What Is Permanent Total Disability in Minnesota Work Comp?

In a Minnesota worker’s compensation claim, Permanent Total Disability (abbreviated as PTD) is a wage loss benefit paid to someone who is determined to be permanently unemployable as the result of a work injury.  It is one of three main types of wage loss benefits payable to someone injured on the job in Minnesota. The other two types of benefits are Temporary Total Disability (TTD) and Temporary Partial Disability (TPD).  This article deals only with Permanent Total Disability benefits.

For the purposes of this article, we will first assume that the injury or disability occurred on the job and that the injury claim has been accepted by the employer and its workers’ compensation insurer.  This article is not intended to cover every possible situation or all of the possible claims or defenses involved in a PTD claim.  Rather, this is a brief summary of what PTD benefits are and how they may be obtained.

There are two ways by which a person can be determined to be Permanently Totally Disabled:  By agreement or by a judge.

By Agreement:  If the medical and vocational evidence is strong and the insurance company doesn’t have any good defenses, they may simply agree that a person is permanently and totally disabled and begin paying benefits.

By a Judge:  In most cases, because the financial exposure for the insurance company is so high, the issue of whether an injured worker is PTD will be submitted to a workers’ compensation judge at a formal hearing.  The insurance company usually decides that they will take their chances at a hearing,  rather than voluntarily agree to pay PTD benefits.  At a hearing, the judge will listen to testimony from the employee, the medical and vocational witnesses, review all of the relevant medical and other documents and make a decision based upon Minnesota law.  Either party can appeal the judge’s decision.
How do you prove that you are “permanently totally disabled”?

Under Minnesota law, there are certain medical conditions that automatically qualify someone for permanent  total disability  (permanent loss of sight in both eyes, loss of both arms at the shoulder, loss of both legs close to the hips , paralysis, total and permanent loss of mental faculties).

If one of these automatically qualifying conditions is not present,  you would then need to prove that:

-Your work injury has resulted in permanent physical restrictions;
-You are unable to return to the job you were performing on the date of your injury;
-You have searched for other work unsuccessfully;
-You are not a suitable candidate to be retrained;
-and that you therefore meet the definition of “permanently and totally disabled” set forth in the workers’ compensation statutes (see Subd. 4 & 5), also taking into account your age, education, physical disability, training and experience.

One Final Requirement.  The Minnesota Legislature added an additional threshold requirement for Permanent Total Disability for injuries occurring on or after October 1, 1995.  If your work injury occurred on or after that date, you must also have a minimum Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) rating in order to receive PTD benefits.  A PPD rating is a percentage, taken from the Workers’ Compensation Disability Schedules, which is intended to compensate for a permanent functional impairment from a work injury.  If you don’t have the minimum rating required, you cannot receive Permanent Total Disability benefits, no matter how truly disabled you might be.

The minimum rating is 13%,  15% or 17%, depending upon factors such as your age and education. The unfairness of this threshold PPD rating has been demonstrated by many cases in the years since the law was passed, but it remains on the books and prevents many injured workers from being able to receive Permanent Total Disability benefits.

As in any legal proceeding, the facts of every case are unique and a workers’ compensation judge makes a decision on the basis of all  the evidence and in light of the law and previously decided cases.  This is only a general summary.  If you have questions about a Permanent Total Disability claim or other work comp issues, contact me anytime at Bradt Law Offices for a free consultation.

Other common questions related to Permanent Total Disability claims, which will be addressed in later articles:
How much would I receive for Permanent Total Disability benefits?

How long can I get Permanent Total Disability benefits?

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