*NOTE* This applies to ILLINOIS workers compensation only.
In 2011, the Illinois workers compensation law changed. Now when people have been hurt at work get healed to the point they are as good as they are going to get (we call this MMI, or maximum medical improvement), the doctor will give them an “impairment rating”. This is a rating using the American Medical Association Guides to approximate the amount of impairment to someone’s body.
What we are seeing quite often is that an employer will say “you were given an impairment rating of 2% of an arm by Doctor Jones, so we are offering you a settlement based on 2% of an arm. It’s all you’re going to get anyway.”
Don’t believe them.
Illinois workers compensation compensates “disability,” not “impairment.” Impairment is purely physical. Disability involves how that impairment changes your ability to work. Usually, disability is greater than impairment.
Almost across the board, the AMA impairment ratings the doctors give you are going to be less than the permanent partial disability ratings the workers compensation system will give you. This is based on my personal experience and my discussions with dozens of other lawyers across the state after the law changed.
So what should you do?
If you get an offer, talk to an attorney. A good attorney will talk to you for free, and if he/she can’t help you, he/she will tell you so. The big kicker – if the attorney takes your case, he/she will only take a fee based on what they can get you above and beyond your original offer! In other words, unless something unforeseen happens and you lose your case, going to a lawyer isn’t going to cost you anything out of your current offer. A good lawyer should be able to tell you how much (if any) risk it would be to go further with the case. It’s a no brainer.
Just to toot my own horn, I’ve spoken to the Illinois Bar Association about these issues and have written about some of the new changes. If you would like to talk to me, you can call me at 309-794-1660. Just remember that I’m not your attorney – unless you sign up with me.
(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury and workers compensation attorney in the Quad Cities. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 and at hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)