You have reached MMI when, from a medical standpoint, you have recovered from your injury as much as you ever will and further medical treatment will result in no further improvement. This means that whatever physical limitations you are left with will be permanent.
At this point, the doctor will evaluate the part of your body that was injured and render a report which expresses their opinion on the nature and extent of your permanent partial disability. These examinations are required to assist the court in determining your entitlement to permanent partial disability benefits.
For each type of permanency evaluation you submit (orthopedic, neurologic, psychiatric, etc.), your employer or its workers’ compensation insurance company is entitled to request that you undergo an “independent medical examination” performed by a doctor of their choosing as well.
Determining Your Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
A doctor may evaluate you in terms of percentage of disability to a specific part of your body or to your body as a whole. In some instances, you may even be evaluated for percentage of disability to multiple body parts. For example, if you have an injury to your finger, you may be evaluated in terms of degree of disability to your:
- Upper extremity
- Arm, and
- Body as a whole.
In these instances, you may be able to use whatever evaluation will pay you the highest amount of benefits.
Based upon the permanent disability evaluations submitted by both you and your employer (or its insurance company), the amount of treatment you will require, and the extent of your restrictions, your degree of disability will be established by either a judgment of the court or a court-approved settlement.
What Amount of Permanent Partial Disability Benefits am I Entitled to Receive?
Permanent disability benefits in New Jersey are not, in fact, permanent unless you are permanently disabled. Furthermore, they are not awarded on the basis of loss of future income. They are awarded according to a pre-determined Schedule of Benefits based on a percentage of certain “scheduled” losses (those involving arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, eyes, ears or teeth) and “non-scheduled” losses (those involving any area the body not specifically listed in the schedule, i.e. the back, the heart, the lungs).
For example, for a work-related accident or illness sustained in 2014:
- 10% disability of the hand entitles you to $5 ,512.50
- 15% of the leg would get you $10 ,631.25
- 25% of the whole person entitles you to an award of $38 ,430.00
The exact amounts payable can be less if the wages you were earning before you were injured were low. Generally, however, the higher the percentage of loss, the more benefits you will be entitled to receive.
How long will I receive Permanent Partial Disability Benefits?
In accordance with the law, permanent partial disability benefits must be paid out over the course of a specified number of weeks starting with the date of the accident or the date of the last temporary disability compensation you were paid. For instance, an award of:
- 10% disability of the hand must be paid out over 24.5 weeks
- 15% disability of the leg must be paid out over is 47.25 weeks, and
- 25% disability of the total body is will be paid out over the course of 150 consecutive weeks.
Therefore, you may receive permanent partial disability benefits well into the future if the award calls for it to be paid out over a large number of consecutive weeks. However, the exact manner in which you will be paid can only be determined at the time a settlement is being worked out or judgment is made in your case.
For more information about permanent partial disability benefits in New Jersey, contact an experienced New Jersey workers’ compensation lawyers for a free consultation.