When a Montana employee is injured on the job, he or she is entitled to collect workers’ compensation benefits. The benefits include lost wages and medical expenses with the ultimate goal being to help the worker recover and get back to work.
But sometimes an injury is so serious that the worker will never go back to his or her old job. Some workers are so disabled they are unable to work again at any job. For workers in this position, Montana’s workers’ compensation system provides permanent partial disability benefits and permanent total disability benefits.
To collect permanent partial disability benefits the worker needs to have reached maximum medical improvement. Once MMI is reached, a physician then assigns the worker an impairment rating based on a medical examination of the worker. An impairment rating is a measure of the degree of disability. The physician first determines a whole person impairment rating based on American Medical Association guidelines. This whole person rating is then increased by specific factors listed in the workers’ compensation law, such as the workers’ age, whether the worker sustained an actual wage loss, the type of labor the worker was performing before the injury and the type of labor he or she can now perform. The impairment rating is a key factor in calculating the amount of the permanent partial disability award.
An injured worker is eligible for permanent total disability benefits if, as a result of a work-related injury, they do not have a reasonable prospect of being able to physically perform any kind of work. The determination of PTD is made without regard to the availability of immediate job openings.
For an injured worker who is partially or totally disabled, obtaining workers’ compensation disability benefits is critical. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help ensure the worker gets what he or she is legally entitled to.
Source: leg.mt.gov, “Mont. Code Ann. § 39-71-703,” accessed Sept. 17, 2016