People who are injured in an accident usually file a claim with an insurance company or file a lawsuit in court to recover the damages they sustained as a result. Often, insurance companies, accident victims, and lawyers for both sides disagree about the extent of the injuries.
It’s essential for all parties involved to determine the extent to which someone has been hurt before they can claim disability benefits, workers’ compensation, and other types of damages. But, when any type of disagreement arises about the nature of someone’s injury, the accident victim may have to obtain an impairment rating. Learn more about impairment ratings and how they’re calculated, below.
The experienced southern Illinois personal injury lawyers at Jerome, Salmi & Kopis, LLC focus on workers’ compensation, personal injury, and social security disability cases. Contact us today to request a free case evaluation.
The Definition of an Impairment
An impairment is an illness or injury that impacts the way in which a part of the body functions. Essentially, when someone has suffered an impairment, they can no longer use a part of their body in the same manner they did before becoming injured. Impairments are not always physical. A person may also suffer a mental impairment that affects a certain portion of their mental health.
Impairments are classified as either temporary or permanent, and they can also range in severity. An impairment and the manner in which it’s evaluated can greatly impact an accident victim’s ability to work. Therefore, it will also greatly affect Social Security claims and workers’ compensation claims.
Impairments have two important distinctions, those being permanent impairments versus temporary impairments, and partial impairments versus a total disability.
Permanent impairments allow accident victims to pursue a larger amount of benefits and receive them for a longer period of time. The same holds true for a permanent disability. Permanent impairments are still subject to an impairment rating, which quantifies the injury according to the impairment scale.
Some people use the terms impairment and disability interchangeably, but the two terms have very different meanings:
- A disability refers to the limitations a person has when completing certain tasks.
- Impairment, on the other hand, refers to issues that affect the physical or neurological condition of a person.
It’s important to understand these two terms and their actual meanings because they’re sometimes mutually exclusive. For example, a construction worker may permanently injure their back, preventing them from performing construction work. The back injury is the impairment, while the inability to perform the same type of work is the disability.
On the other hand, someone that works in an administrative capacity may suffer the same type of injury but still be able to work because their tasks are not as physically demanding. The office worker would have the same impairment, but not the same disability.
What is an Impairment / Disability Rating?
In Illinois, to determine the severity of your impairment, a medical evaluator will complete an Impairment Rating Evaluation pursuant to the AMA 6th Edition Guide to Impairment. An impairment rating is one of several factors the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission will use to determine the nature and extent of an injured workers’ injury.
In Missouri, an evaluation is performed in workers’ compensation cases to determine the nature and extent of a person’s injury. The evaluation is not for an impairment rating, but for a rating of disability, so the focus of the rating is different than the type of rating used in Illinois workers’ compensation cases.
Who Needs an Impairment / Disability Rating?
Not everyone involved in an accident must undergo an impairment rating (Illinois). For most Illinois cases, impairment ratings are performed at the request of insurance carriers.
By contrast, disability evaluations are frequently necessary for Missouri workers’ compensation cases. Ratings are generally obtained both at the request of employer/insurers and on behalf of the injured worker at the request of their attorney.
Why are Impairment / Disability Ratings Beneficial?
One of the most important determinations that comes out of a rating evaluation is information about the severity of the disability. Ratings often provide additional information for your attorney to use in settlement negotiations but is not the only important factor. Consult an experienced workers’ compensation or personal injury attorney to learn more about whether a rating may be valuable in your individual case.
Call Our Accident Attorneys Today
If you have suffered an accident and are now in a dispute with your employer or insurance company, or you simply want to prove the extent of your injury, our accident attorneys in Missouri and Illinois can help. At the Law Office of Jerome Salmi Kopis, LLC, our experienced attorneys will advise on your case, answer all of your questions, and give you the best chance of success with your case. Contact us today at (618) 726-2222 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.