How Impairment Ratings Work

Some workers’ compensation injuries are deemed, by law, to be “permanent,” and some are not.  If an injured worker has a permanent injury, he or she may be entitled to receive a permanent impairment rating, which is worth money, in the form of permanent disability benefits.  Impairment ratings are usually determined by a doctor (mostly by the treating physician, but not always), who uses a book that is filled with complicated tables, graphs and charts.  Sometimes, doctors simply get the impairment rating wrong.  Many times, insurance companies will try to get out of paying the impairment rating by alleging that it’s not valid, either in whole, or in part.  Sometimes the insurance company will write an injured worker who has a permanent impairment and explain the impairment rating incorrectly; misstate the law; miscalculate the benefits owed; and/or advise that it is only paying some or none of the  impairment rating.  One reason insurance companies do this is because they know most injured folks have no idea about how impairment ratings work, and no idea how to correctly value them.

Having a permanent impairment rating can be very important to a claim, because it potentially opens the door for an injured worker to receive some of the most valuable benefits allowed under our workers’ compensation law.  If there is no impairment rating or if the impairment rating is deemed to be invalid, these benefits may not be available.  If you already have an impairment rating; think you may get one in the future; or think you may deserve one, we’d be glad to visit with you, about ratings and your rights, anytime.

By:  Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

 

 

Rule 099.34 Impairment Rating Guide  

How To Settle Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

Let’s face it, when you’re injured at work, the last thing you’re thinking about is how to navigate the Workers’ Compensation claims process. And who could blame you? All you know is that you’re hurting and you want to get better – so you can get bacWorkers' Comp Claim Formsk to work. After all, there are bills to pay and mouths to feed.

But, in all honesty, figuring out how your Workers’ Comp injury translates into future medical expenses and possible job limitations should be at the top of your list. Because the longer you wait, the more uninformed decisions will be made that could jeopardize your Workers’ Compensation claim, your health and your future.

Here are the major steps to consider as you work to settle your Workers’ Compensation claim:

  1. Reach the end of your healing period.
  2. Make sure your employer has provided you with sufficient medical care.
  3. Verify that you’ve been paid benefits at the correct compensation rate.
  4. Assess the seriousness of your injury, most importantly, if you have a permanent impairment and permanent work restrictions.
  5. Determine if you have lost the ability to make your pre-injury wage.
  6. Decide if your injury will require training to perform a different job.
  7. Understand how much medical care you will need in the future and the cost associated with these healthcare services.
  8. Figure out how much all of this is worth under the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Act and come up with a dollar figure reflecting that amount.
  9. Approach the insurance claims adjuster with a demand for settlement (this is often referred to as a “demand letter”).
  10. Convince the insurance claims adjuster – and likely their attorney – to agree to that settlement amount.
  11. Review and sign a lengthy set of settlement documents, prepared by the insurance company’s attorney(s).
  12. Go to court and ask an administrative law judge to agree to let you settle the case for the agreed upon amount.

If you have any questions about the Arkansas Worker’s Comp claims process, feel free to call us at 1-800-520-5874, or go hartlawfirmllp.com/#faqs. Helping injured workers is what we do. And even if we don’t represent you, we can help point you in the right direction.

Injuries Involving Permanent Impairment: “What’s Going To Happen To Me After All This?”

In Arkansas, if an injured worker suffers an injury at work (regardless of whether or not it results in permanent impairment), the insurance company is obligated, under the law, to pay reasonable and related medical bills, and also to pay the employee temporary total disability benefits (a temporary wage substitute), until doctors are able to “fix” the injury to where it’s as good as it can get.  During this process, which starts very early on in a claim, the insurance company has a right to control an injured worker’s medical care, and will routinely hire doctors known to working folks (and to Hart Law) as “company” doctors.  These are physicians who the insurance company thinks might treat the claimant both cheaply, and for only a short period of time.

 

Injuries resulting in disability that’s never going away (ie: permanent impairment)can be pretty scary.  Arkansas working folks are good at their jobs, and are justifiably proud of their ability to work hard, physically and mentally, to accomplish a bunch of things.  When a bad work injury hits, it creates a multitude of medical questions for injured workers, because the body is complex, and made up of thousands of bones, joints, ligaments, vessels, muscles, discs, and all kinds of other things.  Physicians try to explain it the best they can, while insurance companies shuffle injured folks from doctor to doctor, trying to find a way out of the claim.  It’s pretty easy to feel lonely and lost, after being thrown into this scenario.

 

“What’s going to happen to me after all this?” is one of the most common questions asked by injured employees in the history of workers’ compensation law.  It’s a really important question, because it potentially involves the rest of a working person’s life.  It’s one of those questions that injured folks really need to be asking to someone who has a pretty solid grasp on the answer, and also a plan to get there.

 

Although the benefits outlined above (medical and temporary total disability) are routinely and voluntarily paid in claims, there are other benefits available to injured workers in Arkansas that an insurance company is less likely to just hand over.  When a worker with a permanent injury reaches maximum medical improvement, the insurance carrier is often required to pay benefits for permanent impairment to that workers’ body.  These permanent disability benefits are calculated by using tables in a book that the treating doctor is required to use, by law.  This book was designed to be sort of fair to injured workers.  The problem is that the folks who make our laws have told the doctor how to read and use the book, mostly to the detriment of injured Arkansans.  Insurance companies, obviously, love this, and they use this book, along with their attorneys, to try to get doctors to give the lowest possible permanent impairment ratings allowed by the book and by law.

 

Once a disability rating is assigned, and the insurance company agrees to it, they will routinely try to pay out permanent impairment benefits to the injured worker, and then try to close their file.  But the file isn’t legally closed.  In fact, it potentially remains open as long as the claimant continues to seek timely and related medical care, possibly up until the time of his or her death.

 

A bunch of insurance carriers would clearly love to pay permanent impairment rating, and then just have the claim go away.  The reason for this is that a large portion of the value of a claim involving permanent injury lies in what are referred to as “wage-loss disability” benefits.  Wage-loss disability involves a comparison of what an injured employee was able to make before the work injury, and what he or she is able to make after the injury.  Wage-loss disability benefits are awarded by a Judge, after a hearing, typically involving a lawyer making an argument for additional benefits, on an injured worker’s behalf.  These benefits (along with vocational retraining) are absolutely vital to the lives and to the future of injured Arkansans, and are a big part of the answer to: ‘”What’s going to happen to me after all this?”  Unfortunately, that’s a question many insurance companies would prefer never be answered.

 

At Hart Law, having the answers to difficult questions is our job.  We care about what’s next for our clients.

 

By:  Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law