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Workers' Compensation Appeals Board Decides Anew on Two Important Cases

Subsequent to the 2004 change in the Workers' Compensation Laws stemming from Senate Bill 899, Governor Schwarzenegger's reform bill, there have been unanswered questions as to how to accurately rate an injured worker's permanent disability. Studies have shown that permanent disability in some cases was drastically reduced by the effects of this "reform" bill.

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Some good news for injured workers involves action by the Workers' Compensation Appeals Board in two recent decisions regarding the Almaraz/Guzman and Ogilvie cases. These decisions have answered some of these questions, and allow for an increased permanent disability recovery in certain workers' compensation cases.

At issue in both cases was how parties can rebut various parts of the permanent disability rating schedule. With Almaraz/Guzman II, the decision involves an injured worker's whole person impairment rating using the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides. The Ogilvie II decision deals with the algebraic formula used to determine an injured worker's reduction in future earnings capacity. Both factors (the AMA impairment rating and future earnings capacity) are important in determining an injured worker's overall level of permanent disability.

"These latest decisions provide further clarification on how injured workers can obtain accurate assessments of their injuries and the effect the injuries will have on their lives in the future," says Workers' Compensation attorney Richard Felton, a partner in the firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP.

"The good news in regards to Almaraz/Guzman II is that a doctor can use his or her discretion--by considering other sections of the AMA Guides--in accessing the whole person impairment. This leads to a much more accurate determination as to the permanent effects of the injury."

"Although there is much more involved in these decisions than a rating process and a mathematical formula, they do enable a skilled attorney to fight for a more just permanent disability award for an injured worker in some cases," says Felton.

"We have been and will continue to be deeply involved in the development of legal arguments that take some of the sting out of SB 899. Now more than ever it is vital for injured workers to have effective legal representation to fight for their rights."

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