In Workers’ Compensation, it is commonly misunderstood by most people what an injured person is entitled to. In previous blog posts, we talked about how an injured worked unable to work is entitled to 60% of their average weekly wage while they are out of work. They are also entitled to have all medical bills that are incurred due to the work injury and reasonable and necessary medical treatment paid by the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Yet, what happens when a person has a permanent injury that prevents them from working?
First, it is important to separate that an injury that causes someone to be permanently and totally disabled entitles them to continuing wage (indemnity) benefits from the insurance carrier as long as they can’t work. If they can never work again, they are entitled to receive permanent wage benefits, and also possibly social security disability benefits. While often permanent injury cases are settled, there remains the possibility of the injured worker being paid a weekly benefit for life if they can never work again.
Second, the injured worker who has a permanent injury is also potentially entitled to a permanent impairment award. This award is governed by statutory law, and has a series of potential injuries that affect the calculation. Most commonly, it involves a person with a permanent injury that affects their whole person. Thus, under NH law, they are entitled to a permanent impairment award for that injury.
The way this is calculated is to have a doctor review the injured worker’s injuries under the American Medical Association Guidelines for Impairment, 5th edition. The AMA guidelines include a lot of information that doctors utilize to come to a percentage that a person is impaired. Thus, a person with a fused spine at one or two levels likely has a permanent injury, and a doctor would “rate” them with a percentage that affected their whole person. This percentage is then plugged into a calculation to determine the monetary award for the permanent impairment. So, for example, if a claimant received $500 per week in wage benefits from the workers’ compensation carrier, and they have a whole person impairment of 10%, then the calculation under RSA 281-A is to take that $500 per week, multiply it by 350 weeks, and then multiply it by the percentage for the final number. So, for example, the hypothetical person calculation above would be ($500×350)x0.10 = $17,5000. Thus, the permanent impairment award would be $17,500.00.
This is a complicated process, and doctors often do not agree on the percentage that a person is impaired. If you were injured and think you have a permanent impairment, the experienced attorneys at Parnell, Michels and McKay can help you navigate this process effectively, and allow you to recover the full amount you are entitled to. If you are in need of legal help from a work related injury, please contact our office to find out what your rights are.