When facing a workers’ compensation claim, figuring out how to know if your workers’ compensation disability rating is fair and ensuring that you are not cheated out of the compensation you deserve are essential. You can qualify for benefits from your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance in Illinois if a work-related illness or injury leaves you with a physical or mental condition that impairs your capacity to work. The amount you receive will be based mainly on a disability rating, which your employer and its insurance company can manipulate to reduce your payout.
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What Is an Impairment?
In workers’ compensation cases, an impairment is an injury. The technical definition is a change to or damage to a person’s body part, body structure, or physical or psychological health. Workplace injuries are a prime illustration of impairment since they may result in long-lasting bodily, emotional, or psychological harm to a victim. There are two types of impairments:
Permanent impairment or disability, means the employee has reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) and is not expected to improve within a year.
Temporary impairment includes injuries or illnesses that heal slowly over time. In such cases, the employee’s doctor would not inform them that they have reached MMI.
What Is a Disability?
Disability is a term used to describe how much an impairment affects a person’s ability to function, usually in terms of their capacity to work and carry out everyday tasks. Although an impairment is severe, it may not result in disability. On the other hand, minor impairments can result in total or partial disability.
What Is an Impairment Rating?
An impairment rating, also known as a permanent disability rating, represents the degree to which a workplace injury has permanently impaired an employee. In layman’s terms, an impairment rating is the percentage of damage to the victim caused by an injury. The level of impairment is given a percentage value between 0 and 100 so that the worker, employer, and insurance provider can understand the scale of the injury and the extent to which the impairment will interfere with work.
How Are Disability Impairment Ratings Used?
In the Illinois workers’ compensation system, disability impairment ratings are often used to help determine whether an injured employee has the right to a permanent partial disability (PPD) award and, if so, the level of PPD award owed to the claimant in a pending workers’ compensation case. This number is then used to help establish a monetary award to an injured party.
How Is a Workers’ Compensation Disability Rating Determined?
In Illinois, impairment ratings are just one factor in determining workers’ compensation disability rating. According to Illinois law, determining the level of PPD is based on the following factors:
- The impairment rating
- The injured employee’s occupation
- The employee’s age at the time of the injury
- Future earning potential of the employee
- Evidence of disability confirmed by the treating medical records
These multiple factors mean that two individuals with the same injury and impairment rating could have very different disability ratings. Depending on how the impairment affects (or doesn’t affect) their jobs, one could have a total disability, and the other could have no disability. The classic example involves a stockbroker and a pianist who each get a pinky amputated and have the exact same impairment rating. The stockbroker may be found not to be disabled at all, while the pianist may be considered 100% disabled.
Is My Workers’ Comp Impairment Rating Fair?
Independent licensed medical professionals determine your impairment rating by conducting what is called an Impairment Rating Evaluation. The rating methods are intended to be as transparent and impartial as possible, allowing for an accurate representation of both sides of a workers’ compensation claim.
Is My Workers’ Comp Disability Rating Fair?
In many instances, it’s not fair. In the initial offer by the insurance company, you’ll often be told you have to accept the settlement based on the doctor’s rating, without mentioning the four other factors that can lead to a disability rating much higher than the impairment rating. Insurers use this unethical tactic to trick workers into accepting cheap settlements. By taking an insurance provider’s first offer, you’re almost guaranteed not to get a fair disability rating.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Handle My Workers’ Comp Claim?
There are numerous reasons why you should engage a skilled Chicago personal injury lawyer to handle your claim:
- Insurance companies are in the business of collecting premiums and denying and reducing claims to maximize their profits. They engage in all sorts of tricks and tactics to get you to accept as small of a settlement as possible. A workers’ comp lawyer understands these tricks, knows how to counter them, and will ensure that all the relevant factors are being considered in your disability rating.
- Insurers and employers will take extraordinary steps to deprive you of your rightful compensation in a workers’ comp claim. That includes hiring private investigators to find and document examples of you exerting yourself using one of your injured body parts. Not only will investigators follow you, stake out your home, and take photos, they will also search through social media for evidence that your injuries are not as bad as indicated. Your lawyer will inform you about workers’ comp investigations and what they look for.
- You can significantly harm your workers’ compensation case by saying the wrong things to the independent physician determining your impairment rating. One example is that you shouldn’t downplay your injuries to the workers’ comp doctor, nor should you exaggerate them. Your attorney will explain exactly what not to say to a workers’ comp doctor.
An experienced Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer will help you ensure that your disability rating is fair, that you understand the insurer’s tactics, and that you receive fair compensation for your injuries.