Permanent Partial Disability

Permanent partial disability is defined under Section 36 of the Statute as disability that is a “permanent impairment caused by a compensable accident or occupational disease based on demonstrable objective medical evidence, which restricts the function of the body or its members or organs; included in the criteria which shall be considered shall be whether there has been a lessening to a material degree of an employee's working ability.”
In order to establish an award for permanent partial disability, there must be proof of disability by demonstrative objective medical evidence. There must also be a demonstration that there has been a lessening to a material degree of the working ability or a demonstration that the disability is serious enough that it significantly interferes with other aspects of life. Perez v. Panasote, 95 N.J. 105, 469 A. 2nd 22 (1984).
Procedurally, determination of the amount of permanent partial disability is a two step function. First, the injured worker is evaluated by two doctors, one favoring the workers’ point of view and the other favoring the respondent’s point of view. The physicians used by the parties are experienced in evaluating permanent disabilities and, although they may use the American Medical Association (AMA) guidelines of disability, they are not bound by those guidelines. By custom and usage, certain types of injuries have a certain value. Another factor to consider on the impact of the workers’ injury is his ability to work in view of his age, education, training and work experiences. Perez v. Capital Ornamental Concrete Specialists, Inc., 288 N.J. Super. 359, 672 A. 2nd 719 (App. Div. 1996). Section 36 of the Statute does provide that minor disabilities such as scars, minor sprains and contusions, and lacerations as well as occupational disease of minor nature, shall not constitute permanent disability within the meaning of that definition.
The second stage of the determination of the permanent disability involves the hearing process where the petitioner will testify before the Judge of Compensation as to his/her physical complaints and the effect that the injury has had upon him/her in the normal pursuits of life and in his/her work environment.