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AMA Guides Negative Effect on Permanent Disability Ratings


Court of Appeal Agrees and Offers Relief from AMA Guides’ Negative Effect on Permanent Disability Ratings

In an important decision for injured workers, a Court of Appeals agreed with a decision issued last year by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) in the Guzman case, that a strict interpretation of the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides is not always required in determining permanent disability. This decision was officially published by the Court and is binding law unless overturned by the Supreme Court or, at some point, by the California Legislature.

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 use of 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.

Determining an Injured Worker's Overall Permanent Disability

In the consolidated cases of Almaraz and Guzman the WCAB concluded that the AMA Guides charts of a worker's impairment may be rebutted. If such an impairment rating derived from the AMA Guides tables or charts results in an "inaccurate" measure of the injured employee's permanent disability, other charts or tables in the Guides 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.

Each Workers' Compensation Case to Be Analyzed Individually

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.  The first of these two cases, Guzman, was recently considered by a California Appeals Court and they agreed.  It remains to be seen if another Court of Appeal will choose to reconsider this conclusion in the Almaraz case.

Although the full effects of these cases will not be known for some time, the Workers Compensation lawyers from Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton and Goldstein (GEK) have been actively involved, often taking leadership roles, in the statewide legal fight against the harshest effects of Governor Schwarzenegger's reform laws. against the harshest effects of Governor Schwarzenegger's reform laws. We are familiar with and have helped develop many of the legal arguments that are being used to attack the unjust effects of these "reforms."

Using Information and Education to Fight California's Workers' Comp. "Reforms"

In fact, GEK partner Sherry Grant wrote the "Pearls of the AMA Guides," a scholarly text written for injured workers' attorneys, which points out the most useful and often overlooked portions of the Guides that help injured workers' obtain increased disability awards. And, more recently, Grant, working with members of the California Applicants' Attorneys Association's (CAAA) AMA Guides Committee, has produced a second edition of the Pearls of the AMA Guides 5th Edition as an eBook.   GEK partners Adam Dombchik and Richard Felton also contributed to the book as members of the AMA Guides Committee.

Now, more than ever, it is important that your Los Angeles attorney be aware of all latest legal developments in this continuing battle. You may rest assured that no one is more knowledgeable concerning such developments than the Workers' Compensation attorneys at GEK. 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.

If you would like to talk to an attorney about your legal options, please contact us at 213-739-7000

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