Whitt & Del Bueno, Attorneys at Law

Leaders in defending workers' compensation claims.


Parts Is Parts

By Mike Del Bueno

Did you know that permanent partial disability benefits may be awardable as part of a workers’ compensation claim? If an employee suffers some form of permanent disability, such as loss of use, loss of sensation, or reduced range of motion to a specific body part injured in an industrial accident, then he or she may be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits.

As part of a claim for permanent partial disability benefits, the employee must obtain from a physician an impairment rating to the bodily member for which he or she seeks permanent partial disability benefits. On occasion, however, the impairment rating that the employee relies on in support of his or her claim for permanent partial disability benefits may be legally incorrect on the grounds that the physician does not rate the injured body member. Instead, the physician “extends” the rating to a body part not injured in the industrial accident.

For instance, a familiar scenario is an employee who suffers injury to one or more of his fingers, only, but the physician provides an impairment rating either to the hand, or even the arm, even though there is no objective evidence of permanent impairment in the hand or arm that resulted from the industrial accident. In such a circumstance, the physician’s “extended” impairment rating may be legally incorrect because the physician did not rate the finger(s), the body part(s) injured in the industrial accident.

However, there are also circumstances where it is appropriate for the physician to “extend” the impairment rating past the injured body member. For instance, if an industrial accident to an employee’s foot prevents the employee from walking properly, thus placing stress and strain on the employee’s knee, which then causes reduced range of motion, swelling, or some other objective and permanent disability in the knee, it may be acceptable under such a circumstance for the physician to rate the employee’s leg, rather than just the foot.

If you are presently dealing with a claim for permanent partial disability benefits and think some of the above-mentioned issues might be involved, feel free to give me a call.