Abstract

Evaluating physicians should understand how their impairment evaluations are used, and to these ends Section 1.5 of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides), Fourth Edition, discusses impairment and workers’ compensation. Permanent disability rewards may be paid according to a schedule that associates impairments of certain body parts, functions, or systems (eg, amputation or loss of sight or hearing) with specific awards. Typically, a schedule in the workers’ compensation law equates disability and a maximum number of weeks of benefits, but what occurs when an injured worker has both scheduled and unscheduled injuries? Under Colorado statute, scheduled injuries involve those to the neck, head, torso, and any injury not specifically enumerated in the statutory schedule. Because schedules usually do not cover all conditions following injuries, nonscheduled awards are available and are based on the extent of impairment, the nature of the injury, and the employee's occupation, experience, training, and age. The Colorado Supreme Court ruled that when a work-related injury results in both a scheduled and a nonscheduled injury, the scheduled injury must be converted to a whole person impairment rating and combined with the nonscheduled injury's whole person impairment when calculating permanent disability benefits. In its decision, the court relied heavily on and cited provisions in the AMA Guides.

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