Understanding the Term Impairment in Workers’ Compensation Cases in Virginia

In the realm of workers’ compensation, understanding the term “impairment” is crucial for both employers and employees. In Virginia, this term holds significance in determining the extent of benefits an injured worker may be entitled to under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. Let’s delve into the concept of impairment and how it is assessed.

Defining Impairment

Impairment, in the context of workers’ compensation, refers to the loss, reduction, or abnormality of a worker’s bodily function or structure caused by a work-related injury or illness. It signifies the impact that an injury or illness has on the physical and functional abilities of an individual.

Impairment can manifest in various forms, including but not limited to physical limitations, mental health conditions, and loss of sensory or cognitive abilities. Moreover, the severity and permanence of the impairment can greatly influence the compensatory benefits provided to the affected worker.

Evaluating Impairment in Virginia

Virginia law utilizes the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment to assess the severity of an individual’s impairment resulting from a work-related injury or illness. These guides provide clear guidelines to physicians and other medical professionals regarding the evaluation process.

In Virginia, impairment evaluations are typically conducted by qualified physicians who are well-versed in the AMA Guides. These medical professionals assess the worker’s impairment by objectively examining the worker, scrutinizing medical records, conducting diagnostic tests, and considering the presence of any residual symptoms.

The physician will assign a rating that reflects the worker’s level of impairment, measured as a percentage. This impairment rating quantifies the extent to which an individual’s overall capabilities have been affected due to the work-related condition.

Effect of Impairment Ratings on Compensation Benefits

Impairment ratings play a vital role in determining the compensation benefits an injured worker may receive under Virginia’s workers’ compensation system. These ratings directly influence the calculation of benefits through a formula defined by state law.

Virginia Code Section 65.2-503 outlines the formula used to determine the compensation amount based on the impairment rating. The code specifically identifies the number of weeks of compensation to which a worker is entitled, depending on the percentage of impairment assigned.

For instance, if an injured worker is assigned a 10% impairment rating, they may be eligible to receive compensation for up to 14 weeks. On the other hand, a worker with a 100% rating may be entitled to receive lifetime compensation.

Challenging Impairment Ratings

Sometimes, disputes may arise concerning the accuracy of an impairment rating. It is within the rights of either the employer or the employee to challenge a given rating, provided there are valid grounds to do so.

In Virginia, Code Section 65.2-703 grants the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission the power to review and modify any award or finding of fact. This means that if an injured worker believes their impairment rating is incorrect, they have the opportunity to seek recourse by filing a claim with the Commission.

The Commission holds hearings in which both parties can present evidence, including testimony from medical experts, to validate their position and challenge the assigned rating. Ultimately, the Commission has the authority to determine the appropriate impairment rating based on the evidence presented.

Conclusion

In workers’ compensation cases in Virginia, impairment ratings play a significant role in determining the compensation benefits for an injured worker. Employers and employees must understand the concept of impairment and its evaluation under the AMA Guides. It is crucial to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney knowledgeable in Virginia law to navigate through the complexities of impairment ratings and ensure fair compensation.