compensation

If you have a work-related injury and qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, your injury will have a disability rating.

How does the disability rating process work and who assigns these ratings?

Disability or impairment

According to the definition provided through most workers’ compensation programs, a disability occurs when a work-related injury or occupational disease causes a reduction in the affected employee’s wage-earning ability. The American Medical Association defines impairment as a change in health or bodily functioning. The rating for impairment is usually determined based on the way it affects normal daily activities.

Rating assignments

Doctors assign disability ratings. The doctor who treats your injury will not assign this kind of rating until you have reached “maximum medical improvement.” If at that time, you still show reduced functional ability, the doctor will provide a disability rating. Not all doctors can assign impairment ratings; each state determines who can do so. Some states require that only doctors with American Board of Medical Specialties certification can assign impairment ratings while other states give that ability to any physician providing workers’ compensation services.

Four types

The four types of disability are:

  • Temporary partial disability
  • Temporary total disability
  • Permanent partial disability
  • Permanent total disability

If your impairment prevents you from returning to your job full-time or causes you to take less demanding or part-time work, you qualify for temporary partial disability benefits. You will probably not receive benefits for a temporary total disability. However, you will receive a permanent partial disability reward if you can return to work despite a permanent impairment. And if your impairment prevents you from ever working again, you qualify to receive permanent total disability benefits.