Permanent total disability is available to injured workers when their work injury or occupational disease prevents them from returning to any type of gainful employment. The D.C. Workers Compensation Act and cases interpreting permanent total disability following an on-the-job injury require the Administrative Law Judge deciding the case to consider the injured worker’s transferrable skills, education, training, and other abilities in awarding permanent total disability benefits.
Generally, the injured worker must show medical evidence that he cannot return to his pre-injury employment or regular work. Treating or examining physicians must certify that the worker is permanently disabled from his regular job. Usually, employers and insurance companies undertake vocational rehabilitation efforts – hiring a vocational counselor to look for light-duty work for the injured employee.
The longer this process goes on without returning the injured worker to work, the more persuasive the evidence becomes that he will not be able to return to gainful employment. Vocational counselors sometimes perform a Labor Market Survey, designed to show the types of employment available in the Washington, D.C. area and allow insurance companies to argue that there are jobs available. The job openings listed usually do not represent an accurate reflection of the injured worker’s transferrable skills and often are not within his physical capacities or restrictions – one of the many reasons why vocational rehabilitation is often a scam.
Once you’ve made a showing that your injury is permanent and has restricted you from returning to work (usually through the opinions of your treating doctor), the burden shifts to the employer and insurance company to prove there are suitable light-duty jobs available.
Like temporary total disability benefits, permanent total disability is based on the employee’s average weekly wage at the time he was hurt at work. Benefits are 66 2/3% of the average weekly wage. But worker’s compensation claimants receiving permanent total disability benefits are entitled to an annual cost of living increase as well as lifetime medical care for the injury or occupational disease. And there is no cap on the length of time or number of weeks permanent total disability benefits are paid – they continue for the injured worker’s life.
Our clients hear over and over that worker’s compensation is about protecting your future rights for you and your family – and to really protect your future, you need the right lawyer, the best lawyer for your worker’s comp case.
Permanent total disability is reserved for the most severely injured workers and entitlement to these benefits is case specific – meaning that there are a lot of factors that go into it. If you think you may be entitled to this level of workers comp benefits, contact us at (202) 393-3320 so we can give you the specific evaluation and analysis you and your family need to make the best decision about your worker’s comp case. There is a lot of work to do to set this up right so you have the best opportunity to do the most for yourself, your health, and your family.
A university police officer with a heavy-duty job sustained a serious wrist injury when she had a bad fall at work, which she broke with her wrist. The injury required two surgeries by a hand specialist and orthopedic surgeon, and she was still left with limited use of the wrist. We also call this a permanent injury.
Because her job duties included carrying a firearm, breaking up fights and altercations, and providing campus security, this worker could not go back to her regular job. After many years of workers’ compensation benefits in DC, she was able to settle her worker’s comp claim based on the permanent disability of her arm caused by the injury. We were able to secure enough money for her to make a work transition since she was not able to return to her regular job and to pay for any wage loss that would happen because her wrist was no longer functioning fully. And a couple of years later we were able to help her son with a work-related injury!
Contact our experienced lawyers today to see if we can help you with a permanent impairment. While some workers comp cases can be handled on your own, if you have a permanent injury that causes you to lose your livelihood, you need Attorney Frank Kearney to negotiate a settlement that will cover your injuries and lost wages. Don’t settle for any low-ball offer from the insurance company- contact us today at 202-393-3320
We’ve seen it a lot. You’ve been hurt at work – an injury you never asked for and wasn’t your fault, but it happened. And you’ve been dealing with the workers’ comp insurance company adjuster, not sure if she is being honest with you or telling you the truth (Spoiler Alert – she works for the insurance company, not you and your family).
The workers’ comp benefits you can get for a permanent injury depend on a lot of factors under DC Workers’ comp.
First, if you have a permanent injury, especially to your neck, back, shoulder or ankle, and it prevents you from working again, you may be eligible to get a permanent total disability.
This means you can’t do any work at all. And it depends on what your job was at the time you got hurt – the heavier, physically demanding job you had could make a difference. So do your training, education, and experience. For example, if you’ve worked construction since you were a teenager and you’re now 57, you’ve developed a lot of valuable skills but they all involve hard work (we all know there is no light duty in the trade). Because of that, you’ve never had time to develop other skills – sales, computer skills, writing, and public speaking. So you’re probably competing for jobs that are entry-level – competing with kids who are half your age. And who do you think a company will hire for an entry-level job making $25,000 a year? Someone who was making $100,000 before he got hurt, or someone just out of school?
Most employers just won’t touch you. And that’s one of the real-world factors we have to look at. Everyone is different and has a different set of skills they bring to a job. We review all of the factors to see if someone qualifies for permanent total disability – and if so, they can get a lifetime award of workers comp benefits and annual COLA increases (plus medical treatment for the injury).
Now let’s say you had a bad injury to your knee and needed a knee replacement.
But your job was mostly sedentary, office-type work where you weren’t lifting much, walking around a lot, up and downstairs, and all that.
Once you returned to work, you could get benefits for the permanent partial disability your injury caused, or a percentage disability or permanent impairment as it is also called. To be eligible for those types of benefits, you’ll need a doctor to indicate you’ve reached maximum medical improvement (this just means the condition won’t get much better or much worse) and then evaluate the injury and give you a permanency rating. The American Medical Association has guidelines for doctors to use in giving you a rating.
There are a number of strategies that go into this, like the timing, the doctor to use for the rating, and a number of other factors that will be specific to your injury and your case.
And remember, the workers’ comp insurance company is going to fight this – they will send you to one of their doctors who will say there is nothing wrong with you, your injury wasn’t caused by your work, it’s not a permanent injury, it’s a very slight permanent injury, that kind of thing. And insurance company adjusters and lawyers are trained to fight any claim for permanent injury – in fact, they start setting that up from day 1 (all the more reason you need the best lawyer for you and your family at the beginning of your case).
There are a number of ways to handle the permanent injury aspect of your DC workers comp case – they can include hearings, stipulations, and settlements. All of these have their place, it’s just a matter of making the best decision on your workers’ comp case for you and your family as to what is right for you – and that’s really our mission, to work your case, giving you the advice, guidance, and counsel you need to make the best decision for you and your family.
If you’ve got a permanent injury, or think your injury will be permanent at some point, give us a call at (202) 393 – 3320 to talk about it. Sometimes just one free, no-obligation call can prevent you from making a huge mistake that will affect your case – don’t take that chance with your future.