If you’ve been injured at your workplace, whether on a factory floor or in a trucking accident and want to pursue workers’ compensation, it’s crucial to understand what impairment ratings are and how they’re used in Mississippi workers’ compensation. This is a legal area that can be complex, and working with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney could result in better outcomes for you. Here’s what you need to know going forward.

What Are Impairment Ratings in Mississippi’s Workers’ Compensation?

An impairment rating is a scale of 0-100%, with percentages representing the level of impairment. It’s used to determine the severity of the injury and what effect that will have on the employee being able to return to work and fully do their job. 

Impairment ratings are not done immediately after the injury. Instead, they occur further down the road when it becomes more apparent if the injuries are likely to permanently cause a change in the employee’s ability to do their job. If surgery or physical/occupational therapy is required, the impairment rating won’t be assessed until those have occurred. That’s because an injury may initially cause someone to be unable to work, but with time and medical care, they could fully recover and return to work with no restrictions. 

The ratings come into play when it appears the employee is going to be impaired for a longer term than previously thought or if the employee is permanently disabled.

How Are Impairment Ratings Calculated?

The rating begins with the physician who treated you for the injuries. If they determine full recovery is impossible (for example, if a limb was amputated or a spinal injury led to the patient permanently using a wheelchair), the doctor must file a form to the employee’s workers’ compensation insurance payer. This is a time-sensitive process—once that diagnosis is made, there are only two weeks to submit the form.
In general, someone with a 0% impairment rating is considered capable of doing any usual tasks and is not impaired. Someone with a rating higher than 50% will likely be considered completely impaired and would have trouble with everyday tasks, such as dressing or preparing food.

What Happens Once the Doctor Submits the Form?

It depends on the rating and type of injury. The Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission (MWCC) may accept your doctor’s findings, or they can have you undergo an independent medical examination, which means a medical exam with a doctor that’s been approved by the MWCC and is not the doctor you’ve already seen. That doctor will review your medical history and records, including any medical tests you’ve had. They’ll conduct their own examination and evaluation before drawing up a recommendation for the MWCC.

The doctors who perform the independent medical examination must use the Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment when calculating the specific rating. These guides have strict formulas for determining the percentage that should be assigned.

What Are the Recognized Categories of Disability?

Mississippi recognizes four levels of disability:

  • Temporary Total Disability. Workers’ compensation is available when someone is injured to the extent that they’re not able to do their job, but they are expected to make a full recovery and return to work. Compensation is provided for the recovery period.
  • Temporary Partial Disability. This can allow an injured to close the gap of missing income missing when they’re partially able to work, but not full-time.
  • Permanent Partial Disability. This category includes someone who has been deemed to be permanently disabled, but the disability is partial.
  • Permanent Total Disability.  This category of disability is for someone injured so severely that the injuries are permanent and ultimately prevent the worker from returning to work.

Where Do Impairment Ratings Become Involved?

The category of permanent partial disability is where the employee will need to be evaluated for impairment ratings because the ratings are based on a permanent state or result of injury. Permanent partial disability comes in two categories, scheduled and unscheduled. The ratings are calculated differently for each type.

Scheduled. Scheduled workers’ compensation is calculated based on losing body parts, whether fingers or legs. The ratings take into account the following:

  • Age
  • Highest level of education attained
  • Work experience and related training
  • Work skills that could be transferred to another career path
  • Work history and history of income 

Unscheduled. This is also called whole body workers’ compensation because rather than focusing on one specific area of the body, such as a severed toe, it looks at conditions that can end up affecting the entire body, such as an injured back or heart-related disabilities. The ratings take into account the following:

  • Age         
  • The highest level of education attained
  • Work experience and related training
  • Work skills that could be transferred to another career path
  • The efforts made by the injured worker to find another job after the injury
  • Work history and history of income 

Can I Appeal if I Disagree with the Impairment Ratings Assigned to Me by the MWCC?

Yes. Once the impairment ratings have been issued, you’ll receive a notification of the rating. If you and/or your doctor disagree, there’s a specific period of time to appeal. That process could involve another examination by a third doctor. If you haven’t already, it’s highly recommended that you bring in a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney to help you work through the appeals process.

What Should I Do if I Need to Learn More about Mississippi’s Workers’ Compensation Impairment Ratings?

Call us at 601-353-8504 for a free, in-depth, no-obligation case evaluation. Workers’ compensation is complex, and it becomes even more so when impairment ratings are involved. Our workers’ compensation attorneys are knowledgeable and experienced. We’re here to help you get the compensation you need to fully recover or to help you thrive if full recovery isn’t possible.