General information for impairment rating examinations by attending doctors, consultants or independent medical examination (IME) providers.
(1) The department of labor and industries has promulgated the following rules and categories to provide a comprehensive system of classifying unspecified permanent partial disabilities in the proportion they reasonably bear to total bodily impairment. The department's objectives are to reduce litigation and establish more certainty and uniformity in the rating of unspecified permanent partial disabilities pursuant to RCW 51.32.080
(2) The following system of rules and categories directs the provider's attention to the actual conditions found and establishes a uniform system for conducting rating examinations and reporting findings and conclusions in accord with broadly accepted medical principles.
The evaluation of bodily impairment must be made by experts authorized to perform rating examinations. After conducting the examination, the provider will choose the appropriate category for each bodily area or system involved in the particular claim and include this information in the report. The provider will, therefore, in addition to describing the worker's condition in the report, submit the conclusions as to the relative severity of the impairment by giving it in terms of a defined condition rather than a personal opinion as to a percentage figure. In the final section of this system of categories and rules are some rules for determining disabilities and the classification of disabilities in bodily impairment is listed for each category. These last provisions are for the department's administrative use in acting upon the expert opinions which have been submitted to it.
(3) In preparing this system, the department has complied with its duty to enact rules classifying unspecified disabilities in light of statutory references to nationally recognized standards or guides for determining various bodily impairments. Accordingly, the department has obtained and acted upon sound established medical opinion in thus classifying unspecified disabilities in the reasonable proportion they bear to total bodily impairment. In framing descriptive language of the categories and in assigning a percentage of disability, careful consideration has been given to nationally recognized medical standards and guides. Both are matters calling for the use of expert medical knowledge. For this reason, the meaning given the words used in this set of categories and accompanying rules, unless the text or context clearly indicates the contrary, is the meaning attached to the words in normal medical usage.
(4) The categories describe levels of physical and mental impairment. Impairment is anatomic or functional abnormality or loss of function after maximum medical improvement has been achieved. This is the meaning of "impairment" as the word is used in the guides mentioned above. This standard applies to all persons equally, regardless of factors other than loss of physical or mental function. Impairment is evaluated without reference to the nature of injury or the treatment therefore, but is based on the functional loss due to the injury or occupational disease. The categories have been framed to include conditions in other bodily areas which derive from the primary impairment. The categories also include the presence of pain, tenderness and other complaints. Workers with comparable loss of function thus receive comparable awards.
(5) These rules and categories (WAC 296-20-200 through 296-20-690
) shall only be applicable to compensable injuries occurring on or after the effective date of these rules and categories.
(6) These rules and categories (WAC 296-20-200 through 296-20-690
) shall be applicable only to cases of permanent partial disability. They have no applicability to determinations of permanent total disability.
[Statutory Authority: RCW 51.32.055
, 51.32.112, 51.32.114, 51.36.060, and 51.36.070. WSR 04-04-029, § 296-20-200, filed 1/27/04, effective 3/1/04. Statutory Authority: RCW 51.04.020
, 51.04.030, 51.32.112, 51.32.114 and 51.36.015. WSR 97-09-036, § 296-20-200, filed 4/14/97 effective 5/15/97. Statutory Authority: RCW 51.04.020
(4) and 51.04.030. WSR 91-07-008, § 296-20-200, filed 3/8/91, effective 5/1/91; Order 74-32, § 296-20-200, filed 6/21/74, effective 10/1/74.]