In the realm of personal injury law and workers’ compensation claims, the term “Permanent Impairment Rating” carries significant weight. It’s a critical factor that can profoundly influence the outcomes of legal cases and the lives of those who have suffered injuries. But what exactly is a Permanent Impairment Rating, and why does it matter?

At Kirk, Kirk, Howell, Cutler & Thomas, LLP, our workers’ compensation attorneys in Raleigh are exploring the intricacies of Permanent Impairment Ratings and their significant on the legal process.

Whether you’re an injured party seeking compensation or a legal professional navigating the complexities of such cases, understanding Permanent Impairment Ratings is essential. So, let’s begin the journey of demystifying this crucial aspect of the legal landscape in North Carolina.

Personal Injury Attorney in Wendell and Raleigh

What is Permanent Impairment Rating?

When someone sustains a work-related injury or injury caused by another party’s negligence, it often results in some level of physical or mental impairment. A Permanent Impairment Rating is a medical assessment used to quantify the extent of this lasting impairment and disability. Essentially, it provides a numerical value or percentage that reflects the severity of the injury and its long-term impact on the individual’s overall health and functioning.

What Are Temporary vs Permanent Impairments?

Temporary impairments, as the name suggests, are injuries expected to heal and improve over time. These may include broken bones, sprains, or minor injuries that, with medical treatment and rehabilitation, are likely to return to normal or near-normal function.

Permanent impairments, on the other hand, are those that do not significantly improve with time and medical intervention. They may result from conditions such as amputations, paralysis, chronic pain, or cognitive impairments, and often have a lasting impact on an individual’s quality of life.

The Role of Permanent Impairment Ratings in Legal Cases

Permanent Impairment Ratings serve as a critical piece of evidence in personal injury cases and workers’ compensation claims. Permanent Impairment Ratings provide a quantifiable basis for determining the extent of an individual’s total disability, which in turn plays a pivotal role in calculating compensation and benefits.

Additionally, these ratings help establish liability and aid in negotiations between each party’s insurance company, employers, and injured parties. In essence, Permanent Impairment Ratings form the foundation upon which legal decisions are made, ensuring that injured individuals receive fair and just compensation for their losses after a workplace injury or car accident caused by someone else’s negligent behavior.

How Are Permanent Impairment Ratings Determined?

When it comes to a personal injury claim or workers’ compensation claim, Permanent Impairment Ratings play a pivotal role in assessing the extent of an individual’s impairment due to an injury or medical condition. These ratings are crucial for determining the compensation and benefits an injured party is entitled to. But how exactly are Permanent Impairment Ratings determined? 

Medical Evaluations and Examinations

Permanent Impairment Ratings begin with a comprehensive medical evaluation. A qualified medical professional, often a specialist related to the specific injury or condition, conducts a thorough examination. This disability evaluation includes a review of the individual’s medical history, diagnostic tests, and physical assessments to understand the nature and severity of the impairment.

Criteria and Guidelines Used

Permanent Impairment Ratings are not arbitrary; they are guided by established criteria and guidelines for understanding and determining significant impairment. The choice of guidelines may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the type of injury. One widely recognized set of guidelines is the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (AMA Guides) from the American Medical Association. These guidelines provide a standardized framework for impairment evaluations across a range of medical conditions.

Role of Medical Professionals and Specialists

The determination of Permanent Impairment Ratings requires the expertise of medical professionals who are well-versed in assessing the specific injury or condition.

These specialists play a critical role in the process:

  • Orthopedic Surgeons: For musculoskeletal injuries.
  • Neurologists: For neurological conditions.
  • Psychiatrists: For mental health impairments.
  • Other Specialists: Depending on the injury or condition.

These experts provide insights into the medical aspects of the case and ensure that the evaluation is accurate and comprehensive.

Common Assessment Tools and Scales

To maintain objectivity and consistency in the assessment process, standardized tools and scales are often used.

Some of the common assessment tools and scales to determine the impairment of injured workers or accident victims include:

  • Range of Motion Tests: These assess an individual’s ability to move specific body parts and are often used to evaluate musculoskeletal impairments.
  • Visual Analog Scales (VAS): VAS is used to measure pain and discomfort, which can be a significant component of a permanent impairment rating.
  • Mental Health Assessments: For mental impairments like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, standardized psychiatric assessments may be used to gauge the severity of psychological conditions.

These tools and scales provide quantifiable data that helps ensure the assessment process remains objective and unbiased.

