February 3, 2023
A schedule loss of use award, or “SLU” as it is often referred to as, is an award paid to injured workers who have been determined to have a permanent loss of function to an extremity; this includes injuries to the shoulder, elbow, wrist, hand, fingers, hip, knee, foot, ankle, toes, eyes for vision loss, and ears for hearing loss. Injuries to the neck, back, head, face, or chest do not qualify for an SLU award and permanency is determined in a different way. The SLU is calculated from 0 to 100% and determined by a medical doctor after a physical evaluation and the doctor’s review of the Workers’ Compensation Board Guidelines for Determining Permanent Impairment. A doctor must determine that you have reached maximum medical improvement, meaning there is no additional healing expected from your injury. This generally occurs approximately one year after your date of accident, or the most recent surgery, whichever is later.
The Guidelines provide the doctors a way to calculate the percent loss of use based on a variety of factors that can include deficits in range of motion, certain fractures, amputations, loss of muscle (atrophy), total joint replacement, some ligament or muscular tears, or neurological deficits. Using what the Guidelines set forth, the doctor will assign a schedule loss of use percentage. If, for example, your injury results in an opinion of 20% SLU, this is not the same as a “20% disability.”
Once an opinion of permanency has been provided to the Workers’ Compensation Board, the Board will go through its administrative process to make a final decision on awarding the SLU. The Workers’ Compensation Board has created a formula to calculate the monetary award paid to the injured worker. This formula includes a set number of weeks of pay assigned to each body part. This number of weeks is where the SLU percent comes into play.
For example, a hand is “worth” 244 weeks of pay. An opinion of 20% SLU of a hand will equal 48.8 weeks of pay (244 x 20%). Once the number of weeks has been determined, this is multiplied by the inured workers’ total disability rate. This rate of pay is different for every injured worker in every case. To take our example further, we will say that the AWW in this case is $600; this means the total disability rate would be $400 ($600 x 2/3). Multiplying the 48.8 weeks of pay times the total disability rate of $400 equals a gross award of $19,520.00.
From this gross amount, the insurance carrier, in most cases, can take credit for all prior payments made to the injured worker. The total of the prior payments is subtracted from the award of $19,520.00. If there is an attorney representing the injured worker, the Board has set forth in the statute that an attorney may request a fee up to 15% of the total award, less payments already made.
The process of obtaining and ultimately receiving an SLU award can be complicated by many factors. At Zea Proukou, we proudly devote our practice to injured workers and invite you to come see the difference in the Zea Proukou approach. Contact one of our attorneys today to be sure you are on the road to receiving the award to which you are entitled. Our Canandaigua office can be reached by calling 315-853-9444 and our Rochester office can be reached by calling 585-423-9444. You can also send an email through our secure contact form.