Anderson v. State of Wyoming, No. S-10-0086 (Wyo. 12/03/10).
Ruling: The Wyoming Supreme Court held that a worker was not entitled to additional benefits and that his permanent partial impairment was properly rated using the most recent American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment available at the time he reached maximum medical improvement.
What it means:
In Wyoming, a worker's permanent partial impairment should be rated using the most recent Guides available at the time the worker reaches maximum medical improvement.
A worker suffered a compensable lower back injury. He underwent surgery and subsequently reached maximum medical improvement. A doctor concluded that he had a 10 percent permanent partial impairment, using the 5th edition of the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Three years later, the worker underwent a second surgery. After reaching MMI, he sought additional benefits. Using the 6th edition of the Guides, his doctor calculated his impairment rating at 7 percent. His first surgeon did another evaluation and assigned a rating of 8 percent. The worker contended that his impairment rating should have been calculated using the 5th edition, which was the most recent edition available when he incurred his injury. The Wyoming Supreme Court disagreed and held that he was not entitled to additional benefits.
The court noted that the statute did not explicitly state when the impairment rating should occur, but the law states that a worker is eligible for a permanent partial impairment award when he suffers an "ascertainable loss." The court previously said that an ascertainable loss is measured at the point of MMI. In this case, the worker reached MMI after his second surgery when the 6th edition of the Guides was the most recent edition.
The worker contended that the court should apply the general rule that an employee's claim for workers' compensation benefits is governed by the law in effect at the time of the injury. The court explained that the use of the 6th edition was consistent with that general rule. Although the Guides changed, the law stayed the same.
The worker asserted that the 6th edition does not provide the most reliable guidance in determining an impairment rating. He presented a letter from his doctor describing the 6th edition as "ambiguous" and "difficult to interpret." He also contended that several states have rejected the 6th edition but provided no authority. Citing the legislature's intent, the court rejected these arguments.
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January 13, 2011
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