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Understanding California’s Schedule for Rating Permanent Disabilities

California’s workers’ compensation laws have a complex system determining how much compensation workers suffering from permanent disabilities may receive. Understanding California’s schedule for rating permanent disabilities may be difficult but it is your right under the law to receive payments if you are permanently injured.


When an injury victim’s health becomes permanent and stationary, meaning his or her health is stable, a doctor will make an initial evaluation of the victim’s disability. Physicians follow the American Medical Association’s  Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.


Doctors evaluate the injuries to individual body parts then convert these impairments into an impairment standard. The impairment standard is adjusted for factors like:


  • Diminished future earning capacity;
  • Age of the victim; and
  • Occupation.


The adjusted impairment standard is translated into a final permanent disability rating. Upper body and lower body conditions are combined to calculate a whole person impairment. Final permanent adjustment ratings range from 0 percent to 100 percent. A rating of 100 percent means the victims is permanently disabled, 99 percent and below means the victims is partially disabled.


Calculating California permanent disability ratings


California workers’ compensation claims adjusters use a legally prescribed formula to determine injury victims’ total disability payouts. The official variables used to calculate workers’ compensation payments are:


  • Impairment number: Injuries are coded according to the body part injured, organ, nature of the injury and type of injury. Comprised as four, two-digit codes, ex. xx-xx-xx-xx
  • Impairment standard: Determined by a qualified physician on a scale of 0 to 100.
  • Adjustment for diminished future earning capacity (FEC): Calculates the long term cost of your disability. The part of the body injured is placed into ranked categories with corresponding adjustment factors. The impairment standard is multiplied by the adjustment factor.
  • Occupational grouping: California divides labor into 45 numerical occupation groups. Each group is assigned a three digit occupational code, ex. xxx
  • Occupational variant: This variable expresses the demand placed on injured part of the body by the type of occupation. Occupational variant is expressed alphabetically on a scale from A to J: Where F is an average level of demand placed on the injured body part, A is the most demanding and J is the least demanding.
  • Occupational adjustment: Using a table cross referencing the injured victim’s occupational grouping and occupational variant, occupation and injury impact to job performance are calculated into one variable.
  • Age adjustment: The disability rating is adjusted again, compensating for the age of the injury victim. The impairment standard, adjusted for FEC and occupational adjustment, is cross referenced is a table assigning adjustment for the age of the victim.
  • Final permanent disability rating: The number on the age adjustment table is the victim’s final disability rating percentage.


California workers’ compensation disability rating formula


The final permanent disability rating formula can summarized as the impairment standard (on a scale of 0 to 100), adjusted (multiplied) for FEC, adjusted for occupation and impact on job performance, adjusted for age. If this sounds complicated, it’s because it is.


Many factors go into calculating your workers’ compensation disability payments. If an insurance claims adjuster unfairly miscalculates the nature of your injuries, it could cost you and your family substantial compensation over the course of your financial lifetime.


Workers’ compensation lawyers in San Francisco


Retaining an attorney from the onset of your work injury can help give you and your family the best chance of maximizing the compensation you may be entitled to. Don’t risk leaving valuable income on the table and potentially jeopardize your quality of life. Contact an experienced firm for a legal consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney.

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