This is the next post in a series of articles discussing workplace injuries that result in the victim’s permanent disability under Illinois’ workers’ compensation laws. Accidents at work that prevent an employee from working, even temporarily, can be devastating to a family’s finances. When the victim is seriously injured on the job and rendered permanently unable to work as they did before, the impact can be staggering. Illinois workers’ comp system is designed to protect workers in this situation by reimbursing them for medical expenses and continuing to pay a portion of their lost wages while their disability persists. For those who are permanently disabled, the benefits may be paid for the rest of their lives. My previous post discussed when an injured worker may be considered permanently disabled and, therefore, potentially eligible to receive lifelong benefits. The amount of benefits and payment periods will depend upon whether a person suffers a permanent partial disability (PPD) or permanent total disability (PTD). In this post, I will discuss the differences between the two designations and the impact on one’s workers’ comp case. If you need assistance, contact my office to speak with an attorney.
If you have been permanently impacted by a workplace injury you may be considered either permanently partially disabled or permanently totally disabled. Generally speaking, a person who can work in some sort of capacity after recovering from their accident will be considered to have suffered a PPD. On the other hand, a worker suffering a PTD is prevented from returning to work in any capacity in the future. A permanent partial disability is defined as the complete loss of a body part or the use thereof or permanent disfigurement. An employee who suffers a PPD but can work afterward in a reduced capacity may seek two-thirds of the difference between their pre and post-injury wages. Alternatively, the Commission has established a schedule designating a monetary value and payment period applicable for each injured body part. For example, Bob is the head machinist at a factory. Bob loses his hand in a machining accident and is prevented from ever working in his job again. After he recovers, he is offered a lower-paying janitor position at a restaurant. Bob can still work, but not in the same lucrative position he held before. He may be entitled to recover not only his medical expenses but also two-thirds of the difference between his machinist wage and his janitor’s wage. Alternatively, he may benefit more by receiving the statutory payments assigned to a lost hand. An attorney can explain which option may be more beneficial to you.
A permanent total disability (PTD) is defined as the permanent and complete loss of both hands, arms, feet, legs, eyes, or combination thereof, or an injury rendering the victim unable to perform work of any kind in the future. A person deemed to be PTD may be entitled to two-thirds of their average pre-injury weekly wages for life. When injuries clearly fall into the definition of PTD, such as losing two limbs, the commission’s designation of PTD is fairly straightforward. On the other hand, more obscure issues such as back or head injuries may be more difficult to prove in a permanent disability claim. For instance, Sue injures her back at work and has multiple surgeries to correct the issue. For several years she has been unable to return to work and initially received PTD benefits. Upon a scheduled review of her claim, however, the Commission determines that her medical examinations indicate that she should be able to work again in a reduced capacity and should be deemed PPD instead. Her employer claims that she is fabricating the pain to continue to receive PTD benefits. In such a situation, Sue’s attorney may need to engage expert witnesses and other medical professionals to challenge the decision at a trial. The ultimate determination will significantly impact her recovery of future compensation.
When serious injuries occur at work, it is important to retain counsel early in the process to establish that your injury has caused permanent damage. If you need assistance, contact our Peoria office today to speak with a lawyer. Our firm also serves clients in the Illinois cities of Bloomington, Eureka, Galesburg, Morton, Normal, Pekin, Springfield, and Washington.