Workers’ Comp Lawyers in OKC
Introduction to Calculating Permanent Partial Disability Cash Settlement Amounts for Extremity or Scheduled Injury Loss Cases
“Scheduled” or “Extremity” Injuries
This would include injury, disease and/or amputation to a worker’s limbs including his or her toes, fingers (including the thumb), hands, feet, knees, elbows, arms, and legs. This would also include permanent injury or damage to an employee’s sensory organs, such as his or her eye(s) or ears (hearing). Each of these body parts has a specific number of weeks assigned to it for complete loss (or loss of use) of that part—hence that is where the term “scheduled” injury comes from.
In Oklahoma, as is true in most other states, an injured workers’ permanent partial disability settlement will be calculated using one of two mutually exclusive methods—the particular methodology used wholly dependent on the part or parts of the hurt worker’s body injured in the accident in question. The only situation where both methods would be used for any one isolated injury or injury date is where the worker injures multiple body parts as a result of a single work-related accident and at least one body part would be on the schedule of injuries under the Oklahoma statute and at least one body part would not be listed on those same schedules. In this case the Oklahoma Workers’ Comp permanent disability settlement schedules would be used for the injured body part(s) on the schedule and the injured body parts not included under the schedules would be evaluated under the separate method used to value settlements of “non-scheduled” injuries which methodology is discussed in full detail elsewhere on this site.
It should also be noted that where an injured worker, again as a result of one single-event accident, unfortunately injures multiple body parts all listed on one or even several of the schedules included in the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Act—each such injured body part will be calculated and valued separately on the particular schedule which applies to that damaged body part. The injured worker’s total permanent settlement will then be calculated by simply adding together the values of each body part calculated separately on the scheduled together to reach a global settlement for all injuries sustained in the one accident in question. To be clear, the impairment ratings for the two or more individual injured body parts calculated using the work comp schedules will not be combined or converted over to one simple rating, even if two or more injuries are to the same exact extremity, for instance if an injured worker sustains permanent injury to both his right hand and right elbow. In this instance the worker would have his impairment calculated on the schedules for the hand and elbow separately, then these would be added together, and not converted and paid as one combined rating to the worker’s right upper extremity.
Likewise, an Oklahoma worker who, as a result of one single-event accident sustains injury to both a body part (or parts) included on the work comp schedule and one or more body parts not so scheduled, as noted above the settlement values will be calculated separately and simply added together. Under Oklahoma law in no circumstances will the scheduled injury be combined with the non-scheduled injury and one-single whole person impairment rating calculated for payment under the methodology for calculating the value of whole-body permanent settlements.
What are “Scheduled Members” included on the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court’s Permanent Partial Disability Schedules?
The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court has determined that if an injured worker has an injury to a body part defined as a “Scheduled Member”—any permanent partial disability settlement amount will be determined wholly on the Oklahoma permanent disability schedules, or not at all. The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court has defined the term “Scheduled Member” or simply “member” to mean injury or disease to a worker’s hands, fingers, arms, legs, feet, toes, ears and finally eyes. To be clear—an injured Oklahoma employee, or his Oklahoma City or Tulsa Workers’ Comp Lawyer cannot argue that injuries to these body parts be determined as a whole-person injury or calculated using the methodology which is used to determine whole-body injuries—even though in most cases converting a scheduled in injury to whole-person would net out a larger cash settlement than by simply using the Oklahoma permanent disability schedules used for extremity injuries or “Scheduled Members”.
CALCULATING CASH SETTLEMENT VALUE OF OKLAHOMA WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SCHEDULED OR EXTREMITY RATINGS
Three variables are needed to determine the cash settlement value of a scheduled permanent injury in Oklahoma: (1) impairment rating; (2) body part; and (3) individual’s permanent partial disability weekly rate.
A given worker’s weekly rate for a scheduled permanent partial disability benefit is derived by first determining his or her average weekly wage (“AWW”) at the time of his or her injury. Seventy percent (70%) of that AWW, up to a maximum amount (currently set at $360.00), is the worker’s weekly permanent partial disability rate for determining his or her cash settlement for a scheduled injury.
NOTE: Calculating the average weekly wage (AWW) of an injured worker in Oklahoma is discussed in full detail elsewhere on this site.
NOTE: Considering that the maximum weekly amount that an injured worker can receive under the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Act for scheduled PPD is ‘capped’ at such a low amount ($360.00) most hurt Oklahoma employees will, unfortunately, have their settlement calculated using this deflated value.
