Workman’s Compensation and Estimates of Disability

Submitted by Workman’s Compensation Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark

The court in Pitts outlined its decision making process for the estimates of disability based on hearing from two different doctors and their own estimates of disability.  Usually in the Workers Compensation Court setting petitioner’s doctor’s estimates of disability are high while respondent’s doctor’s are extremely low.  As a result the court must undertake it’s own determinative process.  In Pitts the court outlined its steps below:

Disability Estimates of Forensic Physicians

Disability numbers of the forensic witnesses are admittedly estimates. They are based on the medical judgment of the physician and frequently contain a significant element of partisan advocacy. It is not unusual for the litigated award to differ significantly from one to another forensic physician. Even though the forensic physicians may be experienced physicians within the same specialty, they frequently report different positive findings or on the same findings provide widely differing disability numbers. This tribunal is not bound by the experts’ estimates of disability. Lightner v. Cohen, 76 N.J. Super. 461 (App. Div. 1962) certif. den. 38 N.J. 611 (1962). The Judge of Compensation is required to fix the disability in accordance with the mandates of N.J.S.A. 34:15-36 as defined by the Supreme Court in Perez v. Pantasote, Inc., supra. and the cases which followed it. In doing so the judge exercises the expertise of the Division of Workers’ Compensation and must explain the reasons for the decision. Lewicki v. N.J. Art Foundry, 88 N.J. 75, 89-90 (1981). These estimates of the forensic experts are merely a guide to the medicine involved in the injury.

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