AMA Impairment Guidelines May Negatively Impact Injured Workers

As part of reforms in the Illinois workers’ compensation system, impairment ratings promulgated by the American Medical Association (AMA) are now used by doctors and arbitrators to decide the workers’ compensation claims of injured workers in Illinois. However, this can have a negative effect on the claims of workers, in particular those with permanent partial injuries.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act mandates that physicians consider the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment to determine the level of permanent partial disability. The problem with this is that an impairment is not the same thing as a disability. Thus, according to the AMA guidelines, a worker may have only a minor impairment, but he or she may be suffering from a significant disability for the purposes of work performance.

For instance, a worker with an arm injury that permits basic daily functions like eating or getting dressed may have a low impairment rating under the AMA guidelines, but may be unable to perform a job that requires heavy lifting. In addition, studies have shown that impairment rates are often misapplied due to lack of knowledge and experience on the part of the examiner.

It is important to remember that AMA guidelines are only one factor considered in determining what compensation an injured worker should receive. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will know how to use other factors, such as the worker’s medical records and future earning capacity, and evidence from medical experts, to ensure that the worker gets the compensation he or she is entitled to.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney and Chicago workers compensation lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit

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