If a worker has a permanent injury and is able to return to work, even in a different capacity than previously served before the injury, the worker will be entitled to permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. These benefits will be based on the American Medical Association's disability rating procedures outlined in The Guides to Evaluating Permanent Impairment. The medical provider will assign an impairment rating, or a percentage which illustrates the level of injury. Your Colorado PPD attorney will be able to determine whether your impairment rating is appropriate for your injuries and whether the PPD benefits assigned to you are fair.
There are two different types of Colorado Workers' Compensation impairment ratings: extremity ratings and whole person impairment ratings. Workers with injuries to arms and/or legs are given an extremity rating. Benefits paid on extremities are based on the severity of the injury and not wage or age. Whole person ratings are assigned to those with head, neck, back and/or torso injuries. In contrast to benefits paid on extremities, benefits on whole person ratings are based on a formula detailed in the Colorado Workers Compensation Act and do take into account wage and age.
Within the definition of permanent partial disability, there are two types of injuries: scheduled injuries and non-scheduled injuries. Permanent impairments to parts of the body including arms, legs, hands, feet, fingers, toes as well as vision and hearing are called "scheduled injuries" because these injuries are compensated based on a schedule. The schedule can be found in the Colorado Revised Statutes, specifically at C.R.S. 8-42-107 (2). The statute assigns a value to each of these body parts.
Non-scheduled injuries are those valued outside of a schedule; but the compensation for these injuries still relies on the Colorado Revised Statutes. C.R.S. 8-42-108 (8)(d) is the guide for non-scheduled injuries, including those to the spine, brain and lungs.
It seems that with all these guides and rules, designating a person at maximum medical improvement (MMI) or assigning a disability rating would be pretty straightforward. However, disagreements arise on these topics all the time. This is another area where it is helpful to have an experienced Workers' Compensation attorney in Colorado on your side.
One way to deal with this type of problem is to request a Division Independent Medical Exam, or DIME.
In this way, any arguments over the date of MMI or the disability rating can be addressed with an independent second opinion. It is important to note that the opinion of the doctor performing the DIME is binding, and that overturning this opinion is extremely difficult. Thus, taking care in selecting this doctor is important. Having an attorney experienced in Colorado work comp law assist in this part of the process can be quite helpful. The Workers' Compensation attorneys at Bachus & Schanker, LLC have knowledge of the available doctors and can provide information as to their level of expertise on various injuries as well as their reputation. Choosing the right doctor, or avoiding the wrong doctor, can often make a difference in the benefits an injured party is awarded.