It's been over a year since I was injured at work (in California), and I just finished the last round of physical therapy that my doctor recommended. A few days ago, I found out that my doctor has said that I'm "permanent and stationary." What does this mean and how will it affect my workers' comp case?
A finding that you are "permanent and stationary" (P&S) means that, in your treating doctor's opinion, you've reached a point where your medical condition probably isn't going to improve. You may also have heard the term maximal (or maximum) medical improvement (MMI), which means roughly the same thing as P&S. For purposes of California workers' comp, MMI means that your condition is stable and isn't likely to change substantially in the next year, with or without additional medical treatment.
If you're still receiving temporary disability benefits when you reach P&S status, those payments will generally stop at this point. At the same time, however, your doctor will decide if your injury has resulted in any lasting physical or mental limitations. For example, if you can no longer do heavy lifting or overhead reaching, this should be noted in your doctor's report. The report will then be "rated," using an established formula, to decide the extent of any permanent disability that you have (called a "permanent disability rating"). That rating is then plugged into various charts to determine the amount of permanent disability benefits that you're entitled to receive. (To learn more about how this works in your state, see our article on permanent disability benefits in California.)
Because your doctor's medical report will determine the amount of benefits you're entitled to, you should read it carefully. Make sure the report accurately reflects your current condition, including any limitations that will affect your daily activities or your ability to work. Notify your employer's insurance company right away (in writing) if you disagree with anything in the report. In California, if you object to your doctor's finding about any permanent limitations, the insurance company must give you a form for requesting an independent medical exam—unless you have an attorney, in which case your lawyer will arrange the evaluation. An experienced workers' comp lawyer can also help resolve any other disputes about your medical condition and eligibility for benefits, including whether you'll need more medical treatment.