Alabama Workers Compensation - Part 3
E. Determining a Vocational Disability Rating
How is a vocational disability rating determined? A vocational expert is employed in order to determine the disability rating. Usually, the employee's attorney will hire an expert to evaluate the client and provide the rating. Many times, the employer's attorney will do the same, and as you might imagine, each vocational expert will come up with a different rating. Since the rating will be used to determine the compensation, the employee's is usually high, and the employer's is usually low, and the compensation is usually somewhere between the two.
F. Settlement or Trial
Once the vocational disability rating is determined, the case is either settled or tried before a judge. That is correct, THERE IS NO JURY TRIAL IN WORKERS COMPENSATION CASES!
V. Example of Workers Compensation Calculations
A. Permanent Partial Disability
As I promised, the following would be an example of the actual calculation of a workers compensation case (the facts are hypothetical and not based on an actual case):
Let's say the client is a thirty-two year old construction worker with a tenth grade education. His average weekly wage equals $700.00. He falls twelve feet on a job because he was not tied off or provided any fall protection, and his injury requires the fusion of two vertebrae in his lower back. He is off of work for 38 weeks, and the doctor states he is now at MMI, he assigns an impairment rating to the client of 23% to the body as a whole (I will discuss this issue later), and he states that he cannot lift more than twenty pounds.
Given his restrictions, the client cannot return to work so he sees an attorney who sends him to a vocational expert for an evaluation. The vocational expert determines that the individual has a seventy-five percent (75%) disability rating. The employer also sends the client to a vocational expert who concludes the employee has a forty percent (40%) disability rating. The following is the actual calculation of the client's compensation based on each of these disability ratings:
Seventy-five Percent (75%)
$700.00/week X 2/3 = $466.67
$466.67 X 75% = $350.00
$350.00 is greater than the $220.00 maximum under the workers compensation statute so $220.00 is the compensation rate
The total number of weeks of compensation for an injury to the body as a whole is 300 weeks, and the employer is entitled to subtract the number of weeks of TTD already paid. In this case, that number equals 38 so the employee is entitled to the present value of 262 weeks (300 - 38 = 262). The present value is determined by a table (see Appendix "A").
Based on the above figures, the employee would be entitled to $220.00 X 226.1039 weeks = $49,742.85
Forty Percent (40%)
$700.00/week X 2/3 = $466.67
$466.67 X 40% = $186.67 (compensation rate)
$186.67 X 226.1039 weeks = $42,206.81