What is Partial Disability?

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  • Written By: Alexis W.
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2018
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Partial disability is a US legal classification that applies to those who are disabled in some manner. This is distinct from total disability, which is important because a person's classification affects his or her benefits under the law. In certain situations, a person who is labeled as partially disabled may be entitled to some benefits both from the government and from his employer's workers compensation insurance carrier.

A disability is defined, in legal terms, as something that inhibits a person's ability to do fundamental daily activities, including caring for oneself and being able to perform the essential functions of one's job. Each person's level of disability is measured by the amount and type of activities that are impaired. A person who is classified as totally disabled is so impaired that he or she is unable to perform basic requirements of living. For example, a totally disabled person may be unable to dress himself, unable to bathe himself, or unable to use the bathroom on his own. To be classified as totally disabled for work purposes, a person must be unable to do most or all of the functions required to have a job.


Partial disability, on the other hand, means that the person in question is impaired in some way, but is not totally impaired. The person may be able to take care of himself, for example, and may be able to do perform certain job functions. The level of disability is measured by how many functions are impaired as a result of the injury or illness causing the disability.

Some benefits may be available to a person who is classified as partially disabled, but the benefits are less than those paid to a person classified as totally disabled. For example, a person who is considered totally disabled, either temporarily or permanently, may receive Social Security Disability payments to sustain him since he cannot work. If a person is totally disabled due to a work injury, he may also receive the wages he lost from worker's compensation insurance because he is unable to work.

If a person is classified as partially disabled, that person will not receive the same benefits available to someone who is totally disabled. Worker's compensation may pay a percentage of lost wages, based on the amount of incapacitation or the amount of daily activities and work activities, the disability has affected the ability to do. Social Security may pay nothing for a person who has a partial disability, unless that disability is deemed severe enough to adversely impact the ability to function.


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