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What Does Permanency Rating Mean?

Our latest video update helps explain what a permanency rating means in Virginia and North Carolina Workers’ Compensation cases:

Here’s the full transcript of the video:

Hi. Once again, this is Joe Miller, trial attorney, worker’s compensation attorney in Virginia and North Carolina. I want to talk to you a little bit today about the subject of what’s called permanency ratings.

To many people it’s something mysterious. I want to start out by saying that the subject of permanency ratings in a worker’s compensation case typically, not all the time, but typically is not the largest component of your claim or any potential settlement of your claim. Usually it’s either a small component or could be the only component, but typically it’s not something that’s that large and we’ll explain why.

So how does this play into your case? What is a permanent, really they’re called permanent partial impairment ratings? So what it really pertains to, there are certain body parts that you have that you may have injured. Usually in Virginia, those are only going to pertain to your extremities, your hands, your arms, your legs, your feet. In North Carolina, that would also include the spine.

So what this is is this has to do with the degree of impairment that exists within that particular body part. Let’s take an example.

So let’s assume that you’ve been treating for a while and finally, and this is what has to happen for you to get a rating first, you’re going to reach what’s called maximum medical improvement. That’s something that your authorized treating physician is going to declare.

Once you’ve reached that point, usually what will happen if you’re still under some restrictions, you’re not able to go back to your old job, the doctor will refer you to a functional capacity examination, which is something where they put you through your paces, see what you can and can’t do. Oftentimes along with that examination will come a functional capacity examination specifically for a rating as well.

What do they do? Let’s say you’ve injured your right leg, you had surgery on the leg. They’re going to put that right leg through all kinds of paces, see what it can do, see which way can turn, are there restrictions in the range of motion, et cetera. Once that’s done, they’re going to come up with a percentage number and this is a percentage impairment rating.

So we’ll take an example. Let’s assume that you’ve been through this test and they have pronounced that you have an 10% impairment rating on your right lower extremity or your knee. So we’ve got a 10% rating. If you look in this trusty statute book, let’s assume we’re in Virginia also. If you look in the trusty statute book, which I have right here, we’ll find that the maximum amount you can get for the injured body part, and this is something other than whether you can go back to work. That’s a separate issue. This has to do with the impairment in the body part.

So let’s assume that again, it’s your right lower extremity. You look in the statute book and you look in there, the maximum amount you can get is a 175 weeks. You’ve got a 10% rating, so you take 10% of 175 weeks and that’s going to equal 17.5 weeks. You are making your temporary total disability or your workers comp check is $500 a week, multiply 500 times 17.5, you come up with $8,750 that is the potential payment that you’re entitled to for your permanent partial impairment in your right lower extremity. Now again, that’s not a whole heck of a lot of money and that’s why I say that these things, these impairment ratings are oftentimes not a huge part of your claim.

There’s two times when they can be significant and when they really play into your case. One is first, well you’re back to work at your old job or a different job earning the same money you were earning before. If that’s the case, then really your impairment rating and maybe your future medicals are going to be really the only components that you’re going to have to look to for your settlement, any potential settlement of your workers’ comp claim.

The other circumstance, specifically in Virginia, and this is important to watch out for. If you have two or more rated body parts or rate-able body parts that you’ve hurt and you have gotten ratings or you’re going to get ratings on those two body parts, let’s say both your legs, one arm, one leg, this sort of thing, you may be, and I say “may” (we have to determine whether you qualify in your particular case)—you may be entitled to a permanent and total disability. And that would take you beyond the 500 week limitation that we have under worker’s compensation and take you into the realm of potential lifetime compensation, which means that you could be looking at a tremendously larger settlement in that circumstance.

One thing you also need to know is that your permanent partial impairment is never added on to the 500 weeks. You can’t get it in addition to your 500 week maximum. That’s why I say if you already can’t go back to your old job, we’re going to be looking at as a settlement, really what your future looks like in terms of how long you’re going to continue to get your comp checks. That’s going to be the big part of your case and the permanent partial impairment is going to be a small part of the case or not a part of the case at all.

I hope I’ve explained that to you sufficiently. I hope you understand now a little bit more about what a permanency rating is. If you have any questions about your case, whether it be pertaining to permanency rating or any other part of your case, please give us a call at the number on the screen or contact us online at joemillerinjurylaw.com. I thank you for listening. Have a wonderful day.


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If you are looking at this site, you or a loved one has probably been hurt. If that's true, you've come to the right place. Helping people who have been hurt is what we do. In fact, it is all we do. Joe Miller Law is a law firm concentrating exclusively on representing people who are injured by the carelessness of others or those hurt on the job. We provide the highest quality legal services to people who have been seriously injured. We practice Personal Injury law and Workmens' Compensation law in both Virginia and North Carolina.