Workers' Compensation Key Terms

Know how to deal with an employee's injury by understanding workers' compensation key terms

If you own a business, particularly in manufacturing or shipping, you may one day have to deal with workers' compensation. You might find it a good idea to familiarize yourself with key terms used in many workers' compensation cases. While laws and regulations regarding workers' compensation differ from state to state, many workers' compensation key terms are used across the country. You'll benefit by knowing what an impairment rating is and how it is determined, or what a cumulative injury is and how such cases are treated.

Cumulative injury

Most cases of workers' compensation involve a single incident resulting in a specific trauma or injury. However, some cases seek damages for a cumulative injury. A cumulative injury is a work-related injury in which symptoms arise over a period of months or years.

Impairment rating

In some cases, an injury in a workers' compensation case needs to be evaluated by a physician. Using guidelines established by the American Medical Association (AMA), a physician will assign an impairment rating to an injury.

Maximal medical improvement

Maximal medical improvement (MMI) refers to an injury which is not expected to get better or worse, regardless of medical treatment. MMI is used to determine one's ability to return to work and the possibility of permanent disability.

Permanent and stationary

Permanent and stationary is the term used by doctors to describe a patient after MMI has been determined. In regards to workers' compensation, this term is important in that it may signal the end of workers' compensation benefits.


Apportionment is a term that may be used after a permanent and stationary condition has been determined. In some cases, an injury in addition to the one resulting from work may be a cause of permanent disability. Apportionment refers to the determination of how much a permanent disability is caused by the work-related injury.

Vocational rehabilitation

Some injuries may result in an individual being able to return to work, but not in the same type of job as before being injured. Workers' compensation provides vocational rehabilitation, which may include retraining and job placement assistance.
Kansas Department of Labor explains vocational rehabilitation and how it is used in workers' compensation cases.

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