An impairment is defined as the act of impairing something and diminishment or loss of function or ability. Impairment is generally considered the difference in a person’s body structure, of loss of body or mental function as a result of an injury. Fundamentally, an impairment following an injury and treatment prevents a person from functioning normally. Impairment can be temporary or permanent. With serious injuries from car crashes, motorcycle crashes, and trucking accidents, we often see the impairments rendered as permanent.

Permanent impairment is an important component of a Massachusetts personal injury case, such as motor vehicle crashes, and Massachusetts workers’ compensation claims. Serious crashes and workplace accidents can cause severe injuries and necessitate surgical intervention. Although accident victims may vigorously treat for their injures, once a maximum medical improvement is reached, they may be left with a permanent impairment.

For example, a Natick resident seriously hurt her shoulder in a car crash. She could move her arm in complete circular fashion prior to the accident. After the crash and the required shoulder surgery to repair her rotator cuff injury, she can now only move her arm in a limited manner. This is considered an impairment. 

When an accident victim suffers a permanent impairment from an accident, determining the percentage of impairment is important in the valuation of a fair and just settlement amount or for a jury to consider when deciding how much to award a plaintiff at a trial. It is likewise important in determining the proper amount of Section 36 Loss of Function Benefits in a Massachusetts workers’ compensation claim.

A medical professional or expert can assign a percentage of impairment. It may be the accident victim’s treating surgeon or another medical expert. The doctor typically will assess the impairment or loss of function using the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment and express the percentage of impairment in a written medical narrative report.