As a personal injury lawyer, it is important to use the AMA guides to permanent partial impairment to your client’s advantage. AMA is the American Medical Association, which is the primary national professional group for doctors. They publish and periodically revise a book that sets forth how to quantify permanent partial impairments of various parts of the body after an injury. Most orthopaedic doctors, who are the primary specialists for bone and musculoskeletal injuries, are familiar with this set of guidelines. Personal injury lawyers need to be very familiar with them as well to make sure that they use them whenever possible to help get maximum compensation for people who are hurt in car wrecks and other injury cases.
There are essentially two types of impairment guidelines within the rating system. One type is based upon diagnosis of the injury saying if you have had a herniated disc in your back with surgery and have certain residual symptoms, that you get a certain percentage of permanent partial impairment rating. The other set of guidelines looks at range of motion problems to evaluate how permanently injured the person is. The minimum ratings for injuries are between 3 and 5 percent.
It is extremely important that the lawyer be aware of how the guidelines will likely come out in his client’s case where there are permanent injuries . Then, in an appropriate case, the attorney can ask the doctor to do an AMA impairment rating. Often, this requires a separate doctor visit for the orthopedist to have the most recent information about the plaintiff’s continuing injury. Obviously, the doctor has to be paid for his time in analyzing these issues and issuing a written report. The personal injury law firm can pay for this forensic examination as a client cost advance. This means that the client does not have to pay for it out of their pocket, but will reimburse the firm at the end of the case. Typically, the fees charged by orthopedists for such an evaluation are not insignificant, likely ranging from several hundred dollars to over $1,000.00 depending upon the community.
Because of the standardized and objective way that AMA impairment ratings are done, the insurance companies evaluating automobile wreck cases must pay attention to them. Having this evidence of permanent injury confirms the value of the case and can often result in more money for the client than the same injury file without this proof. To the extent the injury case has to go to trial, some very strong arguments can be made from this evidence of injury. For example, you can say that a person is like a valuable, famous painting. If you take a painting and cut 20% out of it, you have essentially destroyed the work of art. Given that some paintings sell at auction for $20 million dollars, what is a damaged human life worth? These kinds of proof and argument in serious injury cases are often the difference between a significant win and a less than satisfactory result.