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Permanent Total Disability: What You Need to Know

If you’ve been injured at work, you may have heard the phrase “permanent total disability” used as part of your worker’s compensation case.

Regardless of how serious your injuries are, having an understanding of what permanent total disability is and what it can mean for your case is important.

Here’s what you need to know about permanent total disability:

What Is Permanent Total Disability?

The term “total disability” may conjure up the idea that you are completely disabled by your illness or injuries, perhaps bedridden or wheelchair-bound.

While those levels of injury are certainly considered permanent total disability, there are some other ways that you can qualify for permanent total disability.

To qualify for permanent total disability, you have to have injuries or impairments that make you considered 100 percent disabled based on your state’s worker’s compensation laws. This doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot work in any capacity at all. 

Total disability can include cases where you’ve lost both eyes or both legs. It also can include situations where you’ve injured multiple parts of your body so that your injuries add up to 100 percent disability, such as an injury to your back and legs.

The determination on whether or not your injuries qualify as permanent total disability doesn’t happen right away.

Instead, this determination is made when you have reached maximal medical improvement (MMI). MMI means that your condition is considered stable – not necessarily back to where you were before you were injured – and further treatment is unlikely to improve your condition any. 

What Are Some Examples of Permanent Total Disability?

Permanent total disability can come in many forms. 

Losing multiple limbs, such as both arms, both legs, or an arm and a leg, qualifies as permanent total disability in many cases. Loss of sight, being confined to a wheelchair or bed, or even severe PTSD that makes you unable to work can also be considered permanent total disability.

However, there are some cases where more minor conditions can be seen as permanently disabling the worker depending on the individual conditions of their job.

For example, if a surgeon is diagnosed with carpal tunnel disease and told they can never operate on a patient again, that condition can qualify them for permanent total disability compensation. Because of the surgeon’s unique skills and the specific needs of that job, even something that would be considered a minor disability or even temporary condition can be devastating to their livelihood.

What Benefits Come with Permanent Total Disability?

The main benefit that comes with being determined to have a permanent total disability is lifetime guaranteed payments for the loss of ability to work.

While the exact amount varies from state to state, and based on your pay at the time of your injury, you can expect some percentage of your typical pay as your permanent total disability benefits. This amount usually increases periodically to account for increases in the cost of living.

Additionally, you may also qualify for ongoing medical treatment related to your condition, although this treatment usually is less comprehensive than what you received before you were determined permanently disabled.

How Does a Doctor Determine I Have a Permanent Total Disability?

Usually, your treating doctor is the one who initially recommends that you be considered permanently totally disabled, and they also are the one who determines when you’ve reached MMI.

Many worker’s compensation insurance companies, however, require an independent medical examination (IME) to confirm both of these determinations.

With an IME, a third-party doctor – often chosen by the insurance company – conducts a comprehensive medical examination of you and writes a report. This examination can include mental and physical tests of your abilities, such as your ability to stand for a certain period of time, complete memory-related tasks, or carry heavy objects.

It is important that you comply with the IME to the best of your ability, as any refusal to participate or efforts to conceal your condition can risk your case being denied completely.

Worker’s Compensation Attorney in Washington, D.C.

If you have been injured as a result of your occupation, you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. At Lopez Law Firm, we work hard to get you the compensation you deserve, while helping you heal from your injuries. Contact us today for a consultation!

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