What Are Permanent Disability Benefits?

If you suffered an injury on the job or acquired a job-related illness, it can set you back in terms of your ability to support yourself financially. And if the injuries or illness leave you with a lasting or permanent disability, the effects can be life-altering and are addressed as such by the law. Even if you return to work in some capacity, permanent disability benefits may be an option, and working with an experienced San Jose worker’s compensation attorney is the most important step you can take toward protecting your rights in the matter and obtaining the compensation to which you are entitled. 

What Qualifies as a Permanent Disability?

A permanent disability (PD) is one that the doctor handling your case determines is permanent or lasting, and from here, the medical professional will assign a PD rating, which will guide the benefits you receive. Your PD rating will be calculated after your doctor determines that your work-related injury or illness has stabilized to the degree possible and that no further progress or change is likely.

It is at this point that your condition will be identified as permanent and stationary (P&S), which is sometimes referred to as maximal medical improvement (MMI), and if a permanent disability is involved, your report will be forwarded to the worker’s compensation claims administrator. Finally, if another injury or illness – outside of your work-related condition – is determined to have contributed to or exacerbated your PD – your benefits may be apportioned appropriately, which means the percentage of your PD that is directly related to your employment will be covered.

The Benefits You Will Receive Are Set in Accordance with the Law

While most employees who suffered an injury on the job recover fully, some do not. These individuals are who PD benefits are designed to protect. It is important to understand that if you are awarded PD benefits, they will address only your lost income, and they are unlikely to cover this loss in its entirety. Your PD benefits will be set in relation to the following factors:

  • The date you suffered an injury on the job
  • The determination of your impairment level by your qualified medical evaluator (QME), which references the degree to which your ability to work is affected
  • The percentage assigned to your impairment level, which will be used in the calculation formula along with your age and occupation

From here, a disability evaluator or the judge in your case will calculate the PD you are entitled to receive.

Total and Partial Permanent Disability

If you are left with permanent physical or mental limitations in relation to the work you do, your PD will be addressed as either a total or partial permanent disability.

A Partial Permanent Disability

The vast majority of PD claims are for partial permanent disability, which means that the disability you’ve incurred on the job is rated at less than 100 percent. The percentage assigned to your PD determines the amount of benefits you will receive and their duration. The amount of partial permanent disability is generally set at two-thirds of your average weekly wages at the time that you suffered an injury, which is the same calculation methodology used for total PD. The primary distinction is the duration of these payments, and the date you suffered an injury can play a primary role in your benefits – due to evolving laws. If you receive a percentage rating of 50 percent, for example, your benefits will last considerably longer than if your rating is 20 percent. Further, if your percentage rating is 70 percent, you will also be entitled to much smaller ongoing payments that are referred to as a life pension.

A Total Permanent Disability

A total PD is rare and refers to a percentage rating of 100 percent, which means you are not expected to ever work again in any capacity. Examples that rise to this level as a matter of presumption include:

  • Loss of vision in both your eyes
  • Total paralysis
  • Loss of the use of both your arms

While benefits for total PD are permanent, they are still generally calculated at two-thirds of your average weekly wages at the time you suffered an injury.