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Impairment vs Disability: What You Need to Know Before You File a Work Injury Claim

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries that led to a functional limitation, it’s important to know how to use these two terms before you file a claim.

The terms “impairment” and “disability” are often be used interchangeably in colloquial language. Most people think about a common meaning, which is losing the physical or mental capacity to function properly. 

When it comes to the workers’ compensation and the law system behind it, the two terms are very clearly differentiated and used. If you or a loved one have suffered injuries that led to a functional limitation, it’s important to know how to use the two terms before you file a claim. It is generally a good idea to also discuss the specifics of your claim with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in St. Louis, MO.

Impairment Versus Disability

In legal terms, impairment is not equivalent to disability. An impairment represents a consequence of an injury or disease on one’s health, bodily integrity, or function. Work injuries that qualify for workers’ compensation are mostly impairments since they affect one’s health more than just needing first aid.

A person’s disability is legally defined only through their work. If the impairment they are suffering from prevents them from carrying their normal job in objectively reasonable terms, they may qualify for disability benefits.

A simple way to differentiate the terms is to put them into perspective: two different persons might have the same impairment, but they won’t necessarily have the same disability if their work is affected differently. 

What Is an Impairment Rating?

To determine if you are entitled to disability benefits, the workers’ compensation commision has to know what impairment rating you have, and how this affects your standard of living financially. First, the impairment rating is given by your doctor, after you have received reasonable medical treatment and are at the point of MMI (maximum medical improvement).

If your living functions are still impaired after treatment, the next step is to prove how your impairment affects your ability to perform your usual job. 

The level of your impairment is determined using AMA guides. Then, your disability benefits are calculated based on those guidelines and the amount of money you were earning at the time of the accident. You will be given an impairment rating expressed on a 1 to 10 scale

What Compensation Can You Receive for Disability?

If you are eligible for workers’ compensation, then it will generally cover your medical treatments, investigations and interventions, and your lost wages. Pain and suffering do not fall under the workers’ comp system. 

In most states, you can choose between receiving weekly benefits during the time you are suffering from a disability, or to be given a lump sum that you can manage how you see fit. Either way, it is a good idea to speak with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer before making a decision.

Speak With an Attorney 24/7

There are a lot of nuances to receiving workers’ compensation for your injuries. That’s why it’s always best to consult with an experienced St. Louis work injury attorney and let him handle the legal aspects of your case. 

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Updated: November 20, 2020