What Are Classification Awards?

For workers’ compensation purposes, there are two basic types of permanent disabilities: Scheduled Loss of Use Injuries (including injuries to the arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes and joints; also loss of vision, loss of hearing and facial disfigurement) and Classified Injuries (including injuries to the head, back, neck and anything else not expressly categorized in the scheduled loss of use chart). Permanent injuries to the extremities are dealt with using a Scheduled Loss of Use (SLU) award, which were discussed at length in the previous post. In this post, we will discuss how the Workers’ Compensation Board deals with permanent classified injuries.

Prior to 2007, certain kinds of classified injuries resulted in lifetime benefits for the injured person. Some of you may have friends or family who are still receiving benefits for a back injury that happened 10, 20 or maybe even 30 years ago. That all changed in 2007 when a reform bill passed which limited benefits for injuries occurring after March 13, 2007. Now, benefit awards for classified injuries may only be collected for a maximum of 525 weeks or less, depending on many factors affecting your ability to work.

Like a SLU award, a classification award depends on a percentage. But, rather than being a percentage of loss of use of a body part, like the SLU, it is a percentage of loss of earning capacity. WCL §15(3)(w) sets the range of weeks one can collect benefits for certain degrees of lost earning capacity, ranging from 225 weeks for a loss of 15% or less to 525 weeks for a loss between 95-99% .

This limit is imposed from the date the injured worker is found to have a permanent partial disability by the board. Unfortunately, the method of calculation for a classified injury is not as clear as that used for a SLU injury, because workers’ compensation cases involving classified injuries are extremely fact-specific. This means that your case, even if it is similar to another case, may have a vastly different outcome.

Many issues can affect the outcome of a case involving a classified injury to the point that it becomes very difficult to predict how much money you may be entitled to. Factors such as your specific job, your specific education, your specific injury, your specific income, and even the Administrative Law Judge you are assigned through the Workers’ Compensation Board, can all have a huge effect on the outcome your case.

Because of the highly fact-specific nature of these kinds of cases, it is important that you get an individualized legal consultation about your particular situation. If you have questions about your on-the-job injury and want to learn more about your rights, one of our attorneys would be happy to answer your questions.