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Understanding Impairment in Arizona Worker’s Comp Cases

Published March 7, 2019 by Matt Fendon Law Group | Workers' Compensation

Arizona workers’ compensation law, like other states’ laws, differentiates between disability and impairment. According to IME Care Center, an impairment is a health issue that affects the physical or neurological condition of a person. A disability, on the other hand, refers to the limitations and restrictions an injury places on a person’s ability to complete his or her work tasks. When a doctor classifies an injury as an impairment, the workers’ comp manager assigned to the case will further classify the impairment as either scheduled or unscheduled.

Per the Industrial Commission of Arizona, both scheduled and unscheduled impairments constitute monthly payments. How much those payments are and for how long a person will receive them depends on what type of impairment the injury is.

A scheduled impairment refers to one that occurs to an existing body part for which the Arizona Workers’ Compensation Laws have a scheduled amount insurers must pay. Though the injuries the schedule lists vary, it does include compensation payable for loss of permanent teeth and visible facial scarring.

An unscheduled impairment is one that is the result of a general impairment, a history of other permanent impairments or a combination of impairments to different parts of the body sustained in a single accident. In cases of unscheduled impairments, the ICA calculates how much the injured party should receive based on diminished earning capacity.

Determining whether to classify an impairment as scheduled or unscheduled is not as easy as referring to the schedule for a list of body parts. The ICA must also take into consideration several factors, including but not limited to education, limitations, work experience and current and previous monthly wage. If the ICA determines benefits are necessary, the insurance carrier will review the workers’ case on an annual basis.

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