If your injury or illness happened before 2005, and you have a reduced function or loss of ability, you might have rights to Permanent Disability benefits. Before 2005, permanent disability was based on a person's reduced ability to compete in the open labor market, and this was determined (or "rated") by what your work restrictions were determined to be.
After 2005, the California legislature has written new laws which changed the way permanent disability is determined. Instead of work restrictions, doctors are required to use the American Medical Association Guidelines, 5th Edition. We refer to them as the "AMA Guides." Based on the AMA Guides, permanent disability is rated based on "objective findings" from the doctors. Subjective symptoms such as pain are rarely compensated.
New laws were also passed and take effect for injuries after 2012 (starting 2013). Those laws, combined with recent court decisions, have given our clients the ability to increase their permanent disability by using the AMA Guides in a more "creative" fashion with the "end game" of reflecting your disability in the most accurate fashion. This is an extremely complex area that (in most cases) requires an attorney to assist you.
Your final percentage of disability (between 1% and 99%) determines how much money your case is worth. In most cases, injured workers may still be eligible to receive this benefit even after returning to work. In some cases, we can settle both permanent disability, future medical care, and other rights to obtain a lump sum settlement if that is what both sides desire to do.
If your injury, pain, level and/or dependence on medications or medical devices are so restrictive to your daily activities and functional ability that you are wondering what kind of work you could ever do again, then your permanent disability could be significant. It some cases, these total disability cases or 100%.
- Jason Wells, Attorney At Law
If an employer has more than 50 employees, the law allows for an increase in permanent disability benefits by 15% if the injury happened on or after January 1, 2005, but before January 1, 2013, and the injured worker was not offered a return to work. Conversely, benefits decrease by 15% for injured workers who are offered a return to work for 12 months. If terminated during those 12 months, the injured worker is entitled to his or her full permanent disability award.
If you have pre-existing disability from an accident in the past, an illness or disease that is unrelated to work, prior PTSD or injury from the military, etc., certain cases are entitled to special benefits provided by the State of California especially if your overall ability to function or function in life and work is significant, then you could have rights under the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF).
- Jason Wells, Attorney At Law
In a lot of cases, unrepresented injured workers (people who don't have an attorney), obtain a Qualified Medical Evaluator panel from state. If you have obtained one of these, then contact us immediately. Your permanent disability could be determined by this type of doctor and in most cases, you are stuck with the opinion (good or bad).