Last Updated on January 17, 2024

What Counts as a Permanent Disability? Long-Term Injuries Explained

Injuries are one of the top causes of death and disability for age groups under the age of 60. Suffering a serious injury can be devastating, especially when it causes permanent impairment. If an injury will limit your mobility, ability to work, or quality of life indefinitely, you may have a permanent disability.

Gaining an understanding of permanent disability designations, your legal rights, and options for benefits and support is crucial.

What Constitutes a Permanent Disability?

A permanent disability refers to functional limitations that remain after maximum medical improvement has been reached after an injury. Essentially, it is an injury that will permanently hinder your capacity to complete regular job duties and daily tasks. These injuries are considered permanent when they meet specific legal and medical guidelines.

There are two main designations relevant to permanent disability injuries:

  • Permanent Total Disability (PTD): complete and permanent incapacity to engage in any substantial work for pay or profit. This means the disability fully prevents someone from gaining employment.
  • Permanent Partial Disability (PPD): a permanent impairment that interferes substantially with the capacity to work but still allows for some level of employment with possible accommodations or modifications. Limits major life activities, but not completely.

Navigating Your Legal Rights and Benefits

If you suffer a permanently disabling injury, there are legal protections and benefits available. Navigating relevant regulations can be complex, but it is essential for accessing your rights. 

Workers’ Compensation

Each state governs workers' compensation regulations that may apply to permanent disabilities incurred occupationally. This system focuses on coordinating medical care and offering wage replacements for those injured on the job. Disputes may require legal representation.

Social Security Disability Benefits

The Social Security Administration (SSA) offers long-term assistance for permanent disabilities expected to last longer than one year that significantly hinder your capacity to work. Eligibility, application details, required medical evidence, and appeal considerations differ from state workers’ compensation.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

This civil rights legislation bars disability-based discrimination and mandates employers provide reasonable accommodations to those permanently impaired. The ADA has specific eligibility criteria related to major life activities.

Each state further enacts unique permanent disability statutes covering aspects like retirement benefits, adapted housing rights, handicapped parking privileges, and more.

Common Examples of Permanently Disabling Injuries

Many injuries can result in designation as a permanent disability depending on severity, location, and effects on function both vocationally and throughout daily life. Some include:

  • Spinal cord injuries like paraplegia and quadriplegia
  • Traumatic brain injuries that cause long-term cognitive impairment
  • Amputation of limbs
  • Severe burns lead to disfigurement and loss of mobility
  • Permanent visual impairment or loss
  • Musculoskeletal disorders like chronic back injuries affect strength, range of motion and mobility
  • Neurological disorders resulting in loss of sensation, coordination, paralysis or epilepsy
  • Cardiovascular disease leading to stamina/endurance limitations
  • Respiratory conditions like asbestosis, silicosis, and COPD
  • High-level loss of hearing or deafness
  • Severe repetitive stress injuries to joints, like advanced arthritis

The disabling effects of these injuries depend heavily on location, duration, and severity. Two people with spinal cord trauma may have vastly divergent outcomes for work capacity and independence in daily tasks.

Gaining an Accurate Diagnosis of Permanent Disability

Pinpointing if an injury reaches permanent disability thresholds rests heavily on medical evidence. Physicians must determine specific functional capacity limitations that will endure indefinitely despite reasonable treatment.

Several key steps may be involved:

  • Compiling medical records related to injury, diagnosis, treatments undergone, and prognosis
  • Musculoskeletal evaluations examining a range of motion/motor function
  • Neurological testing for coordination and muscular health evaluations
  • Cardiovascular stress testing to gauge work capacity
  • Pulmonary function exams if respiratory health is compromised
  • Vision and hearing tests
  • Diagnostic imaging reports from X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs
  • Psychological evaluations to identify cognitive deficits or psychological health barriers

What to Expect from the Legal Process

Beginning the claims process for a permanent disability injury involves several standard steps:

  1. Seeking medical confirmation of permanent functionality loss
  2. Identifying all avenues for potential compensation and support
  3. Gathering all relevant medical evidence and documentation
  4. Researching program eligibility qualifications you meet
  5. Documenting work history and earnings over recent years
  6. Collecting information on injury causes, especially for liability claims
  7. Finding legal representation experienced with your type of claim
  8. Organizing all paperwork and medical files for easy access
  9. Reporting income from other benefit programs already being received

Documentation is critical. Expect to provide extensive medical evidence and be evaluated by independent specialists. Patience is also key, as the process often involves lengthy applications, bureaucratic delays, and long waits if appeals prove necessary.

Having a dedicated personal injury lawyer means having an advocate against unfair settlement offers and getting expert negotiation for maximized compensation aligned with state statutes. Experienced attorneys keep the process moving while you prioritize healing.

If you have suffered permanent impairment, you can contact the Porter Law Group today to discuss representation. Our expertise can help ease your journey toward the compensation you deserve.

Adapting Your Life and Work after Permanent Disability

Coping with chronic impairment resulting from permanent injuries involves major lifestyle changes for most people. Here are some things you should focus on after suffering from a permanent disability:

  • Seeking Physical and Emotional Health Support
  • Exploring Employment Alternatives
  • Accessing Other Assistance Programs

This process can be simplified greatly by working with social workers, employment advocates, and support coordinators familiar with state and federal assistance programs. Legal teams also have connections to help clients transition positively.

Empower Yourself Through Expert Aid

Suffering an injury leading to permanent impairment undeniably represents a life-altering challenge. When maximum medical recovery still leaves you unable to participate fully in prior work and regular daily activities, devastating emotional and practical consequences often follow. From paying living expenses to healthcare needs and more, securing your entitled benefits is a crucial lifeline.

The team at the Porter Law Group genuinely cares and will guide you in the right direction following a catastrophic disability. Call us at 833-PORTER9 or send us a message at to schedule a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

Written By
Eric C. Nordby
Personal Injury Attorney
Eric, with nearly three decades of experience in personal injury litigation, holds a law degree with honors from the University at Buffalo School of Law and a Bachelor's Degree from Cornell University. His extensive career encompasses diverse state and federal cases, resulting in substantial client recoveries, and he actively engages in legal associations while frequently lecturing on legal topics.
Legally Reviewed on January 9, 2024
Michael S. Porter
Personal Injury Attorney
Originally from Upstate New York, Mike built a distinguished legal career after graduating from Harvard University and earning his juris doctor degree from Syracuse University College of Law. He served as a Captain in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, gaining expertise in trial work, and is now a respected trial attorney known for securing multiple million-dollar results for his clients while actively participating in legal organizations across Upstate NY.
This Article Was Professionally Reviewed
This page was Legally Reviewed by Michael S. Porter on January 9, 2024. Our experts verify everything you read to make sure it's up to date. For information on our content creation and review process read our editorial guidelines. If you notice an error or have any questions about our content please contact us.
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