Some work injuries are so severe that they have a permanent impact on a person’s life. When they partially disable the worker, these occupational injuries open the door to Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits in Georgia workers’ compensation claims.
PPD benefits have a different purpose than Temporary Total Disability (TTD) and Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits. Instead of replacing lost income from a temporary disability, PPD benefits are meant to compensate the injured worker for the permanent loss of use of a body part. While paying someone for losing the use of a part or parts of their body is a strange concept, it offers a road to recovery for injured workers, helping them get much-needed financial support after a debilitating loss.
How Are PPD Benefits Paid?
PPD benefits will depend on three key factors:
- Which body part was injured;
- The percentage of loss of use of that body part; and
- The person’s workers’ compensation rate.
According to O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-263, employers are required to pay weekly PPD benefits equal to two-thirds of an injured worker’s average weekly wage for a certain number of weeks, based on the percentage and location of the disability. PPD benefits are subject to a maximum limit of $675 per week (as of 2021).
How Do PPD Benefits Affect Other Workers’ Comp Benefits?
PPD benefits are payable "without regard to whether the employee has suffered economic loss as a result of the injury,” which means they are payable even if the worker has not been entitled to TTD or TPD benefits for that injury (O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-263(b)(1)). If a worker has been receiving TTD or TPD benefits, however, PPD benefits will not become payable until the worker is no longer entitled to the previous benefits (O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-263(b)(2)).
How Are PPD Benefits Calculated?
PPD benefits are calculated based on a set formula laid out by O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-263. This statute lists what number of weeks benefits are payable for injuries to 13 particular body parts and the body as a whole. The number of weeks a worker can receive PPD benefits for will be calculated by multiplying the percentage of loss of use of the body part times the number of weeks assigned to that body part by statute. For this resulting number of weeks, the worker would then be entitled to receive their regular weekly workers’ compensation rate of two-thirds of their average weekly wage, up to $675.
Let’s take a look at this formula in action:
- John has been severely injured on the job.
- He has lost 80% use of his left arm.
- He was earning $1000 per week before he was injured.
According to O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-263, a person who has lost complete use of an arm is entitled to 225 weeks of PPD benefits. Because John has lost 80% of use of his arm, he would be entitled to 180 weeks of benefits. Because he was earning $1000 prior to his injury, he would be entitled to $666 per week. So, John should receive $666 per week for 180 weeks: a total of $119,800. These benefits would start after his TPD benefits have been paid out.
How Is a Percentage of Loss of a Body Part Determined?
The percentage of impairment to an individual body part is calculated according to O.C.G.A. Sec. 34-9-263(d), which states, "In all cases arising under this chapter, any percentage of disability or bodily loss ratings shall be based upon Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, fifth edition, published by the American Medical Association."
Employers and insurers have 30 days to request an impairment rating by a worker’s Authorized Treating Physician, starting from the date that the worker is no longer receiving temporary workers’ comp benefits. PPD benefits must begin within 21 days of the employer or insurer learning of the worker’s impairment rating.
What About PPD Benefit Settlements?
When it comes to PPD benefits, settlements may be reached between a worker and their employer. This can work because the benefit amount would be known ahead of time, as in the $119,800 example above. Many of these settlements are reached, however, before or around the time that the worker would become eligible for PPD benefits. If an impairment rating has not yet been assigned, this can make things difficult for the attorney handling the case. That is why it is important for any Georgia workers’ comp practitioner to have a good idea of what the rating is likely to be, keeping a copy of Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment on hand and coordinating with the worker’s physician to make an accurate assessment of the situation.
Talk to an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
If you would like to learn which PPD benefits you are eligible for, please do not hesitate to contact an Atlanta workers' compensation lawyer from our firm. We have over two decades of experience and we are committed to protecting the rights of injured workers throughout Georgia. Schedule your free consultation today by calling (888) 665-7699.