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GEK Attorney Applies Almaraz Guzman II, Wins Increased Permanent Disability Benefits

Adam Dombchik, a partner with the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP, recently won increased permanent disability benefits for his client, more than doubling the recovery, by applying the Almaraz/Guzman II decision to his argument.

One of the many problems with the Workers' Compensation System stemming from the "reform" of 2004 was the use of the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides to determine a worker's impairment. The Guides were never written to determine disability, and often resulted in drastic reductions in permanent disability benefits.

However, last year the Almaraz/Guzman II decision, handed down by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB) and supported by a Court of Appeal decision, offered relief. 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.

Such was the case for Dombchik's client. He was a vault clerk for a major motion picture company for about nine years until a workplace injury to both of his thumbs ended his career. The Guides consider both anatomic and functional loss. In this case, the Guides were used to consider the client's anatomic loss with less emphasis placed on his functional loss. However, the Agreed Medical Examiner, a hand specialist, focused on the functional loss caused by the client's bilateral thumb injuries, and found a more accurate way to rate the whole person impairment while adhering to the "four corners" of the Guides.

This functional loss impacted greatly the client's ability to perform everyday activities outside of the workplace, such as dressing himself, putting shoes and socks on and taking them off, opening jars, lifting a glass, making a meal, and many other activities that require fine motor skills.

"As is evidenced by this case, Almaraz/Guzman II is a positive decision for injured workers because in some cases it leads to a much more accurate determination as to the permanent effects of the injury," says Dombchik.  

"It is imperative for injured workers to be represented by attorneys who are knowledgeable about legal decisions and developments that can impact their treatment and monetary compensation."

If you would like to speak with an attorney about your legal options, contact us at 213-739-7000.


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