When an employee suffers a severe work injury during the normal course and scope of his or her job duties, the aftermath could be months or even years of treatment by doctors and physical therapists. Once the medical professionals have done everything possible to help that injured worker heal and regain use of the injured body part(s), the worker is said to have reached a state of maximum medical improvement (MMI), meaning that the employee has recovered to the fullest extent possible due to the injury or injuries sustained.
While we always hope we can return to the same level of ability and productivity as before the accident, sometimes this isn’t possible due to the severity of the injury. When this is the case, there is a specific type of workers’ compensation benefit called permanent partial disability (PPD) that the injured worker might qualify to receive.
If you, a family member or friend has been injured on the job, it’s important to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss whether your specific injury may qualify you to receive a PPD benefit.
If your work injury has caused a lasting disability from which you cannot fully recover and it affects your performance of certain required job duties or the daily activities necessary to care for yourself, you may have a permanent partial disability. Virginia law states that employees injured on the job qualify for PPD benefits if they have a permanent impairment, loss of function, or amputation of an extremity, or permanent damage to the employee’s vision or hearing.
Additionally, injuries resulting in scarring or disfigurement from burns, surgeries, bone fractures or severe cuts and lacerations may also qualify an injured worker to receive PPD benefits.
After an injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement, the treating doctor or a qualified and approved physical therapist will conduct a thorough, objective examination to rate the functionality of the injured body part in question. This doctor or physical therapist will then assign what is known as an impairment rating, which is typically a percentage of the loss of use or functionality of the injured body part, on a scale from 0 to 100. That percentage indicates the severity and extent of the permanent impairment and is the critically important rating used when calculating PPD benefits.
Once the injured worker’s Permanent Impairment Rating has been established, that number is multiplied by the average weekly wage the employee earned before the injury and multiplied by the number of weeks allowed by Virginia Code 65.2-503 to calculate the amount.
The Virginia General Assembly has established Virginia’s PPD statute and classifies the number of weeks each disability will be paid by body part in its “schedule of losses.”
Following are the number of weeks that PPD benefits will be paid in Virginia as assigned to each specific body part injured:
Loss of vision, per eye: Up to 100 weeks
Loss of hearing, per ear: Up to 50 weeks
Arm injury: Up to 200 weeks
Leg injury: Up to 175 weeks
Hand injury: Up to 150 weeks
Foot injury: Up to 125 weeks
Thumb injury: Up to 60 weeks
First (index) finger injury: Up to 35 weeks
Second (middle) finger injury: Up to 30 weeks
Third (ring) finger injury: Up to 20 weeks
Fourth (little) finger injury: Up to 15 weeks
Big toe injury: Up to 30 weeks
Other toe injury: Up to 10 weeks
Severe disfigurement: Up to 60 weeks
In addition, there are two lung conditions that may qualify for PPD:
While neck and back injuries are ranked among the most common types of work injuries, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act doesn’t include PPD benefits for injuries to the back or neck, brain, kidneys or even the loss of teeth.
However, if a neck or back injury results in a permanent impairment to another body part listed above, the injury would then qualify. An example would be a back injury that resulted in the 100% loss of use of your legs, which would be paid PPD for 175 weeks per leg pursuant to the above schedule. A neck injury that resulted in a 30% loss of use of your arm would be paid as 30% of 200 weeks, which comes to 60 weeks.