In our last couple of posts, we’ve been looking at how workers’ compensation benefits are calculated. We’ve looked specifically at temporary partial and temporary total disability benefits. In this and our next post, we’ll look at permanent partial and permanent total disability benefits.
Permanent partial disability is defined as the complete or partial loss of a body part, or the use of a body part, or the partial loss of use of the whole body. Loss of use is generally recognized when an employee is, after an injury, unable to engage in the same activities he or she was able to prior to the injury. The extent of permanent disability cannot be determined until the employee has reached maximum medical improvement, so it is important that this is clearly recognized. If it is determined that there is permanent physical loss after that point, permanent disability benefits are supposed to be awarded at an appropriate level.
The level of permanent disability an employee suffers from is based on a handful of factors, including the employee’s occupation, age at the time of injury, and future earning capacity, as well as a physician’s impairment report and evidence of disability corroborated by the medical records. Arbitrators making decisions about the level of disability are required to consider more than any single factor and must explain their decision.
There are four types of permanent partial disability benefits that may be awarded. One of these is known as wage differential, which refers to the difference in wage between the employee’s job at the time of injury and a new job he or she is forced to take as a result of permanent injury. Employers are required to pay two-thirds of the difference in wages up until five years after the date of the award, or until the employee is 67, whichever is later.
Another possible way benefits are delivered for permanent partial injuries is according to a schedule of injuries. Readers may be aware that workers’ compensation law assigns a specific value to certain body parts. In Illinois, this compensation is expressed as a number of weeks, and this number is multiplied by 60 percent of the employee’s average weekly wage. The calculation is slightly different for amputations or the complete loss of function. We’ll pick up on this point in our next post.