It is difficult to pinpoint the average workers comp settlement amount for an ankle injury. This is because settlement value for an ankle injury depends heavily on medical evidence. However, the parties will refer to the Impairment Guidelines when valuing an ankle injury. The parties will also evaluate the risk of litigation. The Workers’ Compensation Board Panel recently addressed the issue of how to apply the Impairment Guidelines in the context of an Achilles rupture/ankle injury.
Workers Comp Settlement for an Achilles Rupture
In that case, the injured worker, a state police officer, suffered from a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon. He sustained the injury while running to stop police dogs from fighting. The worker underwent ankle surgery in the form of open repair of the Achilles tendon. The parties conducted depositions of the injured worker’s surgeon and a carrier medical consultant. After depositions, the insurance carrier was not interested in a settlement for the workers comp ankle injury.
The worker’s treating doctor testified to a 65% Schedule Loss of Use to the foot/ankle due to the accident. That percentage was based on range of motion deficits and a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon. The insurance carrier’s consultant testified to a 22.5% Schedule Loss of Use to the foot/ankle. That percentage was based only on rupture of the Achilles tendon. The Law Judge ruled that the injured worker suffered from a 65% Schedule Loss of Use to the foot. The insurance carrier disagreed with the judge’s decision as to the workers comp ankle injury and appealed to the Board Panel.
The Board Panel’s Decision
The Board Panel found that neither doctor properly applied the Impairment Guidelines to the workers comp ankle injury. Specifically, the Board Panel found that a complete rupture of the Achilles tendon warrants a 25% Schedule Loss of Use to the foot. Regarding range of motion, the Board Panel assigned an additional percentage for range of motion deficits. However, the Court noted that the claimant’s doctor was unable to provide range of motion measurements for his most recent examination. Also, on prior examinations with claimant’s surgeon, the worker exhibited full range of motion.
Ultimately, the Board Panel fashioned its own opinion using the insurance carrier doctor’s range of motion findings. The insurance carrier doctor found the worker to suffer from range of motion deficits to the ankle. The Board Panel held that, under the Guidelines, loss of motion equaled an additional 10% Schedule Loss of Use. Thus, in total, the Board Panel found the claimant to suffer from a 35% Schedule Loss of Use to the ankle. This total was derived due to Achilles rupture and loss of range of motion.
This case demonstrates how knowledge of the Impairment Guidelines is imperative to a workers comp settlement for an ankle injury. Doctors, defense attorneys, and Judges often struggle to correctly apply the Guidelines. It is up to the workers comp lawyer to assess risk and negotiate a favorable ankle injury settlement for the injured worker.