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Permanent Total Disability Ratings in Workers’ Comp Cases

In a recent case form the Iowa Supreme Court, a worker who was injured on the job was seeking a permanent total disability (PTD) rating.  He was also seeking what is known as a partial computation of benefits via a lump sum benefits award.

workers' compensation lawyer Boston In this case, worker was injured while on the job and this resulted in permanent paralysis. His employer, through its workers’ compensation insurance company, argued that claimant was not entitled to a PTD status and also refused to pay lump sum benefits.  At this point, plaintiff filed a workers’ compensation lawsuit, as he alleged employer acted in bad faith when denying the claims, and, under state laws, this allowed him to seek compensatory plus punitive damages.  The jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff, complete with punitive damages. However, on appeal, the court reversed, holding that punitive damages were not appropriate.First, if this case had occurred in Massachusetts, as our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys can explain, the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA) provides special lump sum benefits in the case of total or partial amputations or the loss use of a limb.  This could include paralysis. The amount of the one-time award depends on the arm or leg, hand, or foot that is injured. If it is the dominant extremity, the award will be greater than the non-dominant limb. If both the dominant and the non-dominant limbs are lost, the lump sum award will be greater.  This amount is based upon a set percentage of the State Average Weekly Wage as established by the state house and amended from time to time.

This lump sum award is also for cases in which a worker loses one or both eyes, or the vision in one or both eyes, and cases where employer is injured on the job and is permanently scarred on his or her hands, face, head, or neck.  The amount in the case of an eye injury is also based upon the State Average Weekly Wage (SAWW) and will depend on whether the injury is to the dominant or non-dominant eye or both eyes.  It should also be noted that these lump sum damages do affect the weekly benefits award for standard workers’ compensation.

As for the permanent disability rating, that is a rating that means the injured employee is unable to do any work at all based upon a disabling condition, and that condition is not likely to improve.  This means the worker will be entitled to lost wages workers’ compensation benefits for an extended period of time going forward.

In some cases, if the worker is unable to do any work, but they think the condition will improve, they may determine a temporary total disability rating (TTD).  However, in some of these cases, they will continue to do medical treatment hoping the condition will improve.  At some point, the workers’ compensation argument will be that claimant has reached what is known as maximum medical intervention (MMI).  This means that they think it is not worth spending any further money on medical treatment.

If you or a loved one is seeking Social Security Disability Insurance in Boston, call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Thornton v. American Interstate Insurance Co., May 19, 2017, Iowa Supreme Court

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