Permanent Partial Disability in Wisconsin

Aside from medical bill coverage and wage loss benefits, permanent partial disability (PPD) is one of the most common benefits in the Wisconsin worker’s compensation system.

PPD is assigned by a doctor if, once an injured worker reaches an end of healing, the worker has sustained a degree of permanent physical functional impairment to the injured body part(s). Common examples of permanent functional impairment following an injury are reduced range of motion, chronic pain, and/or permanent weakness to the affected body part.

The purpose of PPD is to compensate injured workers for permanent disabilities they have suffered while working for their employer. In Wisconsin, PPD is assessed by way of a percentage of loss to the affected body part. That percentage of loss is then calculated into a monetary benefit under specific schedules set by statute and is paid out for a set number of weeks.

Understanding How PPD is Typically Assessed and Assigned in a Worker’s Compensation Scenario 

The typical PPD scenario goes something like this:

  1. While lifting a heavy crate of bottled water, a grocery store workers feels the sudden onset of sharp pain in his right shoulder.
  2. The worker reports the injury and is sent to the hospital by his employer. Upon examination, the treating physician discovers a right rotator cuff tear that requires surgery.
  3. The worker undergoes surgery. After concluding all post-surgery physical therapy, the worker still has limited range of motion and weakness in his right shoulder, which his doctor deems permanent.
  4. Considering the permanent physical functional loss the worker has sustained to his shoulder, his treating doctor assesses five percent PPD to account for the permanent loss of range of motion and weakness.
  5. The five percent PPD rating is then submitted to the worker’s compensation insurance company and the state of Wisconsin for recording and payment per state statute.

In the previous scenario, the treating doctor assigned PPD to the worker’s right shoulder because it was the area of the body that was both injured and sustained the permanent functional loss.

However, what happens if a worker’s permanent physical impairment appears in an area outside of the body part that was injured in the work accident?

Location of Injury vs. Location of Resulting Functional Disability

In the state of Wisconsin, the physical location of the disability – rather than the location of the work injury itself – controls for purposes of assessing PPD.

While uncommon, in cases of spinal and brain injuries, medical practitioners sometimes see occurrences of PPD manifesting in a different part of the body than the actual location of the work injury.

For example, injuries to the “neck” often involve damage to the cervical spine. The cervical spine is part of the central nervous system, which plays a roll in controlling motor function in the head, neck, and upper extremities. If a cervical nerve root becomes compressed, it can cause loss of function in one’s upper extremities, all the way down to the hands and fingers. Similarly, injuries to the lumbar spine (i.e., “back”) can result in similar symptoms in the legs and feet. In the context of injuries to the most vital part of the central nervous system – the brain – loss of function can manifest in myriad ways, from hearing loss all the way down to weakness in the legs.

Accordingly, if an injured worker who suffered a cervical spine (i.e. neck) injury due to a motor vehicle accident ends up only having permanent functional loss in her left hand and wrist due to nerve damage, her PPD will not be assessed at the cervical spine. Rather it will be assessed at the wrist because that is where her physical impairment is located. Similarly, if a worker suffers a back injury that results in loss of function at just the foot and ankle, PPD will only be assessed at the ankle – not at the back.

We Help Resolve PPD Questions and Disputes

Some injuries can result in uncertainty as to where and how to evaluate PPD. Making sure your PPD is being assessed accurately, and to the appropriate location of the body, is extremely important.

If the worker’s compensation insurer is disagreeing with your doctor about your PPD rating or if your claim for PPD has been denied, contact Hawks Quindel’s experienced worker’s compensation attorneys for a free claim evaluation.

Brandon Jubelirer
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