How is an Impairment Rating Made?

In the state of Virginia, if you have been injured on the job and are seeking workers’ compensation benefits, you may have heard the term “impairment rating.” An impairment rating is a critical component in assessing the level of disability resulting from a workplace injury. This rating plays a vital role in determining the extent of benefits you may be entitled to receive. In this article, we will explore how an impairment rating is made in Virginia and shed light on the process.

The Role of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission

The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission is responsible for overseeing the workers’ compensation system in the state and establishing guidelines for calculating impairment ratings. The commission has adopted the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides) as the standard reference for determining impairment ratings.

According to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, an impairment rating is based on the evaluation of a worker’s permanent physical or mental impairment resulting from a compensable workplace accident. It evaluates the extent to which the injury affects the individual’s ability to perform work activities.

The Evaluation Process

Impairment ratings are typically determined through an evaluation conducted by a qualified physician. It is crucial to note that the chosen physician must be familiar with the AMA Guides and the concepts of impairment rating assessment.

During the evaluation process, the physician examines the injured worker and considers various factors, such as medical records, diagnostic test results, and objective findings from previous treatments. The physician evaluates symptoms, functional limitations, and any necessary ongoing treatment needs.

Based on the evaluation, the physician then assigns a percentage rating representing the degree of impairment. This rating is determined by comparing the worker’s functional limitations to those listed in the AMA Guides.

Special Considerations for Determining Impairment Ratings

When determining impairment ratings in Virginia, there are several key considerations:

1. Medical Stability: Impairment ratings are only performed when the injured worker has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), meaning their condition is unlikely to improve significantly with further medical treatment.

2. Pre-existing Conditions: If a pre-existing condition contributes to the impairment, only the portion directly related to the workplace injury will be considered in the rating determination. The physician examines the medical records and relevant diagnostic tests to distinguish between pre-existing conditions and new impairments resulting from the accident.

3. Loss of Earning Capacity: Impairment ratings are not linked to the loss of earning capacity directly. Virginia law states that loss of earning capacity and impairment are separate concepts and must be dealt with independently.

The Importance of Accurate Impairment Ratings

Accurate impairment ratings are crucial for ensuring injured workers receive appropriate workers’ compensation benefits. These ratings serve as a foundation for determining the compensation they are entitled to receive based on the extent of their disability.

Moreover, impairment ratings also impact the worker’s ability to seek additional benefits, such as vocational rehabilitation services. Vocational rehabilitation assists injured workers in returning to suitable employment when their prior position is no longer feasible due to their impairment.

The Role of a Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Understanding the intricacies of impairment ratings and the workers’ compensation system can be complex. Having an experienced workers’ compensation attorney by your side can greatly help throughout the process. An attorney can ensure your impairment rating is accurate and fair, and advocate for your rights to receive the full benefits you deserve under Virginia law.

If you have recently suffered a workplace injury and are navigating the workers’ compensation system, do not hesitate to seek legal guidance to protect your rights and interests.


Impairment ratings are fundamental to the workers’ compensation process in Virginia, determining the level of disability resulting from a workplace injury. Following the AMA Guides, a qualified physician evaluates an injured worker’s condition to determine an impairment rating. The accuracy of this rating is essential for securing appropriate benefits and related services. For expert assistance and guidance, reach out to a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney who can advocate on your behalf.