Labor & Industries PPD Ratings
Permanent Partial Disability Schedules:
2010 - 2011 2009 - 2010 2008 - 2009 2007 - 2008 2006 - 2007
2005 - 2006 2004 - 2005 2003 - 2004 2002 - 2003 2001 - 2002
2000 - 2001
Permanent Partial Disability Ratings:
After many work-related injuries have healed to the maximum extent possible, a point in the healing process known as "Maximum Medical Improvement" or "MMI," the treating physician should provide a permanency rating. Ratings are performed by referencing the AMA Guidelines to Evaluating Permanant Impairments, Fifth Edition, a set of guidlines that attempt to provide equality in rating exams, but which do so at the expense of fairness to anyone whose remaining impairments are largely based on subjective manifestations of injury, such as PAIN.
Because of their widely acknowledged deficiencies, The AMA Guidelines have undergone numerous revisions, but remain inadequate to reflect the true losses suffered by most injured workers. These Guidelines are widely ridiculed in medical and professional circles nationally, and have been rejected as being too harsh against the interests of injured workers during major reform efforts in other states (for instance, New York roundly rejected these Guidelines in favor of developing its own permanency evaluation guidelines during its major Workers' Compensation reforms of 2007). It's too bad Washington's legislators haven't realized that Washington's injured workers deserve better.
Please review the harsh reality of how Washington's legislature has chosen to define "Permanent Partial Disability" (Washington Administrative Code Section 296-20-19000):
"Permanent partial disability is any anatomic or functional abnormality or loss after maximum medical improvement (MMI) has been achieved. At MMI, the worker's condition is determined to be stable or nonprogressive at the time the evaluation is made. A permanent partial disability award is a monetary award designed to compensate the worker for the amputation or loss of function of a body part or organ system. Impairment is evaluated without reference to the nature of the injury or the treatment given. To ensure uniformity, consistency and fairness in rating permanent partial disability, it is essential that injured workers with comparable anatomic abnormalities and functional loss receive comparable disability awards. As such, the amount of the permanent partial disability award is not dependent upon or influenced by the economic impact of the occupational injury or disease on an individual worker. Rather, Washington's Industrial Insurance Act requires that permanent partial disability be established primarily by objective physical or clinical findings establishing a loss of function."
In addition to providing an anti-worker definition of permanent partial disability, the state of Washington also provides payment schedules in which the amount paid in a work-related injury situation (under the "strict liability" scheme observed in workers' compensation matters) is often restricted to only about 10-20% of what would be achieved in a typical personal injury award involving the same injury. From this combination of using harsh evaluation guidelines, with stingy payment schedules, in combination with "bought and paid for" IME evaluators, and forcing injured workers to pay for litigation (unlike other, more progressive states) when an important decision is placed into legitimate dispute, Washington's system has become downright abusive toward injured workers.
Harsh Reality 1: Washington's system does not adequately compensate for pain, so if your injury causes pain, you won't be paid enough to make the award seem fair (other states allow for greater evaluation of subjective complaints);
Harsh Reality 2: Washington's system does not adequately compensate for extended healing periods or the experience of a difficult medical courses, such as when an injured worker has to have three surgeries to help correct a problem instead of just one (other states make additional adjustments to their permanency awards for injured workers who have been unable to heal within the expected time frame for the specific type of injury suffered);
Harsh Reality 3; Average and high wage earners, like those who are more advanced in their careers, union workers, and highly-skilled workers will receive the exact same compensation under the Permanent Partial Disability schedules in Washington as a minimum wage, part-time, intermittent worker. Thus, the more a person has achieved through work in life, the more the Washington permenancy scheme is likely to be experienced as a terrible trajedy, a form of punishment for being injured in this state. For example, a part-time Subway sandwich worker will get the same award as a Union Steel Worker for a significant back injury. The difference: the sandwhich maker can still make sandwhiches and earn pre-injury wages, but the Steel Worker will likely go bankrupt, suffer a loss in family relationships, and never again achieve the wages they've previously earned, all while the politicians in Olympia kow tow to Boeing's lobbyists and celebrate the fact that Washington (not Arkansas) has the fifth-lowest Workers' Compensation costs to employers in the United States! We proudly have the highest minimum wage in the United States, yet some of the lowest Permanent Partial Disability awards anywhere to be found.
Harsh Reality 4: The Department of Labor and Industries routinely denies that any compensable permanency has resulted, or alternately, agrees that only a small amount of compensable loss has taken place. The IME physicians who work for the Department of Labor and Industries are often considered "bought and paid for" by many informed observers. In a recent case, the attorneys of GetComp.com saw an example of an ACL tear, repaired by surgery, but leaving the injured worker with permanent restrictions, in which the Department of Labor and Industries, after consulting with its Medical Director's office, took the position that this injury and surgical result would be given zero permanency award, even though a compensable permanency opinion was provided by the treating surgeon. Unfortunately, receipt of a substantial permanecy award may be difficult to obtain, at least without the assistance of competent and determined advocates on the injured worker's side.
Harsh Reality 5: If the injured worker receives an adverse order or decision from the Department of Labor and Industries and does not achieve a reversal in the "free" protest stage (which is decided by the same Claims Manager as made the original decision), the extremely high costs of litigation in Washington will be foisted onto the injured worker whose paycheck and savings have likely already been lost to the injury (other states make litigation less costly by reducing formalities, restricting the amount doctors can charge for giving depositions, and absorbing the cost within rates spread over the entire population instead of having these born only by the few workers unfortunate to also be injured, in addition to having a valid dispute).
Without saying more about the obvious need to consult an attorney if the Department of Labor and Industries attempts to issue any adverse order, or especially to close your case without providing a sufficient Permanent Partial Disability ("PPD") award, the following are the award schedules used in calculating the worth of a permanency rating: