L&I Claim PPD (or Permanent Partial Disability) in Washington State
After a work injury or occupational disease in Washington State, you can file for a workers’ compensation claim. The Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) overseas all workers’ comp claim matters in the State of Washington. That’s why we often refer to these claims as L&I claims. After you file your claim, L&I will either allow or deny it. If they allow it, the topic of Permanent Partial Disability award (or PPD) is likely to come up.
Workers’ comp claim PPD award
PPD award is a monetary benefit. Work injury claimants are sometimes eligible to receive a PPD award under the Industrial Insurance Act. The PPD award is pretty straightforward to workers’ compensation attorneys. However, I find that work injury claimants often misunderstand or have misconceptions regarding their PPD award. Many times, the confusion and misunderstanding leads to unnecessary angst and frustration. Therefore, I wrote this article to try and help work injury claimants understand the bigger picture surrounding PPD. Yet, as always, if you need help with your PPD award, it’s always a good idea to consult with an L&I attorney.
PPD award – confusion and misconception
Over time, I found that my work injury clients have 3 main misconceptions about PPD awards. First, many believe that PPD is a “settlement” of sort. Secondly, workers think that receiving PPD means that they have a disability on their work record. Here, they think that future employers will consider their disability when they apply for work in the future. The third, is that you can negotiate with L&I or the self-insured employer to increase the monetary value of the PPD award.
Strictly speaking, a PPD is not a settlement. Generally, a settlement occurs when there’s a dispute between L&I and the injured worker. More explicitly, a settlement is an agreement that follows the dispute, which everyone agrees on for resolution. However, a PPD award is a specific type of benefit that work injury claimants receive under the Industrial Insurance Act (RCW 51.32.080). By definition, PPD is an award the work injury claimant receives at claim closure. In fact, there are 2 conditions to receive the PPD award:
(a) If they work injury claimant has permanent measurable residual conditions from the workplace injury or industrial disease.
(b) The worker can return to some kind of employment in the same work pattern as before the injury.
Work injury PPD confusion
Very often, workers worry that a PPD award brands them as individuals with disability. They fear that it’ll hinder their ability to find employment in the future. That’s incorrect. In actuality, any PPD award you receive stays within the confines of your L&I claim. Moreover, if you return to work at a job within your physical abilities, then there’s no need to disclose the PPD.
For example, a worker suffers a torn meniscus in their work injury. During treatment, they may have surgery to remove some of the torn parts of the meniscus. After that, because of the removal of that cartilage material, a doctor may rate them with a percentage of PPD for the lower extremity. If the worker returns to a job that has no impact on their knee condition, then they don’t have to tell the employer.
PPD payment and monetary compensation
In order to determine the PPD payment amount, you have to go through a 2-step process. The first, is when a doctor examines you to make an opinion regarding the appropriate PPD. We refer to this step as PPD rating. The second, is when you take the PPD rating and plug it into the PPD calculator on the L&I website. Here, it’s important to remember that the value of the PPD award changes every year. On top, it depends on the date of the work injury or workplace illness manifestation.
For example, let’s say a worker was injured in 2010 and a doctor rates them 15% impairment of the leg below the knee joint. Therefore, the monetary value of that rating would be 15% of $86,482.14 or $12,972.32. That monetary value is not something that is up for debate. You cannot negotiate this amount. However, the actual rating percentage is a matter of medical opinion.
Sometimes, one medical examiner or IME gives one rating. Then, the attending physician gives a different rating. In other words, if you feel that your PPD rating is low, don’t assume that the PPD rating is accurate. You can always get a second opinion from a doctor with experience in PPD ratings. The guidelines that help doctors formulate PPD ratings are not simple. Some cases require doctors with extensive experience who understand causal conditions better.
As a workers’ compensation attorney and L&I lawyer, I review PPD ratings all the time. We, attorneys, are not medical professionals and our knowledge is not a substitute for theirs. However, we have a strong sense of whether a PPD rating is low, fair or even high. We can always tell on the basis of the residual medical conditions after your workplace injury. In other words, when in doubt – it’s always a good idea to consult with an L&I attorney regarding your PPD rating.