Calculating Settlement of Scheduled Member
The worker’s impairment rating determined by objective medical evidence is multiplied by the number of weeks on the schedule for that particular body part so rated and then that number is multiplied by the worker’s weekly rate (or the maximum rate of $360.00, if so justified) to come up with the total cash settlement for that body part.
As one can see whether or not the injured employee is able to return to his or her pre-injury or equivalent job is not a factor whatsoever in the calculation of his or her permanent settlement.
The following are examples and tables explaining permanent partial disability settlements for different scheduled members and body parts under the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Statute:
CALCULATING PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY SETTLEMENT FOR INJURY TO A WORKER’S
“ARMS AND LEGS”
The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court has sixteen (16) distinct categories of “Scheduled Injuries” or “Scheduled Losses”. One major category is any injury or damage to a worker’s “Arms” or “Legs”.
Although one could certainly debate whether similar damage or injury to a worker’s arm or leg is more costly or devastating—in Oklahoma total or a specified partial loss of either a worker’s arm or leg are going to have the same settlement value.
Common sense would tell you that an arm is anything from a worker’s shoulder down to his or her hand. A leg of course would be that area between an injured worker’s hip to his or her ankle. Not true under Oklahoma Law. An arm for determining its value on the Oklahoma schedules only goes to the elbow—with anything below the elbow being defined as a hand and the value of which being determined on the schedule of hand injuries. Similarly a leg under Oklahoma law would only be that area from a worker’s hip down to his or her knee, with the value of any injury below the knee being calculated using the chart belonging to “feet”. To further complicate proper application or use of the schedule of injuries to the arm or leg—shoulders and hips are not a scheduled injury or specifically adjudicated on the arm and leg chart but are by definition in Oklahoma a whole-person injury the value of which are calculated as whole-body injuries determined by the use of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, 6th Edition.
The following are common injuries the value of which would be determined using the “Arm” Schedule maintained by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court:
- Injuries to the upper arm, including fractures to the body and/or shaft of the humerus, to include those repaired through surgery such as an open reduction and internal fixation (ORIF) procedure. However—fractures of the humerus at or near the shoulder joint, to include fractures of the surgical neck or at the humeral head would not be injuries to the arm for purposes of the schedule but would instead be a whole-person injury for settlement purposes. Neurological injuries—such as a severe nerve damage or injury to a worker’s brachial plexus could also qualify for a scheduled arm injury. Finally, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (“CRPS”), formerly known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or “RSD” at the elbow or above would constitute a permanent injury the settlement value of which would be calculated on the Oklahoma comp schedule as a “leg”.
- Injuries at or near the worker’s elbow, to include ulnar nerve compression (aka “cubital tunnel syndrome” treated with ulnar nerve decompression and/or transposition) as well as fractures and/or replacement of the worker’s radial head. Also included would be tendinitis and other soft tissue injuries in and around a worker’s elbow joint.
In Oklahoma total loss of a worker’s arm (or leg as discussed below) is worth two hundred seventy-five (275 weeks). As stated in the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Statute:
“Arm amputated at the elbow, or between the elbow and shoulder, two hundred seventy-five (275) weeks”
An arm completely amputated at the elbow or above would be worth 275 weeks multiplied by the worker’s weekly permanent partial rating calculated above up to the maximum amount of $360.00.
Consider an individual who was earning an average weekly wage which would justify a weekly permanent partial disability rate of $300 whose arm was amputated at the elbow joint. His settlement would be calculated as follows:
275 weeks x $300 = $82,500.00
However, if this same individual had a maximum weekly PPD rate his cash settlement would instead be $99,000.00
275 weeks x $360 = $99,000.00
NOTE: The Oklahoma Worker’s Compensation Court has determined that one hundred percent (100%) to the arm includes not only amputation of the arm but injuries (such as severe brachial plexus damage) which similarly causes or results in 100% loss of a worker’s ability to use his or her arm.
Calculation of Partial Loss of Use of Worker’s Arm (or Leg) Under Oklahoma Work Comp Law
Obviously, most workers with an injured arm do not have a completely amputated or non-functional arm. In those conditions where the worker’s arm remains in place and is still at least somewhat functional that worker will receive a partial loss of the arm calculated on the Oklahoma workers’ compensation schedule. This is done by multiplying the percentage loss (i.e. impairment rating) x the worker’s rate x 275 (weeks).
