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 workers transferrable skills and often are not within his physical capacities or restrictions.
Once the workers compensation claimant has made a showing that he is permanently restricted from returning to work (usually through the opinions of his 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. Workers compensation claimants receiving permanent total disability benefits are entitled to annual cost of living increases as well as lifetime medical care for the injury or occupational disease. There is no cap on the length of time or number of weeks PTD benefits are paid - they continue for the injured worker's life.
Our clients hear over and over that workers compensation is about protecting your future rights for you and your family. Permanent total disability is reserved for the most severely injured workers and entitlement to these benefits is case specific. If you know someone you think is severely injured or disabled from a work accident or illness, call us at (202) 393-3320 so we can provide more information.