After an employee returns to work after time off from a work-related injury, an employer may be tempted to believe they are off the hook for future payments. Many employers, however, are surprised to find that several months after an employee has returned to work, the employee can request a permanent partial disability award. Many employers are confounded because their employee isn’t disabled at all, and they wonder “how can this person be asking for more money?”
It is important for employers to understand the nature of permanent partial disability, or PPD, awards and why they are granted. Despite the name, injured workers do not have to be disabled or unable to work to receive a PPD award. Instead, the purpose of the PPD award is to compensate the injured worker for the lasting physical or mental impairment caused by their injury, and this award can be made even for minor injuries requiring only minimal treatment. For example, an employee who sprains his ankle and only misses a week of work can still request a PPD award.
Some frustration with PPD awards arises from the timing, as the employer receives the award application months after the injured worker has returned to work. This is because the law requires the injured employee to wait for at least 26 weeks after the injury occurred or after the last payment of temporary disability benefits was made, whichever occurred later, before applying for the PPD award.
Despite these frustrations, it is important to keep in mind that the PPD awards bear a relatively low cost. PPD awards are made on a percentage basis, and the injured worker receives two weeks of PPD compensation for every percentage point he or she is found to be permanently disabled. Using our example above, an employee might receive a 3% PPD award for a sprained ankle, which would result in six weeks of PPD compensation. Each week of PPD compensation is currently capped under $300. Such an award would total less than $1,800 against an employer’s policy. Although frustrating, the damage from such awards can be minimized.