Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
Permanent Partial Disability benefits (PPD) may be available if your injuries constitute “whole body impairment” or if they are what are called “Scheduled Injuries.”
Whole Body Impairment
If you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), and you have a permanent impairment to your back, neck, chest, shoulders, abdomen, or hip, this is called “whole body impairment.” A “whole body impairment” is a physical problem or limitation that will last the rest of your life.
Once you reach MMI, the doctor will use a book called the Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 6th Ed. (“The Guides”) to assign you an impairment rating. The impairment rating is one of the things that will be used in determining how much money you’ll receive in benefits.
Once you reach MMI, it always be in your best economic interest to return to work if you can do so. If you do not return to a job where you earn as much as you did before the accident then you would receive a percentage of PPD. Once you reach MMI, your percentage of permanent partial disability is determined by the following factors:
- Your age;
- Your formal education;
- Your jobs in the past ten years; and
- Your job’s lifting requirements before you were hurt as compared to your lifting ability after the accident and your impairment rating.
A “scheduled injury” is a permanent injury to a finger, hand, arm, foot, leg, eye, or ear. New Mexico’s workers’ compensation statute lists 43 different body parts, an injury to any of which constitutes a “scheduled injury.” Basically, an injury to any part of your leg below the level of the hip, an injury to any part of the arm below the shoulder or an injury to your eyes or ears will be a scheduled injury.
If you have a scheduled injury once you have reached MMI, the doctor may or may not assign you an impairment using The Guides, referred to above. If you have a scheduled injury once you reach MMI, you will be able to make a claim for “loss of use” which is not limited to the percentage of impairment assigned by the doctor. Essentially, “loss of use” is the effect your injury has on your ability to work and perform the activities of daily living.
Form of Payment for PPD Benefits
You can receive your permanent partial disability every two weeks; in fact, this is what the law prefers. The law does allow you to get your money in a lump sum payment if you meet one of two conditions:
- You have returned to work since your accident for at least six months and earned at least 80% of the average wage you were earning before your or accident; or
- You have debts that you incurred after your accident at work or which increased after your accident at work. You can do a lump sum settlement up to the value of the impairment or these debts, whichever is less.
Workers’ compensation law is extremely complex. The foregoing is far from a comprehensive discussion of permanent partial disability, and the unique facts and circumstances of your situation will impact whether and how much you may receive in benefits. For these reasons, it is always advisable to speak with an experienced New Mexico workers’ compensation lawyer about your claim.