Determination of permanent disability in Arizona work injury claims is governed by a book published by the American Medical Association called The Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. The Guides have a section for each of the major body parts which give uniform rules for doctors to "rate" permanent impairments in injuries. Although the rules are supposed to be uniform, they are often interpreted very differently by different doctors. I recently had a case where one doctor found my client had a 28% impairment, another found he had a 42% and a third found a 61% - all looking at the same table!
Some doctors think that the Guides are perfect, and won't deviate from them at all. Others say that they are what they say they are - only a "guide" to help in reaching a determination of how an injury has really affected the overall function of the body part.
In cases of "scheduled" injuries, the doctor's rating under the Guides is the most important factor in determining how much compensation the injured worker will receive for his or her injury. In unscheduled injuries, the actual percentage rating is unimportant, as long as the injured worker has at least a 1% permanent impairment.
Chad T. Snow is a workers compensation attorney who has represented thousands of injured workers in Arizona. He has offices in both Phoenix and Tucson. He can be reached at (602) 532-0700, (520) 647-9000, or on his website at Snow, Carpio, and Weekley.