Thomas McCutcheon

The usual course of events in an on-the-job injury case begins with an injury and ends with the court approval of a monetary settlement. In between those two events are medical treatment and recovery.

Workers comp does not pay for loss of enjoyment of life. That means if you enjoyed playing the piano and you can’t play it anymore, you don’t get any money for that. If you liked to bowl but you can’t, you don’t get any money for that.

If you have the loss of ability to earn and the injury is to a hip, neck, shoulder or back, the evaluation of your case takes into account your loss of physical abilities and how that affects your ability to go back to your usual occupation. If you used to earn $20 an hour but now the best job you can do pays $10 an hour you might have a loss of earnings of 50%. It could very well be that if you only work 20 hours a week, a court could find that you are permanently and totally disabled, even though you could work part-time.

Injured workers often get letters offering a sum of money. These offers are typically based on a physical impairment. These impairments are determined a physician using a book written by the American Medical Association and adopted by the State of Alabama. This book addresses losses suffered by people who undergo certain surgeries. An example is a neck fusion. No one really regains the full range of motion they had before a fusion and this book states percentages that address the impairment.

Don’t accept these offers as true. The courts are in no way bound by the physical impairment ratings given by the workers compensation doctor. In a recent case the employer had offered a settlement based on 4% valued at $1,953.60 but based on other factors, including some further testing which documented the injured employee’s difficulties, the judge in that case awarded $29,304, which is 60%.

Remember that the judge who hears your case will make a decision based upon all the evidence, including its own observations, and must interpret the evidence, to its best judgment. The court is not bound to accept a physician’s assigned impairment rating. Judges can’t and won’t just make up numbers without evidence. A good workers compensation attorney can tell you whether an offer is fair.

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