The term Permanent Disability simply means an injured California worker has any lasting disability to a particular body part or parts that results in a reduced earning capacity or ability to work in the specific field that was part of the job in which the injured worker was injured. If your work related injury or illness results in permanent disability, then you are entitled to what the California Labor Code calls permanent disability (PD) benefits or PD benefits for short, even if you are able to go back to work after you recover from your work related injury.  PD benefits are also based on your Allowable Weekly Wage (AWW) and are subject to maximum and minimum limits in California. Simply said, the AWW is the amount of income the employee or injured California worker earned per week at the time of the work comp injury or work related illness.

The Permanent Disability Process for a California Work Comp Case:

As you go through your work comp medical care, there will be a time at some point that your Primary Treating Physician (PTP), or depending on your work comp case, your Qualified Medical Examiner (QME), or your Agreed Medical Examiner (AME) will declare on the medical record that you have reached a Permanent and Stationary” (P&S) or “Maximum Medical Improvement” (MMI) status.  At this point, the doctor will determine your percentage of Whole Person Impairment” (WPI), and he or she put this down in a comprehensive P&S medical report.

The Permanent Disability Formula for a California Work Comp Case:

This WPI percentage must be processed through a formula, set by California state law, resulting in a calculation or “rating” of your permanent disability, expressed as another percentage.  The formula used by California is the American Medical Association 5th Guidelines.  This PD rating percentage will then correspond with a certain number of weeks of PD benefit payments, assigned by California state law.  Ultimately, your PD value will be the foundation for settling your worker’s compensation claim or for an award for settlement from a Worker’s Compensation Judge (WCJ) if you should take your case through a San Diego work comp trial.

Other Considerations: 

In some California work comp cases, if the WPI results in a PD rating that does not accurately reflect the actual extent of your disability, you may seek an adjustment to your PD rating that takes in to consideration a diminished future earning capacity in addition to disability.  This process will require good legal counsel so you can make an informed decision about your legal options at that point.  In other California work comp cases of severe permanent disability, you may be eligible to receive a life pension payment in addition to your regular PD benefit. A life pension work comp case carries an entirely different claim value than one without it.  If you are unable to return to your usual and customary work after your work comp injury, your employer will have the opportunity to offer you a modified or alternative job with physical requirements that are within any permanent restrictions you may have from your injuries (these limitations are duly documented by your work comp doctor(s)).  If your employer is not able to offer you any such work, then you may be entitled to a voucher which you can use to pay for training in a new and different line of work.

Multiple Levels of Permanent Disability in a California Work Comp Case:

Sometimes it is not uncommon or unheard of for your case to result in more than one determination of PD.  Different body parts can be affected differently from a work comp injury. You may have one level of PD determined by your PTP, another by a QME, and yet another by an AME.  This type of work comp injury case can quickly become confusing ad it will then be up to you to decide how to proceed as far as settling your claim or taking your case to a San Diego work comp trial.  Generally, settling a claim where there is more than one determination of PD may require a compromise by both you and the insurance company as far as which PD rating to rely on for settlement value and settlement purposes.  To this end, deciding to take your case to a San Diego work comp trial will require a careful assessment of the likelihood of which determination of PD the work comp judge (WCJ) will rely on in rendering your trial award or value.  Unlike a conventional settlement, a WCJ cannot choose a compromise among different assessments of PD.  In place of this, a WCJ must choose the findings of one and only one doctor upon which to base your entire San Diego work comp award.

Mark Blane
Founder of The Law Offices of Mark Blane, APC
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