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Impairment and permanent disability are not interchangeable terms

When one suffers a work-related injury, there are many issues that need attention. Applying for workers’ compensation and determining the severity of one’s injury are at the forefront. When it comes to knowing how to apply for benefits, it is helpful for Colorado workers to understand the difference between impairment and permanent disability and how this agency differentiates between the two.

The terms disabled and impaired are often used interchangeably to describe how an injury has impacted an employee’s ability to perform his or her job. However, these are not the same when it comes to assessing the need for benefits. In addition, the term permanent impairment will be subjected to a rating that determines how much impact the injury has on one’s physical or neurological condition. Suffering a permanent impairment will usually result in more benefits. 

An example of the difference between the two terms could be illustrated by the following: if one suffers a permanent back injury, that is considered an impairment. The impact that injury has on one’s ability to carry out their job is the extent of the disability. No two workers are affected the same way as one who routinely works a desk job would not be affected in the same way as one who works construction. Therefore, the office worker may not qualify for the same amount of benefits as one who is prevented from engaging in physical labor.

The level of impairment is generally determined by an independent medical provider who will assess the injury and give it a rating. This is referred to as the Impairment Rating Evaluation, (IRE) and it is conducted only after one has missed more than two years of work. The evaluation is needed to assess whether one has suffered a permanent disability. Colorado residents who suffer a work injury are entitled to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney who can help them navigate the system and obtain the maximum benefits according to their particular needs.

Source: imecarecenter.com, “Workers Compensation & Impairment Rating Evaluations Guide“, Accessed on April 11, 2018

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