Impairment rating may include numerical percentage for mental component of injury
Harvey v. H.C. Price Co., No. 2008 ME 161 (Maine 10/21/08).
What it means: The board may assign a numerical percentage rating to permanent impairment associated with the psychological component of a work-related injury, even though the American
Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment (4th ed. 1993) does not assign numerical impairment percentages to non-neurological psychological conditions.
Summary: While working as a laborer on a pipeline project, the claimant was injured when a falling log struck her leg. She lost a substantial amount of skin because of the injury and received a skin graft. She sought to have the psychological component of her injury rated, claiming that her depression was causally related to her physical injury. A hearing officer adopted the opinion of an independent medical examiner, who determined that the claimant suffered 7 percent permanent impairment because of a major depressive disorder related to the work injury. The Supreme Judicial Court noted that the AMA Guides does not assign numerical percentages to mental and behavioral disorders not caused by a neurological condition. However, the definition of permanent impairment in the Guides
is broad enough "to encompass mental as well as physical impairment resulting from work injuries." It upheld the board's rating.
The SJC also found that it was appropriate for the IME to formulate his opinion with reference to a table found in chapter four of the Guides, which assigns percentages of impairment to emotional and behavioral impairment that result from neurological conditions, even though the claimant did not suffer from such a condition. The relevant table in chapter four represented "a fair analogue to the impairment classifications described, but not rated, in chapter fourteen," the chapter that pertains to non-neurological mental disorders, including depression. Therefore, the IME was permitted to refer to it in determining the claimant's rating.
November 20, 2008
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