Permanent Total Disability In Low Back & Neck Cases

A finding of permanent total disability is extremely rare under the New York State Workers’ Compensation Law.  Most claimants who suffer permanent disabilities in neck and back cases are classified as permanently partially disabled.

The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board Medical Guidelines, last updated in June 1996, outline the criteria to be used in assessing the different degrees of permanent disability.  These criteria, as they pertain to permanent total disability, include:

  • Use of an assistive device such as a walker or crutches;
  • Inability to undress;
  • Inability to perform daily activities of living and transportation;
  • Severe neurological deficit;
  • Bladder, bowel, or sexual dysfunction

This is not to say that all of these criteria must be meet.  Determining whether or not someone fits into permanent total disability or permanent partial disability is a very grey area subject to interpretation.  In fact, the Law Judge has significant latitude when it comes to degree of permanency classification.

A common misconception is that if the permanent disability prevents to injured worker from performing his or her job than it is a total disability.  Unfortunately, that is not consistent with the Workers’ Compensation Law.  In order to be determined permanently totally disabled you must demonstrate that you are unable to perform any type of work whatsoever including light or sedentary work and meet at least some of the criteria outlined in the Medical Guidelines.

If you have a disability that you believe will be permanent and are unsure of your rights and responsibilities under the Workers’ Compensation Law, please feel free to contact our office.