As I mentioned in my last post, you’re entitled to receive temporary disability benefits until you reach “maximum medical improvement” or you actually return to work, whichever occurs first. When that happens, the insurance carrier will stop paying you weekly temporary disability benefits. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re off the hook for paying indemnity benefits.
Once you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, you may be entitled to permanent partial disability (“PPD”) benefits, which are meant to compensate you for the “permanent” impact your injury has on your ability to function. These permanent impacts can be something as basic as lingering pain or as complex as the type of surgery you’ve had or the decrease in your range of motion.
Permanent partial disability (“PPD”) benefits are paid to an injured worker whose Vermont work injury permanently impairs their ability to function, but is not “totally” disabling. As with many workers’ comp issues, determining the amount of PPD benefits you’re entitled to can be complicated. First, a doctor must assign you a “permanency rating” using certain medical standards. That permanency rating is represents the percentage of your “whole person” which is affected by your work injury. Then, that percentage it is multiplied by a certain number of “weeks” of PPD benefits depending on your injury. A lower weekly compensation rate and/or a lower permanency rating results in a smaller PPD payment to you. A higher compensation rate and/or a higher rating results in a higher payment. In the end, the amount of PPD you’re entitled to for your Vermont work injury is based on how much you were earning before your injury and the extent to which your injury permanently affects your life.
As with the filing of a Form 27, it can be a good idea to talk to Vermont workers’ compensation lawyer before signing a Form 22 (PPD agreement) presented to you by an insurance company. There can be significant differences in doctors’ opinions of your permanent impairment rating, and lawyer can help you decide whether you should challenge the impairment rating you are given by the insurance company’s IME expert.