Abstract

This article discusses two important cases that involve the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides). First, in Vargas v Industrial Com’n of Arizona, a claimant had a pre-existing non–work-related injury to his right knee as well as a work-related injury, and the issue was apportionment of the pre-existing injury. The court held that, under Arizona's statute, the impairment from the pre-existing injury should be subtracted from the current work-related impairment. In the second case, Colorado courts addressed the issue of apportionment in a workers’ compensation claim in which the pre-existing injury was asymptomatic at the time of the work-related injury (Askey v Industrial Claim Appeals Office). In this case, the court held that the worker's benefits should not be reduced to account for an asymptomatic pre-existing condition that could not be rated accurately using the AMA Guides. The AMA Guides bases impairment ratings on anatomic or physiologic loss of function, and if an examinee presents with two or more sequential injuries and calculable impairments, the AMA Guides can be used to apportion between pre-existing and subsequent impairments. Courts often use the AMA Guides to decide statutorily determined benefits and are subject to interpretation by courts and administrative bodies whose interpretations may vary from state to state.

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