If you have suffered a work-related injury, you may be entitled to permanent impairment compensation under New Hampshire statutory law, and you may pursue your permanent impairment award years after the injury occurred.
Most rights that New Hampshire workers’ compensation law confers on injured employees have expiration dates. This is true of most rights under the law. If you do not act to preserve your right within a specified time period, you lose the right.
The permanent impairment award is the rare exception. Three (3) events must transpire for an injured employee to qualify for a permanent impairment award. First, the injured employee must reach maximum medical improvement with respect to his work-related injury. Second, the work injury must have caused the injured employee to suffer a permanent loss of use of the function of a body part. Third, a doctor must evaluate the percentage loss of use according to the methods prescribed by a publication of the American Medical Association called the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, Fifth Edition. Notably, New Hampshire Department of Labor regulations require that the carrier pay the doctor’s bill for evaluating the extent of impairment, if the employee has reached maximum medical improvement and has not previously undergone any medical evaluation for permanency.
The amount of the permanent impairment award is determined by this mathematical formula: (Percentage loss of use as determined by the doctor) X (a certain number of weeks of disability benefits, which number depends on the affected body part) X (the injured employee’s compensation rate at the time of injury, which rate is equivalent to 60% of the employee’s average weekly wage).
The Department of Labor must approve any permanent impairment award. If the workers’ compensation carrier disputes the extent of the award owing, or disputes whether any award is owing at all, the employee may request a hearing before the Department of Labor to resolve the dispute. The carrier will be represented by an attorney through this process, so the employee should be represented as well.
Unsurprisingly, carriers do not bend over backwards to inform injured employees of their potential rights to permanent impairment compensation. But, unlike most other rights under the law, there is no expiration date on the right to this compensation. If you have suffered a work injury that may have had some permanent impact on you, and you have not received a permanent impairment award, you should consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney such as Benjamin King, Esquire, at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C. to discuss pursuing the compensation to which you may be entitled.