What is an Injury Rating?

So, your workers’ comp doctor just told you that you have a 10% permanent disability to your back.  What does this injury rating mean? What effect will accepting payment for your injury rating have on your North Carolina worker’ compensation case?  Is your case over now?  The answers are trickier than you might think.

Is my NC workers' comp injury coveredMost people know that workers’ compensation in NC pays disability benefits to employees who have suffered wage loss because of a workplace injury.  This includes a total inability to work (Temporary Total Disability or Permanent Partial Disability) as well as he the ability to do some work but for fewer hours or at lower wages (Temporary Partial Disability).   The key is that in each of these cases is the employee is unable to earn the same wages as before the injury.

However, employees with permanent injuries to certain body parts are entitled to disability benefits under North Carolina Workers’ Compensation law, whether there is actual wage loss or not.  The covered body parts are listed in North Carolina General Statute § 97-31.  An employee with a permanent injury to one of these body parts is entitled to Permanent Partial Disability benefits even if they have returned to work at their pre-injury wage.

When an injured worker with one of these particular injuries reaches the end of the healing period, known as Maximum Medical Improvement, the authorized treating physician will assign a disability “rating” to that body part.  The doctor may use the North Carolina Industrial Commission’s NC workers’ comp Rating Guide to help determine the rating. This rating represents the percentage of permanent impairment to the affected body part.  But this is just the beginning of he analysis. An employee is entitled to a second opinion on a Permanent Partial Disability rating with a doctor of the employee’s choice at the employer’s expense.

The amount of the Permanent Partial Disability rating payment is based on three factors:  the rating assigned by the doctor (based on the rating guide), the number of weeks of assigned in § 97-31 for the injured body part, and the injured workers’ compensation rate.  So, an injured worker with a back injury could be rated as follows: 10% (rating assigned by doctor) x 300 (number of weeks assigned in § 97-31 for a back) x $400 (employee’s compensation rate) = $12,000.

In addition to arms, legs, and hands, etc., North Carolina General Statute § 97-31 allows for the payment of disability benefits for the total or partial loss of hearing in an ear or the loss of vision in an eye. There are rating guides that help determine these ratings. Payment can also be made for scarring or disfigurement in certain circumstances, as well as for injury to an important bodily organ, such as the heart or lungs, not otherwise eligible for compensation.

Payment of a Permanent Partial Disability benefit must be approved by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, pursuant to Industrial Commission Form 26A.  The payment is usually made in lump sum, but occasionally the benefit is paid out weekly for the appropriate number of weeks.

The payment on a rating immediately stops any other ongoing disability payments, including Temporary Total Disability and Temporary Partial Disability.  However the acceptance of a rating payment is not a full and final settlement and does not terminate medical benefits.

Receipt of the payment of a disability rating starts the clock ticking on a two year deadline for a change in condition under North Carolina General Statute § 97-47.  If the employee does not file a notice with the North Carolina Industrial Commission that they have sustained a change in condition to the injured body part within two years of receiving the payment of the rating, the employee may forever lose the right to additional wage replacement benefits.  A change in condition claim requires a showing of a substantial worsening of the injury.

NC workmans comp infoIt is important to note that the employee is allowed to elect the best disability “remedy” for his or her particular situation.  For this reason it is frequently a mistake for an injured worker to accept payment on an injury rating.  In many situations there is a better disability option.

If you have questions about whether to accept payment of a disability rating in your NC workers’ comp claim please call or email for a free consultation with a Board Certified NC Workers’ Compensation Law Specialist.

Kurt Kettering
Kurt Kettering
15:06 25 Jul 17
I really appreciate the personal touch Mr. Bunn gave to all aspects of the case. I am very satisfied with the way the case was handled and the outcome received. I would highly recommend Kevin Bunn to anyone in need of help with their workers compensation claim.
Jake St. Peter
Jake St. Peter
18:07 19 Jul 17
I've used Kevin in the past and was extremely pleased with the results. Highly recommended and trustworthy attorney.
André L. Farmer
André L. Farmer
17:10 27 Jun 17
I would highly recommend Kevin Bunn. He was very professional and responded promptly to all questions. I am very satisfied with his services and his staff.
Daniel Chido
Daniel Chido
07:23 21 Mar 17
Kevin Bunn is a great lawyer and a great man. I consider myself very lucky and blessed to have had him representing and working for me over the past few years. I found him by word of mouth while I was looking for a lawyer to handle my worker's compensation claim and my application for social security disability. He was one of the only lawyers I found in the area who would handle both of these. I knew from the first time I met him in person that he was the right choice. Kevin is a straightforward, honest, rational, down to earth and very kind person who went above and beyond to help me and to bring forth favorable results on all fronts for my situation. He always explained things well, we were always on the same page before making any moves, and I truly felt like he put me as a person first and foremost, before lawyer fees or anything else like that. I honestly only have positive things to say about Kevin and my experience working with him. Also, his paralegal JoAnne is awesome, and it always cheered me up to hear her voice on the phone. I highly recommend Kevin Bunn to anyone who is searching for top notch representation for their worker's compensation claim or social security disability application. Thank you, Kevin and JoAnne!
Terri Perry
Terri Perry
21:20 25 Jan 17
Mr. Bunn was straightforward and a highly respected good attorney. I recommend anybody looking for a workers' comp lawyer in NC contact Mr. Bunn. He can represent me any time.
Paul Kemper
Paul Kemper
00:37 31 Oct 16
I have used Kevin, twice for work related cases. Kevin, was open and honest with me and my wife. I highly recommend Kevin Bunn, for any injury claim case. If I ever need anything attorney for an injury I will use him again. His secretary Joanne Latta, was always helpful and friendly to us. Thank you Kevin Bunn for your expertise and help. Paul Kemper
shane cargain
shane cargain
19:00 17 Jun 16
One of the best experiences I've had with a lawyer! He gets the money that you deserve and doesn't quit until you are satisfied with the outcome! He knows his stuff when it comes to the law and I HIGHLY recommend him to anyone for workers compensation cases or anything else that involves the law! You can't go wrong with him by your side when you need a good lawyer to battle for you!
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Top Ten Tips and Traps for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claims

After twenty years of practicing workers’ compensation law in North Carolina I have seen just about every mistake an injured worker can make.  These mistakes range from failing to file their claim, to settling when they should not have, and everything in between. Download my Top Ten Tips and Traps for North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Claims

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