One aspect of Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation statutory provisions for compensating injured workers that I find intensely interesting is the concept of permanent partial disability benefits as provided in Virginia Code section 65.2-503. If one looks at that statute, one would see a listing of specific body parts and corresponding to that list would be lists of benefits set out in terms of weeks. I have always contended that these specific benefits for these specific losses represent the whole concept of Workers’ Compensation law and theory at its most elemental. We recently had a case that involved a claim under 65.2-503 for partial permanent disability (PPD) which required me to re-visit this section of the Code, and which gave me a good reason to spend some time researching the law regarding this aspect of the comp scheme. Since I have always endorsed the policy of eliminating 2 birds with 1 stone, I’ll use my research to annotate this post.
At its most basic, the statutory provisions work like this: an employee seeking benefits for PPD must establish a work-related permanent loss or loss of use to an anatomical member which is specified in 65.2-503.
76 O.W.C. 206 (1997).
What is included in/excluded from a PPD award? Where an injury is confined to a specific member, the claimant is entitled to compensation only for the percentage of loss of use to that member.
VWC File No. 179-38-18 (April 24, 2002). (See my earlier post regarding loss of vision which is dealt with in a similar fashion, i.e., the loss of use is measured before any corrective action is taken. “Proving the Loss of Vision,” posted Feb. 24, 2017.)
An award under 65.2-503 is not dependent upon a claimant’s incapacity for work or from a loss of earnings. Rather, it is intended to provide benefits in the nature of an indemnity for the loss of a scheduled body part.
18 Va. App. 176, 442 S.E.2d 699 (1994).
The entitlement to permanent partial disability benefits survives the claimant’s death. This means that his dependents may receive the PPD benefits to which he was entitled had he not died.
57 O.I.C. 69 (1977).
In this first part of my 2-part post about permanent partial disability, I have tried to provide some general thoughts about this portion of the statutory scheme for compensation of injured workers and point out some of it structural anomalies which differentiate it from other parts of the Workers’ Compensation Act. In Part 2 of our look at PPD awards, we will take a more focused look at some of the practical problems which claimant’s and their attorneys must deal with on a frequent basis when practicing in this area.