In a Maryland Workers’ Compensation claim, the final benefit you should receive is called “permanent partial disability benefits.” If you are reading this post I have probably asked you to look at it to better explain what is going to happen in your case from this point on.
You may have heard co-workers talk about their workers’ comp “settlement.” This final step is usually what they are talking about. But it is not exactly the same thing as a settlement. That is a technically a different animal we will discuss later.
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD for short) is the legal name given to this particular workers’ comp benefit. Do not confuse this benefit with being truly permanently disabled, in the way most people think when they hear that word. It does not mean you cannot ever work again.
The word “partial” means you are not “totally” disabled. If you are totally unable to work we will file a claim for “permanent total disability.” You can get PPD and be working. But you are not 100% after your work injury. Your level of disability (how much less than 100% you are) is ratable and results in a certain amount of money designed to compensate you for being somewhat less employable than you were before the accident.
So we are going to get a rating of your permanent disability from a doctor. The insurance company will also get their rating. The Maryland Workers’ Compensatin Commission decides what the final result is. It is usually a compromise between the two ratings. The final number is plugged into a complicated formula set out in the law. That formula results in a certain amount of money for you to compensate you for your level of permanent disability. (If you really want to know, I am happy to explain the formula in excruciating detail. But I guarantee your eyes will glaze over before I am done. It is convoluted and doesn’t make a lot of sense.)
Here are the steps to getting PPD:
- You must be at “maximum medical improvement.” This means the doctor has released you from his or her care completely. This is not the same as being released back to work. It means you are as good as you are going to get, and you only need to see the doctor back as needed.
- We must obtain your last medical records. There is always at least one last record that says you are at maximum medical improvement. We need that record. It tells us what, if any, level of permanent disability you have. We will always need to order it, and it may take 30 days or more to get it. (I hope not, but be prepared for that. Getting medical records is a real hassle due to the well intentioned, but poorly implemented, Federal HIPPA law.)
- After we get your last records, we will schedule you for a PPD rating from a doctor we hire. We will notify you of the appointment, and you will have to take time off to go. You can change the appointment if it is not convenient.
- After you see the doctor, I will get a report that details your level of permanent disability, and assigns you a percentage loss of use of the affected body part. That usually takes 30 days or so after your appointment.
- When I get the report, I will file for a hearing at the Workers’ Compensation Commission. They will set a hearing date automatically, and you will get notice by mail. I will send you additional notices as well. It could take 3 months or more before the hearing is actually held.
- After we get notice of the hearing date, the insurance company will send you to their doctor for a rating. This is called an IME (Independent Medical Exam) and is the subject of a completely different post. I will send you more information about it when it happens.
- We will either have a hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Commission, or we will settle your case. If we settle, it will usually be only a few days before the hearing. That is how the insurer’s work. It benefits them to delay everything to the last minute, so they do.
As you can see, there is a lot of waiting during this process. It may take 6 months to get through it. I wish that were not true, but such is the pace of the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission these days. Most of this waiting time is out of my control. We wait for the medical records thanks to HIPPA. We wait for the doctor’s report. We wait for the hearing to be set by the Commission. It can be an exercise in patience.
But don’t worry! We have done it countless times and we will get there in the end. If you have any questions or concerns after reading this, please feel free to call me.