Illinois Workers’ Compensation Permanent Total Disability
Seriously injured employees in Illinois may be eligible for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. Illinois workers’ compensation permanent total disability benefits
are generally given to those employees that are unlikely to ever work again in any capacity. In this blog post, the first in a three-part series, we explore what PTD benefits are and how they are calculated. In the second and third posts, we will look two other types of disability benefits:
- Permanent partial disability benefits
- Wage differential benefits
Illinois definition of total permanent disability
Permanent total disability benefits in Illinois are given to those that are unable to return to work – any work – following a work-related injury. Here’s what it means and what qualifies as total and permanent disability. PTD benefits are generally awarded if:
- You have suffered the permanent and complete loss of both hands, arms, feet, legs, eyes, or the combination of any two parts (i.e., one hand and one foot); or
- A disability that leaves you permanently unable to do work of any kind in any industry in which there is a reasonably steady job market.
What is the difference between permanent total disability and permanent partial disability?
The main difference between permanent total disability and permanent partial disability benefits is the employee’s ability to return to work. We said above that PTD benefits are given to those that are fully unable to return to any type of work. PPD benefits are far more common than PTD benefits. PPD benefits are given to workers that are still able to work but in a reduced capacity.
Some common examples of permanent partial disabilities include:
- Injuries to fingers or toes
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Hearing loss
- Disfigurement of body parts
Wage differential benefits are also common in Illinois workers’ compensation cases. Wage differential benefits are generally awarded when an injury prevents an employee from returning to the same job he or she held before the injury. The employee can, however, work in another capacity for the employer, or some other employer, but for less money.
Proving permanent total disability in Illinois
To qualify for permanent total disability benefits in Illinois, you must prove that you are not capable of getting another job. To prove your case, you need to put together documents and evidence that support your claim. These include things like:
- Your medical records
- Your doctor’s testimony (or written report)
- Your efforts to apply for other jobs
Medical records should show the full extent of your injuries and the cause of your disability. Employers commonly argue that your disability was not caused by the work-related injury. For instance, bad knees could be blamed on a college basketball career or a degenerative condition. You must also show how the disability keeps you from returning to work.
Permanently and totally disabled doctor determination:
Your doctor’s testimony can be important. He or she can testify as to how the disability keeps you from working and that there are no treatment options for your condition. It is also important to show that you tried to find other jobs. Keep a log of all jobs that you applied for, as well as copies of communications like emails.
A vocational expert to testify about the job market, your qualifications and whether a reasonably steady job market exists can also be important to obtaining PTD benefits.
Permanent total disability calculator Illinois
Permanent total disability benefits in Illinois fall under Section 820 ILCS 305/8(f) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Under the Act, PTD benefits give the injured employee a weekly benefit of 2/3 of their average weekly wage, subject to minimum and maximum limits set by the state.
The minimum and maximum limits are set by the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES). Every six months, IDES publishes a statement average weekly wage (SAWW). The SAWW lists the minimum and maximum weekly benefit levels for use in Illinois workers’ compensation cases.
The following is a list of the minimum and maximum limits (100% total and permanent disability benefits) used for determining permanent total disability benefits in Illinois:
How to calculate permanent total disability Illinois:
Notice that the current minimum and maximum amounts are currently $580.90 and $1,549.07, respectfully. It helps to look at an example. Suppose a worker is earning $400 per week as a factory worker. He suffers a serious injury while operating a machine at work resulting in an amputation. Following the injury, he is unable to return to his job or work in any reduced capacity.
While his average weekly wage was $400 before the injury, that amount is less than the minimum amount set by the state. So, we use the minimum amount of $580.90. If the employee is given a lump sum settlement, the amount is calculated by multiplying the average weekly rate (or minimum amount in our example) by life expectancy. That amount is then reduced to present cash value.
Can permanent total disability be lowered or taken away?
Yes. We said above that permanent total disability benefits in Illinois are given to those employees that are unable to return to work as a result of their injuries. So, if the employee later returns to work or is able to return to work, the employer can petition the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) to reduce or terminate benefits.
It is also important to note that PTD benefits can be adjusted at the request of the employee. If the employee’s case is being decided by an arbitrator, then the employee is eligible for cost-of-living adjustments. On the second July 15th from the date that the award was finalized, the employee will receive a cost-of-living payment from the IWCC’s Rate Adjustment Fund. This amount will be based on the increase in the Illinois statewide average weekly wage during the preceding year.
Many of those eligible for PTD benefits are concerned that also receiving social security benefits will jeopardize their workers’ compensation benefits. As long as the PTD recipient is eligible for both types of benefits, then receiving social security benefits will in no way impact PTD benefit awards, but you should let your workers’ compensation attorney know if you are getting, have applied for, or anticipate applying for social security benefits.
Contact an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer
Permanent total disability benefits in Illinois can be difficult to understand and calculate. Working with an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer can make the process easier and help you to maximize your benefits. If you have any questions about PTD benefits or require assistance with your Illinois workers’ compensation case, please contact us today.