Permanent Disabilities Under California’s Workers’ Compensation System

Injuries are an unfortunate part of workplace life. In employment requiring physical labor or vehicle operation, especially, employees may get hurt on the job. Some injuries are temporary, while others may be permanent. In either case, California’s workers’ compensation system is there to protect employees who suffer work-related injuries and illnesses.

Permanent Disabilities

In California, a permanent disability is defined as any lasting disability from a work injury or illness that affect an employee’s ability to earn a living. In most cases, it is not possible to determine whether a disability is permanent in the immediate aftermath of a workplace injury. Obvious exceptions include paralysis or loss of limb. Medical care must be given, and time allowed for a full recovery. If, after a reasonable period of time for recovery, an employee makes a complete recovery, the disability will be categorized as temporary rather than permanent. If a complete recovery is not made – if there is a residual impact on an employee’s daily activities of living – then the disability will be categorized as permanent. Daily activities of living include cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, running errands, standing, sitting, personal hygiene, and other basic elements of everyday life.

Permanent Disabilities Under California’s Workers’ Compensation System

Permanent Disabilities Under California’s Workers’ Compensation System

Categorization of Disability Affects Workers’ Compensation Benefits

The categorization of disability is important because of its bearing on the payment of workers’ compensation benefits by an employer to an injured employee. Even if a disability is permanent, it will be assigned a percentage in accordance with its long-term impact on activities of daily living. Take, for example, back pain. If, after receiving medical treatment for a workplace injury, an employee continues to experience bothersome back pain during many of the activities of daily living, a certain percentage of permanent disability status may be assigned, and benefits awarded accordingly. Because relying exclusively on self-reporting of symptoms could result in employee abuse of workers’ compensation benefits, California balances both subjective and objective components in accordance with standards provided by the American Medical Association. Objective data, in other words, is medical evidence. These standards only apply to physical injuries, however. For psychological injuries, California uses the GAFF scale.

The greater the permanent disability is in terms of percentage, the greater the payment of benefits. Typically, benefits are paid in installments over time, rather than in a lump sum. This reduces the short-term burden on employers and insurers, and also allows for the possibility of an unexpected full recovery even after permanent disability status has been granted.

Have You Sustained a Permanent Disability?

Seeking permanent disability status through California’s workers’ compensation system can be complex. You will need to file a claim within a certain window of time following the injuries to comply with the statute of limitations. You will need to present medical evidence of the nature of your injuries, whether they are physical or psychological. Furthermore, you will have to prove that your injuries were suffered in the course and scope of employment, as required by the California Labor Code. For all these reasons, you will benefit from the skill and experience of a dedicated California workers’ compensation attorney.