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Jun 25, 2017 by Brown Moore Law
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After you have been injured at work in North Carolina, an authorized treating physician, who is often hand-picked by the workers’ compensation insurer, will be asked to give a disability impairment rating, indicating how seriously disabled you are as a result of that injury. Injured workers, however, also have the right to a physician of their own choosing to make this important assessment.
A permanent impairment rating is given to an injured worker when the authorized treating physician believes that the patient has achieved “maximum medical improvement.” Ongoing medication and therapy may be needed, but no further interventional medical treatment with promise of improving the patient’s status is anticipated from that point on.
When the authorized treating physician gives an impairment rating, he or she will assign a percentage point to the disability for a particular body part. For example, a 50 percent disability rating will apply when a finger has been amputated below a certain joint. The percentage impairment rating should be based upon guidelines issued by the North Carolina Industrial Commission.
Workers’ compensation insurers will often seek to settle a case based on the employee’s impairment rating. Insurers do this because it is the cheapest way for them to settle a case. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney knows that only in relatively few instances should a workers’ compensation claim be settled simply based on the impairment rating. There are other alternatives that injured employees have to realize a much greater recovery upon settlement of their claim.
Nevertheless, there are limited circumstances when taking a payment based on the impairment rating is the only realistic option the injured worker has for receiving payment for the effects of an injury. As experienced workers’ compensation attorneys, we at Brown, Moore & Associates, PLLC, all too often discover that something has been miscalculated when we review clients’ disability impairment ratings. The error often works against the patient. Even when the doctor is making a percentage disability impairment rating based on an indisputable injury, such as an amputation, inaccurate underratings can occur.
Disputes often arise regarding disability impairment ratings for injuries that are more subject to a doctor’s discretion: injury to a shoulder, elbow or other joint, for example. This is also often true of scarring and other outcomes of injury that may not be disabilities per se, but for which an injured worker is entitled to compensation.
An alert, vigilant workers’ compensation lawyer can head off trouble and help ensure that an injured worker remains eligible for all benefits that he or she is entitled to. The disability impairment rating can result in a lump sum monetary payout of benefits. An undervalued impairment rating can mean shortchanging of workers’ compensation benefits.
If you were injured in North Carolina, talk to one of our Charlotte disability impairment rating attorneys about how to assert your legal right to a second opinion. We can help ensure that your right to another, objective medical opinion is honored before your disability benefit payout amount is finalized.
At Brown, Moore & Associates, PLLC, we are concerned not only about the financial outcome of a workers’ compensation claim. As advocates for our clients, we want to help ensure that they will get all the treatment they need to improve as much as possible. Sometimes, a second opinion that we help facilitate gives injured workers new opportunities for improvement, when the second doctor offers additional, beneficial treatments after the insurer’s chosen doctor has shown our clients the door.
We hope that our clients who were injured on the job will improve as much as they can — and, if possible, return to work, where they can earn far more than the compensation rate based on their average weekly wages. We work to help ensure that they receive all the workers’ compensation benefits that they are entitled to.
Learn what you are entitled to after a workplace injury: for example, compensation for scarring and up to $20,000 for injury to an internal organ. Let our lawyers explain how we can help maximize the benefits that you receive. For example, if you have a knee injury, we can help guide you to a doctor who specializes in knee injuries for your second opinion — whereas the workers’ compensation insurer might send you to an urgent care center or a general practitioner.