Injured worker who sustains ongoing problems resulting from their work injury are entitled to a final settlement based upon the severity of the ongoing problems. If the injured worker is capable of returning to work in some capacity, even if is not back to the same line of work, they are entitled to permanent partial disability. Sometimes a work injury is so severe it results in the worker never being able to return to work in the same capacity. In these cases, the injured worker is entitled to ongoing weekly benefits known as permanent total disability benefits. Neither type of permanent disability is easy to obtain from the insurance company as it is never required to make an offer towards settlement. As a result, it is important to work with an experienced Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer who can further explain what types of coverage you qualify for and help you recover the full amount of benefits you deserve.
Learn more about permanent disability and Missouri workers’ compensation below, and contact the Law Office of Jerome, Salmi & Kopis, LLC today for legal assistance.
What Is Permanent Partial Disability?
In Missouri, you are considered to have a permanent partial disability (PPD) if you can still work in some capacity after being released by your doctor. Once your doctor releases you, they will sometimes provide a rating of disability, such as “the patient has 10 percent PPD as a result of their back injury, the surgery required, and the resulting pain.” Since the treating doctor is chosen by the insurance company, it is common for them to assign a very low level of disability.
While it may seem as though there is nothing you can do about this, that is not true. After you have finished treatment and reached the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI), a lawyer can obtain your medical records and refer you to another doctor for an opinion on the need for medical treatment; resulting work restrictions; and permanent status of your injury. This doctor will also assess and assign a rating of disability to counter the low rating provided by the treating doctor.
Further, if the injured worker has significant problems, this doctor can assess the permanent work restrictions that can then be used by a vocational expert to determine the injured worker’s employability in the open labor market.
What Is Permanent Total Disability?
If your injuries are so severe that they lead to permanent work restrictions that remove you from being able to compete in the open labor market, you may be entitled to permanent total disability benefits. Permanent total disability benefits are paid weekly for the remainder of your life and equate to two-thirds of your average weekly wage at the time of the accident. However, to you obtain such benefits, you will need to undergo a trial and therefore it is strongly recommended that you seek legal assistance from a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney.
Please note that the insurance companies will strongly contest all demands for permanent total disability by bringing in medical experts, vocational experts and surveillance to prove your employability. Additionally, the Courts are often reluctant to award such benefits unless it can be clearly shown that you are permanently and totally disabled. A Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer, however, can help you fight against these tactics and help you secure the benefits you need.
Permanent Total Disability Eligibility
A number of factors will determine if you are eligible for permanent disability benefits. The main factors that will affect your ability to be awarded permanent total disability benefits include the severity and resulting work restrictions. Secondary issues include your age, education level, and work history. Vocational experts familiar with the standards in Missouri will be able to evaluate you to determine your eligibility.
One of the biggest questions when applying for permanent and total disability is whether any employer would reasonably be expected to hire you in your current physical condition. This does not mean that you cannot perform any physical activity. It is only used to determine whether you are employable in the open labor market. The phrase ‘reasonably be expected to’ is one of the main complications that many permanent and total disability claims run into. This is because different workplaces and industries will have different expectations of their employees.
Moreover, a secondary issue is whether there is a “stable labor market” for your permanent work restrictions. If your work restrictions are so severe that they limit you to only one or two positions, the Court will need to consider whether this is a “stable labor market” from which you could be reasonably expected to find employment.
As you can see, there are a number of medical and vocational issues when you seek to be awarded permanent total disability. Additionally, there exists further complex legal issues surrounding the interplay between permanent total disability and Social Security Disability. As a result, if you believe that the work injury rendered you permanently and totally disabled, it is recommended that you seek immediate legal advice to assist you through this complex area.
The Second Injury Fund
In many cases, if you suffer a permanent partial or total disability at work, you will only file a claim with the insurance company. This is the only step required if you cannot work based solely on the permanent injury you suffered due to the last injury. However, if the injury you suffered combines with certain pre-existing conditions that keep you from working, you may also file a claim with the Second Injury Fund (SIF).
The SIF provides weekly benefits for permanent total disability if you have suffered a work injury and had certain pre-existing conditions. If the combination of injuries and conditions prevent you from returning to work, you may be entitled to weekly benefits that are paid by SIF instead of the employer.
Our Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Can Help with Your Case
If you have suffered a permanent disability on the job, our experienced Missouri workers’ compensation lawyers are here to help. At the Law Office of Jerome, Salmi & Kopis, LLC, we will advise on whether you are eligible for permanent disability benefits and help you secure the full coverage you need. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help.