For example, if an injured worker has a twenty-five percent (25%) impairment rating and an average weekly wage justifying a $300 rate—his or her permanent partial disability cash settlement would be $20,625.00 calculated as follows:
25% impairment rating x $300 weekly PPD rate x 275 weeks per schedule
Similarly, a worker with average weekly earnings justifying a PPD maximum weekly rate of $360.00 with that same 25% impairment rating to his or her arm—would be entitled to a cash settlement under the Oklahoma workers’ compensation law of $24,750.00, calculated as follows:
25% impairment rating x $360 maximum weekly PPD rate x 275 weeks per schedule
Calculation of Scheduled Permanent Injury Settlement to Worker’s Leg Under Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Law
Similar to injury to a worker’s arm, every permanent partial disability award or settlement for permanent damage to a worker’s leg (aka “lower extremity”) is calculated or determined based upon a schedule contained in the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation act. Common injuries covered by the schedule for “leg” injuries maintained by the Oklahoma courts are as follows:
- Injuries to the upper leg, including oblique and comminuted fractures of the femur or femoral shaft (excluding fractures at or near the hip joint including the neck or femoral head as well as soft-tissue injuries such as a hip labral tear). Compartment syndrome of the upper leg or thigh would be considered a “leg” injury.
- Injuries at or about the knee and/or the knee joint, including tears or damage to the ligaments, tendon, or other structure of the joint—such as a torn or ruptured meniscus, a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), or fractures such as to a worker’s patella (kneecap). A knee injury resulting in a total knee reconstruction, arthroplasty, or total knee replacement would qualify for a scheduled settlement as an injury to the worker’s leg under the Oklahoma Workers’ Comp schedules.
Similar to an injury to an Oklahoma worker’s arm, total amputation or 100% loss of use of that worker’s leg would be worth two-hundred and seventy-five weeks under the compensation schedules. The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation schedule reads like this:
- Calculation of Leg amputated at the knee, or between the knee and the hip, two hundred seventy-five (275) weeks
Consider a worker again earning a pre-injury salary or wage entitling that worker to a $300 weekly PPD rate who unfortunately has his leg amputated anywhere from at the knee joint up to his or her hip (or alternative has sustained a serious enough injury to his or her leg to where it is basically useless for walking and even standing)—his or her permanent scheduled cash settlement amount would be determined at 100% to the leg as follows:
$300 weekly rate x 275 scheduled weeks = $82,500.00
That same worker, now earning a wage entitling him or her to the statutory maximum weekly rate of $360.00 would be entitled to a cash settlement amount of $99,000 for that same amputation at or above the elbow joint or total loss of use of his or her arm:
$360 maximum weekly rate x 275 weeks per schedule = $99,000.00
The following is a chart showing the number of weeks for each one percent of impairment up to and including amputation at the elbow or above (or 100% loss of use of a worker’s arm) using the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court’s schedule for permanent ARM injuries.
Number of Weeks of Benefits and Total Dollar Settlement Amount (at Maximum Rate) of Specified Arm & Leg Scheduled Impairment Ratings in Oklahoma
CALCULATING CASH VALUE SETTLEMENT OF PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY SETTLEMENTS FOR OKLAHOMA WORKERS’ COMP HAND & FOOT INJURY CASES
Calculating the Cash Settlement Value of “Hand” Injuries Under the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Schedules
As indicated above, and contrary to common sense, a “hand” for consideration as a scheduled injury on the workers’ compensation schedules maintained by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court is anything below an injured worker’s elbow. Common work-related injuries to a worker’s “hand” in Oklahoma include:
- Mid-shaft and other displaced or nondisplaced fractures to the radius or ulna including radial or ulnar compound fractures as well as fractures of the distal radius, i.e. Colles’ fracture—are all injuries to the hand under Oklahoma Law. Also included as a scheduled hand member would be neurological injuries to the lower arm and hand, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or other compression of the ulnar nerve, and injuries to cartilage, ligaments to other soft tissues such as a Triangular Fibrocartilage Complex Tear (TFCC). Compartment syndrome to the lower arm or affecting a worker’s hand would be a ‘hand’ injury the settlement value of which would be calculated on the Oklahoma scheduled to the hand.
- Any injury to the hand proper, such as fractures of the metacarpal (Boxer’s Fracture), crush injuries including the knuckle(s). Isolated fractures to the thumb or one or more fingers without anatomic damage to the worker’s hand itself are not hand injuries and would be valued for settlement purposes on the schedules which apply to each individual digit (see below).
Oklahoma has two separate schedules which apply to any injury below a worker’s elbow and excluding the fingers and thumb:
- Arm amputated between the elbow and wrist, two hundred twenty (220) weeks
- Hand amputated, two hundred twenty (220) weeks
Since both schedules call for 220 weeks of benefits practitioners in Oklahoma generally consider these two schedules as one and simply describe any injury below a worker’s elbow (excluding fingers and thumbs) as a “hand injury” or “injury to the hand” for settlement purposes since the value of such injuries is identical when moving from just above the knuckles up to just below the elbow.
