After you have returned to work and have completed your treatment and your condition is now permanent and will never get any better, then you are entitled to a permanent injury award. That award is determined based upon what the doctor says your permanent disability rating is and also looks at factors including permanent wage loss, as well as many other factors, including education, other injuries that you have had, age, experience and your actual complaints.
Typically in order to prepare for a permanent injury hearing, the claimant is sent to a doctor by both the claimant’s attorney and the insurance company and then the case is scheduled for a hearing. At a workers’ compensation hearing any medical records are automatically admissible without the necessity of bringing the doctor in to testify. Normally, the claimant testifies first and will testify as to what injuries they received, how they received those injuries, what medical treatment they had and what period of time, if any, they were off from work. On a claim for permanency the claimant will testify as to any permanent complaints they have. The insurance company lawyer will then be able to ask the claimant questions regarding any prior injuries they may have had, any treatment that they may need in the future, whether they had any other accidents after the accident. A typical workers’ compensation hearing may be as short as five or ten minutes or can last as long as one or two hours.
Permanent injury awards are based upon a percentage of disability to a certain part of the body. For instance, if the Workers’ Compensation Commission determines that you have a ten percent disability to your back – that award is worth fifty weeks of benefits at a set amount per week. Each part of the body has a different value (meaning a different amount of weeks) for a total loss of that particular body part and when the Workers’ Compensation Commission finds a certain percentage of that body part that translates into a certain amount of weeks. For instance – the back is worth five hundred weeks and if the Commission awards you ten percent disability of the back, that would be ten percent of five hundred which would be fifty weeks.
Each week of benefit is paid out at so much a week. All workers’ compensation permanency awards are dated back to the date you last received a check (i.e. a temporary total check). If there has been some period of time since you last received any money in this particular case and the award is back dated to that particular date and started from that date, you will receive in a lump sum weekly benefits from the date you last received benefits up to the date of the award. Any benefits that are due after the date of the award will be paid weekly.
In typical cases where the injuries are relatively minor, most, if not all of the benefits will be paid in a lump sum, since the period of weeks from when you last received a check to the time when you have a hearing, exceeds the amount of weekly benefits awarded so that all of the benefits are due at that point. In cases that are more severe, the claimant typically receives a smaller lump sum and then weekly benefits, because there is usually less of a gap in benefits from the time you last received a check unto the time you received a permanency award.
How does the Workers’ Compensation Commission determine how much money is paid each week as part of the permanency award?
Permanency awards are divided into four different categories. The first category is seventy-four weeks of benefits or less, which is typically an award of fourteen percent or less and those are paid at the lowest rate per week. The next tier of benefits is any award from seventy-five weeks to two hundred and forty-nine weeks which is typically an award of fifteen percent to forty-nine percent and those awards are paid at the second tier rate. Awards of fifty percent due to the accident and higher are paid at the third tier rate and the highest rate.
Finally, permanent total benefits are paid also at a high rate and are paid for the rest of your life. If you are not able to go back to any type of work, including the type of work you used to do, as well as any other job, then you are permanently and totally disabled and may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits for the rest of your life, even it was your intention to retire at the age of sixty-five.
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