Terrible New Decision for Injured Workers on PPD Ratings

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Just before Thanksgiving, the Nevada Supreme Court published a turkey of a decision that robs injured workers of disability award money. In Public Agency Compensation Trust v. Blake, 127 Nev. Adv. Op. 77 (2011), the court invalidated a long-standing DIR regulation that addressed how rating doctors are to account for a prior PPD award for a re injured body part where the prior rating was done under a different edition of the AMA Guides to Evaluation of Permanent Impairment.

Nevada law currently requires that rating doctors use the 5th edition of the AMA Guides, even though the AMA has published a 6th edition. This law was championed by advocates and lawyers for injured workers, as the 5th edition generally results in a higher rating for many spinal injuries than other editions of the AMA Guides.

Blake had four work injuries to his back in the 1980's and 1990's, and was awarded a 14% permanent partial disability award (PPD) at his last prior rating in 1995 under the 2nd edition of AMA Guides. (The law in 1995 required rating doctors to use the 2nd edition.) Blake had a fifth back injury at work in 2004. He was rated again in 2004 when the 5th edition of the AMA Guides was required in Nevada. The rating doctor properly followed the DIR regulation that told the rating doctor to subtract the earlier awarded 14%. The employer appealed, arguing that the regulation wasn't fair to employers, because the current 5th edition of the AMA Guides would rate the old injury at a greater percentage. The justices agreed, and held that Blake's total impairment should be reduced by what the old injury would rate under the 5th edition.

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