The 2011 Amendments to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act allow Arbitrators to use five factors to determine the level of a claimant’s permanent partial disability. One of these factors is the reported level of impairment pursuant to an AMA impairment rating.
The Act specifies that “the most current edition” of the AMA’s “Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment” shall be used by the physician in determining the level of impairment. To comply with the Act, employers must ensure that any physician performing an impairment rating is using the most current edition of the AMA Guides. At this time, the Sixth Edition is the most current version, but also includes any addenda issued by the AMA.
Failure of the physician to use the most current edition of the AMA Guides can open the door for the claimant’s attorney to attack the physician’s impairment rating at a deposition, possibly reducing the weight given to it at Arbitration. It may also reduce the value of the impairment rating in any settlement negotiations. Obtaining an impairment rating can be expensive for the employer, and it only accounts for one of the five factors used to determine permanency, so the goal is maximizing the value of the impairment rating. Ensuring use of the most current edition of the AMA Guides is essential to attain this goal.
Accordingly, prior to obtaining an impairment rating, employers or their agents should make sure that the doctor performing the rating is using the Sixth Edition of the AMA Guides and has a subscription to receive any addenda issued by the AMA.
Thanks to attorney Allison Mecher for this essential reminder.