Consider the example of a worker who sustains a distal radius fracture which has been surgically repaired through a procedure called open reduction internal fixation. Obviously with orthopedic hardware (plate and screws) placed this injury will go on to become permanent and subject to an impairment rating. Assume a 25% rating to the “hand” has been provided which is supported by objective medical evidence, and that the worker had pre-accident earnings entitling him or her to the maximum weekly rate of $360. The settlement value of this case is as follows:
25% impairment rating x $360 maximum PPD rate x 220 scheduled weeks = $19,800.00
As one can see, for the same impairment rating and weekly rate, the settlement value of a case decreases the further you move down an extremity and otherwise away from the body. For example, at a maximum rate and a 25% impairment rating a hand case and an arm case are worth $19,800 and $24,750, respectively.
Calculating Calculating Cash Settlement Amount of Oklahoma Workers’ Comp Injuries Evaluated Under the Foot Schedule
Similar to “Hand” injuries, ratings using the “Leg” chart for scheduled member ratings in Oklahoma cover any injury to or affecting a worker’s body in any area between just below the knee down the leg to the foot specifically excluding the toes. In Oklahoma the settlement amount for the following injuries will be determined, if it all, by the state schedule for the “Foot”:
- Closed and compound fractures of the shaft of either or both the tibia or fibula, particularly those treated with external and/or open reduction internal fixation surgery, as well as injury to the ligaments and other soft tissue of the lower leg—including any rupture of the Achilles tendon are considered injuries to the worker’s foot. Distal tibial and/or fibular interarticular fractures are also injuries the settlement value of which is determined by the “Foot” schedule. Finally, both Compartment Syndrome and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, or CRPS, are severe injuries the permanent value of which is calculated on the Oklahoma Work Comp “Foot” schedule.
- Fractures and other injuries to a worker’s ankle and foot—including plantar fasciitis and tendinitis in the proper case.
The two Oklahoma Statutes codifying the schedule for permanent “Foot” injuries read as follows:
- Leg amputated between the knee and the ankle, two hundred twenty (220) weeks
- Foot amputated, two hundred twenty (220) weeks
Can a FINGER or THUMB Injury Be Counted as a “HAND” Injury for Settlement Value Before the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court?
Maybe. The quick answer to this question is it depends on whether or not the injury or permanent loss is to one or more digits (i.e. fingers, toes and thumbs) on one (not both) of the worker’s hands/feet. The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Court has determined that the settlement value for amputation, 100% loss of use, or even the loss up to the first knuckle of two or more fingers or toes can be converted over to a hand (or foot) injury settlement, the amount of which cannot exceed the value of the total loss of use of that hand/foot (220 weeks under the Oklahoma schedule).
For each one-percent impairment up to 100% the following chart shows both the number of weeks that percentage represents as well as the total cash settlement of a hand and/or foot injury at each designated percentage for a worker whose pre-injury earnings entitle him or her to the maximum weekly rate.
Number of Weeks of Benefits and Total Dollar Settlement Amount (at Maximum Rate) of Specified Hand & Foot Scheduled Impairment Ratings in Oklahoma
CALCULATING VALUE OF PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY SETTLEMENT FOR INJURY TO FINGERS AND TOES
Unless one can convert an injury to his or her fingers and/or toes to a hand (or foot) injury as described above, any injury under the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation law to a finger or toe will be considered as an injury to the specific body part and calculated.
|39||First or Index Finger|
|33||Second or Middle Finger; Great or First Toe|
|22||Third or Ring Finger|
|17||Fourth Finger or Pinky|
|11||Any Toe Other Than First or Big Toe|
Additional rules that apply to thumb, finger and toe amputations are as follows::
- The cash settlement value for any amputation up to the first phalange, or knuckle of a finger, toe or thumb will be worth one-half (1/2) of the compensation on the schedule for amputation of the worker’s whole digit. For example, a settlement for the amputation at the first knuckle of an injured worker’s third, or ring finger, will be eleven (11) weeks, or one-half the 22-week value for that whole digit. At the current maximum weekly rate for calculating PPD settlement of $360.00, that would produce a settlement for this finger of $3,960.00
- Calculation of the settlement amount for a worker who suffers an amputation of his or her thumb, finger, or toe at any point beyond the first knuckle will be for the same amount as for amputation of the entire digit. In the example above, if this worker’s ring finger was amputated at any place between his or her first knuckle and the hand—he or she would be entitled to the full 22 weeks called for in the Oklahoma schedules for the complete loss of this member.