As you are all aware, California recently adopted the AMA Guides for the determination of permanent impairment in workers’ compensation. Inasmuch as jurisdictions often adopt the most recently published edition, Bradford & Barthel keeps on the “cutting edge” as we observe the new edition of the AMA Guides as it is drafted and published.
Many suggestions were offered up at the American Medical Association conference. In particular, it was emphasized that simplification and clarification are essential to ensure that the end-user, in particular California’s doctors, will be able to achieve consistent and predictable impairment determinations. The AMA Guides will have a mental and behavior disorders chapter that is usable. The AMA Guides currently has a mental and behavioral disorders chapter (Chapter 14), which cannot be effectively used to measure impairment. As a result, California’s new permanent disability rating “schedule relies solely on the Global Assessment Function (GAF) to determine psychiatric/psychological impairment.”
The editors of the 6th edition strongly hinted that mental impairment will not rate any higher than 50% WPI in the 6th edition! Moreover, when a psychological/psychiatric impairment arises out of a physical injury, the AMA Guides will reportedly not permit combining or adding of the psychological/psychiatric impairment with the physical impairment. Rather, both will be calculated, and the applicant will be awarded only the greater of the two (that is, either impairment for the psyche or for the physical injury).
Unfortunately the 6th Edition of the AMA Guides is not expected to be available until November 2007. However, Bradford & Barthel will continue to closely monitor the development of the upcoming edition of the AMA Guides and keep you informed as to how it may affect your workers’ compensation rating strategies.
Don R. Barthel is a founding partner of Bradford & Barthel, LLP.
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