by Bernard D. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
When a person cannot go back to work or earn the same amount of money they were earning before being injured on the job, they might have a claim for vocational disability. In addition to the value of the injured worker’s permanent physician impairment rating, vocational disability can be used to determine the total value of some workers’ compensation claims. This situation can only be considered when the injured work has a body as a whole injury and not a scheduled member injury.
A scheduled member injury is typically when a finger, a hand, or even an arm are injured without interfering with the other body parts normal function or activity. Scheduled member injuries have specific assigned number of weeks value to that body part. For example, a hand is worth “x” # of weeks.
In comparison, body as whole injuries typically are backs, hips, shoulders and the head. These types of injuries necessarily involve multiple body parts and are not limited to one specific function. Also, the number of weeks in a claim for body as a whole injuries can be up to 300 weeks.
Pain can be considered when analyzing whether a scheduled injury should be viewed as a body as a whole injury. These arguments are usually hotly contested.
When vocational disability is at issue typically the injured worker is no longer eligible to work with the employer due to the permanent work restrictions ordered by the authorized treating physician. The employer cannot always accommodate the injured worker’s limitations so they might have the legal right to terminate the employment. As a result, the injured worker can pursue a claim for vocational disability if they cannot find suitable gainful employment elsewhere.
When this situation arises, in most instances, both parties (insurance adjuster / defense counsel and plaintiff’s counsel) will hire respective vocational experts to interview the injured worker as part of creating an opinion on vocational loss. This percentage of loss can be equated into a monetary value. Then it becomes a battle of the experts. The two sides will then either work towards a settlement or fight it out in court at trial.
If you have questions or concerns about this topic or any other dealing with workers’ compensation, please visit our website at nomberglaw.com or contact us at (205) 930-6900. Our office is located in downtown Birmingham. We handle cases throughout the State of Alabama.
Bernard D. Nomberg has practiced workers’ compensation law in Alabama for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. He has been selected a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine as well as a Top Rated Attorney by B-Metro Magazine.