Each year, tens of thousands of workers are seriously injured on the job in Illinois, and while most of them qualify for workers compensation benefits, not every injury is treated equally in terms of monetary compensation. The severity of the injury and the length of time that the worker is expected to be affected by it play a significant role in the amount of money an he or she is entitled to receive.
Levels of Disability In Illinois
Regardless of the type of disability the injured worker suffers, he or she is entitled to reasonable and necessary medical care, and the employer is required to pay any out-of-pocket expenses for treatment. In addition to treatment by a healthcare provider, medical expenses covered include the cost of prescription medications, equipment, appliances or prosthetics. The amount an injured worker receives to compensate for lost wages, however, varies depending on the level of disability. In Illinois, four levels of disability are recognized with regards to workers’ compensation: Temporary Partial Disability (TPD), Temporary Total Disability (TTD), Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD).
Assessing the Level of Disability in Workers’ Compensation Cases
A variety of factors are used to determine worker disability in Illinois. For injuries occurring on or after September 1, 2011, the Commission considers:
- The physician-prepared impairment report. The most current edition of the American Medical Association’s Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment must be utilized in preparing the report.
- The injured worker’s occupation
- The age of the worker when he or she became injured
- The future earning capacity of the injured worker
- Evidence of disability from medical records
Temporary Partial Disability
When an injured worker is released to return to work with restrictions, he or she may be entitled to temporary partial disability benefits. If the worker’s rate of pay is reduced or the hours he or she is allowed to work are fewer due to the injury suffered, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act provides for reimbursement to offset the reduction in pay. The benefits are calculated by multiplying the difference between the worker’s pre-injury earnings and the light-duty earnings by 66 2/3 percent.
If the employer is unable to provide lighter-duty work, the injured employee will continue to be entitled to ongoing benefits as long as he or she is receiving medical treatment and is unable to perform the duties of his or her regular occupation. If light-duty work is offered, however, and the employee refuses the opportunity, benefits may be denied.
Temporary Total Disability
Temporary Total Disability is received when a worker is either unable to perform work duties or the employer is unable to offer light-duty work to accommodate the employee. When a worker qualifies for TTD benefits, he or she will receive 66 2/3 percent of his or her average weekly wage (AWW) until the worker either returns to work or reaches maximum medical improvement (MMI).
Permanent Partial Disability
When a worker suffers the partial or complete loss of a body part, the loss of use of a part of the body, or the partial loss of use of the body as a whole, the Commission may make a PPD determination. A determination of PPD is made only after the worker reaches MMI, however, and benefits for PPD are only paid when the injury results in permanent physical loss. Four types of PPD benefits can be awarded:
- Wage Differential
- Schedule of Injuries
- Non-schedule Injuries
When PPD is determined, between 60 percent and 66 2/3 percent of the worker’s AWW will be paid. The amount to which the worker is entitled and the duration of payments depend on the type of PPD benefits awarded.
Permanent Total Disability
An injured worker is entitled to PTD benefits when he or she suffers from a complete disability that renders him or her permanently unable to perform any work for which there is a reasonable market for employment, or the complete loss of use of both hands, feet, arms, legs, eyes or a combination of any two such body parts occurs. When a claimant is found to be totally and permanently disabled, he or she can receive 66 2/3 of his or her AWW for life. If the employee’s condition improves and he or she is able to return to work, the employer can petition to have the benefits modified or terminated.
A Lake County workers’ compensation lawyer will see numerous injured workers settle for disability benefits without fully understanding the amounts they could actually be entitled to. Some Illinois employers are happy to take advantage of injured workers who are unfamiliar with workers’ compensation laws. To maximize the amount of compensation received, it is essential for injured workers to familiarize themselves with the Illinois Workers Compensation Act.