partial disability

Primary tabs

Partial disability is a category of disability used for Workers Compensation benefits or private disability insurance payments.  It is defined as any type of disability in which the worker is not completely disabled but is unable to perform at full physical capacity for work.  The disability is usually due to illness or an on the job injury.  This includes situations where a person may be able to return to work but cannot do their former job or can only do a lower-paying job.  Partially disabled people cannot perform all the important duties of their occupations, but could possibly do some of their prior work or work part-time doing something to make an income.  A partial disability designation typically occurs when a physician determines that the employee’s injury affects 25 percent to 50 percent of the employee’s physical or mental capabilities.  Partial disabilities occur as the result of a wide variety of medical conditions including carpal tunnel syndrome, loss of a body part, hearing loss, knee injuries, nerve damage, PTSD, and loss of vision in a single eye. 

A partial disability can be either temporary or permanent in nature.  After establishing the nature and scope of the worker’s injury, the medical provider will continue to monitor the worker’s progress.  If the worker is on a temporary partial disability basis, benefits will continue until either the worker returns to work, or a physician declares the worker is physically fit.  Some injuries result in permanent partial disability where the worker has ongoing impairments even though their medical condition has healed as much as is possible with medical treatment.  Permanent disabilities often include severe back injuries like herniated discs, nerve damage, and amputations.  Permanent partial disability cases are more than one-half of all cases and in most states, this is the most expensive category of cases since the worker receives disability benefits permanently.  The amount of compensation for partial disability is usually determined by the extent of the disability.  About 43 states use a financial schedule that appears in the underlying statute and lists benefits to be paid for specific losses.  It includes a list of body parts that are covered such as the loss of a finger or an eye, or the loss of hearing in one or both ears.

[Last updated in August of 2020 by the Wex Definitions Team]