What Are Impairment Ratings, and Why Do They Matter?
When you’re hurt on the job in Texas, you have a right to seek benefits under Texas workers’ compensation law. Generally, the payments you receive through a workers’ compensation claim are intended to cover medical expenses and lost wages for any period where you cannot work because of your injuries. There are situations, however, where you may be able to return to work but with limitations that are permanent. In those situations, you may continue to collect some workers’ comp benefits based on your permanent injury. To determine the amount of your payments, the workers’ compensation board applies an impairment rating.
What Is a Workers’ Compensation Impairment Rating?
A workers’ compensation impairment rating, typically established by your physician, identifies the extent to which your injury will permanently limit your ability to perform your job. Customarily stated as a percentage, the impairment rating is applied to the benefits you would receive under a claim of total disability, calculating the amount to which you are entitled moving forward.
When Does an Injured Worker Receive an Impairment Rating in Texas?
An impairment rating is issued only when an injured worker is deemed to have reached “maximum medical improvement,” or MMI. This determination is also made by the injured worker’s physician. Under Texas law, an employee who receives temporary workers’ compensation payments for two years is considered to have attained MMI.
When your doctor determines that you have healed as much as you are going to, they will conduct an examination to identify things like range of motion, flexibility, physical strength, and persistence of pain. Your doctor will typically consult the reference manual Guides to Evaluation of Permanent Impairment to accurately calculate your impairment rating.
Why Is Your Impairment Rating Important?
Your impairment rating is a key component in the calculation of the benefits you will receive for a permanent disability arising out of the workplace. Under Texas law, if you have permanent work-related impairments, you can be eligible for what are known as impairment income benefits, or IIBs. For each percentage point of permanent impairment, you are entitled to three full weeks of workers’ comp benefits (70% of your average weekly wage for the 52 weeks before the injury). Accordingly, if your doctor concludes that you have a 25% impairment rating, you can get full workers’ compensation benefits for 75 weeks—longer than six years.
In addition to the IIBs, injured workers may also qualify for supplemental income benefits (SIBs) or lifetime income benefits (LIBs). To be eligible for SIBs, you must have an impairment rating of at least 15% and you must show that you have either not returned to work at all or returned to work but are earning less than 80% of your average weekly wage before the injury.
Workers are eligible for LIBs under specific conditions:
- Permanent loss of all sight in both eyes
- Loss of both hands at or above the wrist
- Loss of both feet at or above the ankle
- Loss of one hand at or above the wrist and loss of one foot at or above the ankle
- Total and permanent paralysis in both legs, both arms, or one leg and one arm
- Third degree burns over more than 40% of your body
- Third degree burns over the majority of both hands, or of one hand and your face
- Traumatic brain injury causing insanity or imbecility
Contact the Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Bailey & Galyen
At the law offices of Bailey & Galyen, we know how a personal injury can affect every area of your life. If you suffer needless injury in the workplace, send us an email or call our offices at 844-402-2992. Our phones are answered 24 hours a day, seven days a week.