AMA Guide 4th Edition evaluation of permanent impairment handbook

A very loyal reader and good friend of ours has come across and so kindly shared the User Handbook to the AMA 4th Edition Guide to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, which is still used in many states to assess how the whole person impairment is calculated.

AMA Guide 4th Edition evaluation of permanent impairment handbook

Permanent impairment and lumpsum

You may be entitled to a lump sum payment if you are left with a permanent impairment because of your work injury. Unlike a common law damages claim, this is a no fault benefit, so you do not need to establish that your employer has been negligent.

The benefit is calculated in accordance with a formula depending on the level of impairment you are assessed as having. An independent doctor would need to examine you in accordance with a guide published by the American Medical Association (In Victoria and some other Australian states it is the 20 year old 4th edition).

The criteria for entitlement to a lump sum claim are tough and claims can be rejected by WorkSafe. The best rule if you are considering making a lump sum claim is therefore to get legal advice.

As a general rule, you must have suffered 10% physical permanent impairment as assessed by WorkSafe Vic (sometimes 5% for certain injuries like arm, leg, back). Here’s a rough guide:

5% impairment: $10,760
15% impairment: $32,348
20% impairment: $44,745
25% impairment: $57,143
30% psychiatric impairment: $69,540

Though? Yeah…real tough!

At first glance one would think that we have a what appears to be a reasonable, standard “guide” in place (The AMA guide 4th Edition) to assess the level of permanent impairment for each injured person…


… you will soon realise (if you dig a little further) that the use of the AMA guide (4th Edition) is based on pseudo science and designed to do only one thing: to stop people — especially the most vulnerable  — from being fairly compensated.

Did you know that the AMA Guides 4th Edition were published in 1993,they are just about 20 years old!

Under the current workers compensation system the kinds of injuries that would be denied compensation include:

  • vertebral fractures resulting in up to 25% compression with ongoing pain : 5-8% total body impairment rating!
  • spinal fusion requiring multiple surgeries with ongoing pain : up to 14%
  • surgically treated disc lesion with ongoing pain: 10%
  • pelvic fractures with displacement deformity: 2-10%
  • disorders restricting ability to walk up mild gradients and stairs, sit down in deep-chairs, rise to a standing position or walk long distances 1-9%
  • brief repetitive or persistent alteration of state of consciousness or awareness 0%-14%
Blame the lump sum culture eh… for the scheme’s deficits… what “lump sum”?

In NSW the new draconian compensation law now also states that lump sum payments are only available for serious permanent injuries, which are defined as greater than 10% WPI.

In Victoria (and most other states) Impairment benefit compensation is determined in accordance with a formula set out by law, dependent of the level of impairment you are assessed as having and the date of your injury. Once the level of impairment is accepted, you cannot negotiate on the amount of compensation that you are entitled to.

To receive any compensation for a psychiatric injury, you need to be assessed as having at least a whopping 30% whole person impairment (primary psychiatric injury).

You may only bring a lump sum claim once your injury has stabilised (that is, not getting any better or worse). At a minimum, you need to wait at least 12 months since your date of injury.

AMA Guide 4th Edition

This handbook to the AMA “Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment” 4th Edition is from New Zealand, but they too are based on the AMA 4th Edition & the worksheets & descriptions of how the ‘whole person’ permanent impairment  is calculated may just help you to understand the system too!


Related articles


[Post entirely entered by T on behalf of workcovervictim who is suffering from yet another nasty shoulder dislocation… ]




This post has been seen times.