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WCAB Offers Relief from AMA Guides Negative Effect on Permanent Disability Ratings

In a decision important for injured workers, earlier this month, the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) in a unanimous ruling by all seven Commissioners ruled that a strict interpretation of the AMA Guides is not always required in determining permanent disability. This decision is binding law unless overturned by the Appellate Court.

One of the harshest aspects of the 2004 Workers' Compensation Reform Act was the requirement that the AMA Guides be used to determine permanent disability. Often the AMA Guides, which were never written to determine disability, resulted in a severe reduction in permanent disability benefits, even for the most seriously injured workers.

In the consolidated cases of Almaraz and Guzman, the WCAB concluded that the AMA Guides charts are only "prima facie evidence" of a worker's impairment and may be rebutted. If such an impairment rating derived from the AMA Guides tables or charts results in an "inequitable, disproportionate and not a fair and accurate measure of the injured employee's permanent disability," other evidence may be considered in determining the overall permanent impairment percentage. A successful rebuttal to the AMA Guides impairment rating will result in an increase in an injured worker's overall percentage of permanent disability. It should be pointed out that the case specifically states that rebutting the AMA Guides will not occur in every case, but is a fact specific consideration which should be analyzed on a case by case basis.

Although the full effects of these cases will not be known for some time, the workers compensation lawyers from Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack et al. have been actively involved, often taking leadership roles, in the state wide legal fight against the harshest effects of Governor Schwarzenegger's reform laws. We are familiar with, and have in fact helped develop many of the legal arguments which are being used to attack the unjust effects of these "reforms." Now, more than ever, it is important that your attorney be aware of all of the latest legal developments in this continuing battle. You may rest assured that no one is more knowledgeable concerning such developments than your workers' compensation attorney at Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant Felton and Goldstein. The efforts of our attorneys will insure that our clients are provided with sophisticated representation in dealing with these problems and hopefully help all injured workers across the state.

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