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How Long Can a Workers’ Comp Claim Stay Open?

Written by Ankin Law Office

In Illinois, the amount of time a workers’ comp claim can stay open will depend on the type of work-related injury and its corresponding disability category. The different categories of disability include permanent total disability, permanent partial disability, temporary total disability, and temporary partial disability.

The following is an overview of Illinois workers’ comp, including each category of disability and how they factor into the duration of workers’ comp claims.

What Are Workers’ Compensation Settlements in Illinois?

Worker’s comp settlements entail an agreement between injured employees and their employers’ insurers in which the employees agree to release all or some of the insurer’s responsibilities in exchange for compensation. 

The amount of compensation received will depend on the category of the injury, which is based in part on Illinois workers’ comp body part values

Typically, recipients of workers’ comp receive payments in a lump sum, but they may be able to receive payments in installments under certain conditions. Specifically, if a worker is only able to return to work with a job that pays less than his or her previous job, or if he or she is entirely unable to return to work on a temporary or permanent basis, periodic payments will likely apply.

There are four types of disability benefits, each accounting for different types of injuries and the worker’s ability to recover and return to work. They are as follows:

Permanent Partial Disability

If a worker sustains an injury that leads to a permanent partial disability (PPD), the employee will no longer have use or partial use of hands, legs, other limbs, or other body parts. In some cases, injury victims may lose partial use of their entire body, rendering them incapable of completing tasks they could complete prior to the injury. 

In Illinois, workers may receive four main kinds of PPD benefits, each of which comes with a different length of time in which individuals can receive them. 

Scheduled Injury Awards

Scheduled injuries refer to those affecting the arms, hands, legs, or feet. Injured workers with scheduled injury awards are eligible to receive PPD payments that account for 60% of the employee’s average weekly earnings. Employees in Illinois will be able to receive these benefits for a limited number of weeks, depending on the location of the injury.

Wage Differential Benefits

If an employee can return to work but in a different capacity that results in reduced wages, they may qualify for wage differential benefits. These cover two-thirds of the difference between previous and current earnings. Once the worker either reaches the age of 67 or receives these benefits for a period of five years, payments will stop.

Nonscheduled Injury Awards

Nonscheduled injuries are those that occur in the head, back, or neck. For these injuries, individuals may be able to receive benefits worth 60% of their average weekly earnings seen before the injury. Recipients may receive these benefits for a limited number of weeks under 500. Medical professionals’ injury ratings will dictate precisely how long these payments last.

Disfigurement Benefits

Workers with permanent disfigurement that the public can see may receive payments worth 60% of their average weekly earnings for up to 162 weeks. The duration of these awards will depend on the seriousness of the disfigurement.

Permanent Total Disability

If employees are unable to work on a permanent basis because of their injuries, they may be able to receive permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. Workers can also receive these benefits if they lose the ability to use a combination of two body parts, such as both eyes, hands, arms, legs, or feet. 

Injury victims who fall under this category can receive PTD benefits for the rest of their lives.

Temporary Partial Disability

Some workers may sustain injuries that leave them partially disabled, enabling them to continue working part-time or perform light-duty tasks while recovering. In these cases, workers may receive temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits throughout their recovery period. 

These benefits end once the recipient’s doctor determines that they’ve reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), i.e., the maximum achievable point of recovery.

Temporary Total Disability

Employees under this category are entirely unable to return to work while recovering, but will likely recover and be able to work again to some capacity in the future. Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits last for as long as it takes for individuals to reach MMI.

When to Consult with a Workers’ Comp Attorney

Oftentimes, workers’ comp settlements in Illinois can become complex. It’s often in workers’ best interests to have a Chicago workers’ comp lawyer to help understand what their settlement involves. 

Victims of work-related injuries may not be aware of what their settlement actually means in some cases, leading them to agree to a settlement that doesn’t provide them with the protections they qualify to receive. For example, workers may receive Social Security or other benefits that could see reduction or discontinuation unless the workers’ compensation contract includes language that prevents this.

Additionally, workers may not be aware of unpaid government liens or medical bills or how workers’ compensation will apply to them. 

Attorneys can help claimants understand these and other elements to help make sure their contract is acceptable to both the injured worker and the insurer. This works to prevent any potential misunderstandings that may otherwise leave benefits recipients feeling cheated and manipulated. 

Determining How Long Workers’ Comp Claims Can Stay Open

In Illinois, the length of workers’ comp claims comes down to multiple influencing factors. Depending on the nature of the injuries sustained and the category of disability that they’re under, the amount of time injured workers can receive compensation will vary greatly. By consulting an attorney and understanding the specific benefits they are eligible to receive, victims of work-related injuries can more precisely determine how long their benefits will last.