It's not a very catchy post title but it's an important subject for clients. What value can be placed on your health? How does one measure in dollars the loss of some function, some motion or movement, or the gain of a permanent limp? What's a fair settlement for a client who will never be able to walk without pain again due to someone else's negligence? While there's no amount of money that will make someone whole, one of my jobs is skillfully negotiating the maximum amount compensation of future pain and permanent partial impairment from injuries sustained in accidents.
In a jury trial, my job is to help the jury determine a fair amount to award my client for such future pain, suffering and permanent impairment ratings.
Doctors determine a patient's impairment "rating" based on the American Medical Association's guides for permanent partial impairment. A permanent impairment is defined as one that has reached "maximum medical improvement" (or MMI), is well-stabilized, and unlikely to change substantially in the next year or without medical treatment. The American Medical Association guides are a nationally-accepted standard for impairment and disability Personal injury lawyers must be familiar with and understand these AMA guides and use them to their clients' advantage in getting the maximum compensation. It's important to note that the AMA guides differ from the Social Security Administration when evaluating impairment and disability. The AMA guides focus being able to perform the "activities of daily living" (or ADL) versus the ability to perform work-related tasks.
Of course, liability insurers handling claims routinely challenge reports of chronic pain and even attempt to minimize AMA permanent partial impairment ratings by physicians. However, it's harder for these insurance companies to ignore a physician's objective AMA rating of impairment after a careful evaluation. Such a rating underscores not only the severity of the client's injuries but the value of the case as well. If there's evidence of a client's permanent partial impairment but no official rating given, it's appropriate to request a written report from the treating orthopedist or other physician.