Colorado Noteworthy Cases Interpreting the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment – Third Edition

In this Emerging Issues Analysis, Thomas A. Robinson analyzes noteworthy cases from Colorado that interpret the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Robinson initially explains that “Some workers never fully recover from their work-related injuries. In such cases, when a worker reaches maximum medical improvement, but still remains permanently disabled, the worker then receives permanent disability benefits. If a worker is only partially disabled on a permanent basis, the amount of time for which the worker is eligible to receive benefits generally depends upon the type of injury the worker has sustained.
“Two categories of such permanent injuries are recognized: scheduled injuries and nonscheduled injuries. Scheduled injuries are generally injuries to limbs, eyes, or ears. They are referred to as "scheduled" injuries because they are compensated according to a strict schedule contained in the statute. Currently, for example, the loss of a hand below the wrist entitles a worker to 104 weeks of permanent partial disability payments. A nonscheduled injury is simply that: an injury not listed on the schedule. Permanent partial disability benefits for such nonscheduled injuries are calculated according to a formula that includes a worker's "medical impairment rating" and the worker's "age factor." The medical impairment rating must be calculated by reference to the American Medical Association's Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment ("AMA Guides")(3d ed. revised 1991).”
He examines in detail cases dealing with the following:
  • Cases Involving Injury to Back.
  • Case Involving Injury to Head.
  • Cases Involving Hearing Loss.
  • Cases Involving Other Issues.
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 This article is excerpted from the new AMA Guides volume of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses (Matthew Bender) (to be published October 2009). This volume on the AMA Guides is intended to help attorneys, claims adjusters, and other personnel apply the AMA Guides to individual cases. Because most insurance law and workers’ compensation law is statutorily-derived and cases are adjudicated at the state level, it is important to be familiar with the impairment rating system used in each practitioner’s state. States have different philosophies, public policies, and laws regarding the use and application of the AMA Guides to individual claims administered in that state. To that end, this Volume attempts to capture court cases that have addressed the use of the AMA Guides methodology and impairment rating system, specific to each state.