The 2005 Permanent Disability Rating Schedule (PDRS) has been in effect since 1/1/05. Yes, it has been nearly four years since its inception (where has the time gone?)!
Have you mastered rating for DFEC 1, occupation, and age? Are you sure?
How about this little brain teaser?
Per the 2005 PDRS, “[m]ultiple impairments involving the hand or foot are combined using standard AMA Guides protocols.” 2 The AMA Guides (5th), instruct:
“The total hand impairment rating is determined by adding the hand impairment values contributed by each digit.” (p. 440, AMA Guides)
While the foregoing appears relatively simple, issues arise when one recognizes that more than one occupational variant may come into play for one rating string, thereby giving rise to the question: Which occupational variant is used?
Imagine your rating the 2006 injury of “Butter Fingers” Bob, a 37-year-old electrician (Group 380), who managed to amputate two fingers:
Index Finger, amputated @ MP joint = 100% finger = 20% hand 3
Little Finger, amputated @ DIP joint = 45% finger = 5% hand 4
Per the AMA Guides, these impairments are added at the hand level and then converted to whole person impairment:
20% hand + 5% hand = 25% hand = 23% UE = 14% wpi
Per the 2005 PDRS, the impairment numbers associated with these individual finger amputations (and their resulting occupational variants) are:
Index Finger = 16.06.02.02 (giving rise to a 380I)
Little Finger = 16.06.05.02 (giving rise to a 380H)
The problem arises because neither 16.06.02.02 nor 16.06.05.02 are used in this case. Rather, the 2005 PDRS has an impairment number that is reserved for cases involving multiple finger amputations: 16.05.02.00. All things being equal, this impairment number, when adjusted by a 380 occupational number, gives rise to a 380H. Thus, in the case of “Butter Fingers” Bob, this matter might be rated as follows:
16.05.02.00 – 14 – 15 – 380H – 19 – 19% PD
Is that fair to “Butter Fingers”? The DEU answers this question with an emphatic, “No way!” The majority of the impairment (20 percent hand for the index finger, as compared to the 5 percent hand for the little finger), relates to the index finger. As noted above, if rated alone, the index finger would be rated using a 380I. In short, by uncritically applying 16.05.02.00’s 380H (rather than 16.06.02.02’s 380I), we are decreasing the overall value that would otherwise be awarded to the index finger.
In this scenario, the DEU has determined that they maintain the “discretion” to assign a fairer variant. This can make a significant difference. Consider:
16.05.02.00 – 14 – 15 – 380H – 19 – 19% = $16,215
16.05.02.00 – 14 – 15 – 380I – 21 – 21% = $18,515
That’s right! The DEU’s “discretion” just cost you $2,300!
And now you know…the rest of the story!
Donald R. Barthel is a Founding Partner of Bradford & Barthel, LLP as well as B&B’s Rating & File Consultation Services. Mr. Barthel is an acknowledged expert regarding the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment and the 2005 PDRS. Much of his time is dedicated to teaching these topics to adjusters, human resource directors, employer representatives, attorneys, and physicians throughout California and the United States. Have a PDRS or AMA Guides question? Call Don Barthel at (916) 996-1263 or email him at email@example.com.
1 Diminished Future Earning Capacity.
2 Page 1-11, 2005 Permanent Disability Rating Schedule.
3 Figure 16-5, p. 443 and Table 16-1, p. 438
4 Figure 16-5, p. 443 and Table 16-1, p. 438
5 Assumes maximum wage earner for permanent disability purposes.
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