Use of Permanent Impairment Ratings for Workers’ Compensation Claims

In the realm of workers’ compensation law, Permanent Impairment Ratings serve as a fundamental pillar. They play a pivotal role in determining the employee’s ability to perform certain tasks and the course of action and compensation for injured workers.

Eligibility for Benefits

Permanent Impairment Ratings often dictate whether an injured worker is eligible for permanent disability benefits. A higher rating generally corresponds to a more significant injury and a greater likelihood of receiving ongoing compensation.

Personal Injury Compensation legal form

Duration of Benefits

The rating can also influence the duration of benefits. In some cases, a worker may be entitled to benefits for life, while others may receive benefits for a specified period based on their impairment rating.

Negotiation and Settlement

Employers and insurance companies use these ratings as a basis for negotiation when settling workers’ compensation claims. The higher the rating, the more likely it is that the injured worker will receive a more substantial settlement.

Impact of Permanent Impairment Ratings for Personal Injury Lawsuits

Permanent Impairment Ratings are equally crucial in personal injury lawsuits, where individuals seek compensation from parties responsible for their injuries.

Establishing Damages

In personal injury cases, a medical impairment rating is used to quantify the extent of the injury-related damages. This includes compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, and future medical costs.

Determining Liability

Functional capacity evaluations determine the severity of the impairment and can impact liability. For instance, a higher rating might result in a defendant being held more liable for the injuries sustained by the plaintiff.

Insurance Settlements

Insurance companies often rely on impairment ratings to assess claims and negotiate settlements based on disability determination. A well-documented impairment rating can strengthen a claimant’s position during negotiations.

How Are Compensation and Benefits Determined for Permanent Impairment?

Regardless of whether it’s a workers’ compensation or personal injury case, an impairment rating evaluation plays a significant role in determining the compensation and benefits an injured individual will receive.

Calculation of Compensation

The rating directly affects the calculation of compensation. A higher rating typically results in a larger financial award or ongoing benefits to cover medical expenses and lost income.

Financial Security

For injured individuals, compensation and benefits derived from these ratings can provide financial security, ensuring they have the resources to cope with their impairments and maintain their quality of life.

Legal Advocacy

Legal professionals leverage Permanent Impairment Ratings to advocate for their clients, ensuring that they receive fair and just compensation and benefits in accordance with the severity of their impairments.

What to Do if You Believe Your Permanent Impairment Rating is Inaccurate

If you believe your Permanent Impairment Rating is inaccurate, it’s essential to take appropriate steps to address the situation. Challenging a rating can be a complex process, but it’s crucial to ensure that you receive fair compensation and benefits that accurately reflect the extent of your impairment.

Consult with an Attorney Who Specializes in Personal Injury Claims

Seek legal counsel from an experienced Raleigh attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation and personal injury law. They can provide you with guidance and advocate on your behalf throughout the process.

The Role of Attorneys in Challenging Permanent Impairment Ratings

Navigating the complexities of Permanent Impairment Ratings can be a formidable task, especially when an individual believes that their rating does not accurately reflect the extent of their impairment. In such situations, legal expertise becomes invaluable.

Legal Expertise

Attorneys specializing in personal injury and workers’ compensation law play a critical role in challenging Permanent Impairment Ratings. At Kirk, Kirk Law, our Raleigh attorneys have the legal expertise to navigate complex procedures and advocate for our clients effectively.

Gathering Evidence

Attorneys work closely with their clients to gather necessary evidence, including medical records, expert opinions, and documentation of the injury’s impact on their life.


Attorneys present compelling arguments during appeals, emphasizing why the initial rating was incorrect and presenting evidence that supports their client’s case.


Attorneys often engage in negotiations with insurance companies, employers, or opposing legal counsel to reach a favorable resolution for their clients. This may involve settlement discussions or mediation.

Representation in Hearings

Attorneys represent their clients at administrative hearings, presenting evidence and making legal arguments on their behalf.

Appeals to Higher Courts

In some cases, if an administrative appeal is unsuccessful, attorneys may file appeals in higher courts to further challenge the rating.

Get the Compensation You Deserve with Our Raleigh Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

Your well-being and your future matter, and our Raleigh workers’ compensation attorneys are here to help you get the compensation you deserve. Don’t let an unfair Permanent Impairment Rating stand in the way of your recovery and financial security. Contact our experienced legal team at Kirk Kirk Howell Cutler & Thomas today for a free consultation and case review

For legal representation that will fight for fair compensation call us at [phone] or fill out the form below. 

Joe is an experienced personal injury and NC land condemnation lawyer in Raleigh. He also handles medical negligence cases in Wendell and Raleigh.