Last Updated: 10/9/2023

When filing a workers' compensation claim, you may hear the term “impairment rating.” Medical professionals give impairment ratings to injured workers to assess the severity of one’s impairment, which will determine the amount of compensation the worker will receive. Here is an overview of the impairment ratings process:


In terms of the workers' compensation process, an impairment is classified as an inability of the patient to (1) use his or her bones, muscles, joints, limbs, ligaments and tendons as well as he or she did prior to the injury or (2) control his or her spinal cord, brain and peripheral nerves as well as he or she did prior to the injury. The doctor will assess the patient through various medical tests and procedures to determine the level of ability lost. 

How Impairment Ratings are Determined 

If the patient shows any loss of function, the doctor will assign an impairment rating. The rating is determined by the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. The doctor also may use his or her own judgment to determine what is normal based on the patient’s medical condition before the injury. If the impairment is within a certain range, the doctor will take into account activities of daily living (ADL). These activities include personal hygiene, communication, physical activity, sexual activity, sensory function, travel and sleep. 

The doctor will determine how the impairment will limit your job functions. For example, an impairment rating of 30% might be a big deal if your job is physically demanding, like carpentry. However, if your job is primarily sedentary in nature, the impairment won’t affect your job duties to a high degree. 

Your doctor will record a medical history and perform a physical evaluation. He or she will also check your vital signs and inquire about any problems you have with ADL. Your doctor will ask about any medications you are taking and refer you to a specialist if you have any chronic injuries. 

If you have more questions about workers' compensation in Iowa or impairment ratings, you may consult the frequently asked questions section of this website or contact one of the attorneys at Walker, Billingsley & Bair law firm who specialize in personal injury law.  Call (641) 792-3595 or contact us online to schedule a free consulation.

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Corey Walker
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With over 28 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.