What’s an Arm Worth?

By | March 24, 2015

As previous posts have mentioned, Colorado pays out permanent disability benefits based upon an “impairment system”, as opposed to a ‘disability system’.  What this means is that if you lose or injure a particular body part, the amount that you can recover is determined by the particular body part involved, and not the effect which the loss or injury has on your ability to earn a living.

For example, if a landscaper and an attorney each lose an arm, they would both be entitled to receive the same amount in permanent disability benefits.  The fact that the landscaper could no longer do his job or earn any money, but the attorney could still continue working without a wage loss, does not matter. They would both receive the same amount.

Under the old system (prior to 1991), the effect which the injury had on the worker’s ability to earn a living was very important.  Considering the above set of facts under the old law, the landscaper would be entitled to a much greater award than the attorney, since the injury affected his ability to earn a living.  This is no longer the case, since the law has changed, and each would now be entitled to receive exactly the same amount.

Furthermore, the amount which is paid out for different body parts is woefully small.  For example, loss of an arm at the shoulder may pay under $60,000.  Loss of an arm at the elbow pays less, and loss of a hand pays even less.  When it comes to fingers, even in the cases of a brain surgeon or a concert pianist, who can no longer do their respective jobs, it is not unusual for the payout to be several hundred dollars.


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