A work injury can cause major disruptions to your life—not only your health, but also to your career, finances, and overall well-being. The Illinois workers’ compensation system is designed to compensate you for some of those losses and get you back to work as soon as possible. However, worker’s comp also limits the amount of money you can receive from your employer. (To get these benefits, you will need to file an Illinois workers’ compensation claim.)
An employee who is injured at work and needs time off can receive temporary total disability benefits. The first three work days of disability are not paid unless you need at least 14 days off work. These benefits are paid until your doctor declares that you have reached maximum medical improvement.
Temporary total disability benefits are two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum amount set by law. As of July 15, 2017, the maximum benefit is $1,440.60 per week. This cap only kicks in if your annual salary is around $110,000 or more. (The cap is updated every six months; you can find a list of the maximums at the website of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.)
Temporary partial disability benefits are paid when workers are able to return to light duty or part-time work that pays less than their normal wages. These benefits are two-thirds of the difference between what you would have been able to earn before the injury and what you are currently making.
Example: You earned $950 per week before your injury and would have received a scheduled $50 raise while you were off work. You are now working part-time and earning $400 per week. You would take the difference between $1,000 (what you would have been making) and $400, which is $600. You would then receive two-thirds of that amount, which is $400 per week.
Once your medical treatment is complete, your doctor will evaluate you for a permanent disability. If you are permanently and totally disabled, you will continue to receive weekly payments at your temporary total disability rate for life. Permanent total disabilities are very severe injuries that leave the employee unable to work in any capacity—such as the loss of both eyes, hands, arms, feet, or legs (either by amputation or total loss of use).
If your doctor finds that you have a permanent partial disability, you may be eligible for additional benefits. Illinois workers’ compensation has four types of permanent partial disability benefits: scheduled losses, unscheduled losses, disfigurement benefits, and wage differential benefits. The maximum weekly rate for amputation or loss of an eye is the same as temporary total disability. For all other permanent partial impairments, the maximum rate is $775.18.
A scheduled loss of use award is available for disabilities of certain body parts, such as the eyes, ears, arms, legs, hands, or feet. The award is paid at 60% of your average weekly wages, for a number of weeks determined by a state schedule. For example, the schedule lists a total loss of use of a thumb at 76 weeks. If you have only a 50% loss of use of the thumb, you would receive 38 weeks of payments. If your average weekly wage is $1,000, you would receive $600 per week for 38 weeks, for a total of $22,800.
If the body part you injured does not appear on the schedule, you can receive a non-scheduled award. This is for injuries to body parts other than the eyes, ears, or extremities—such as injuries to the head, spine, or organs. The award is also paid at 60% of your average weekly wage for a portion of 500 weeks, based on your disability rating to the body as a whole.
Example: You have a permanent impairment resulting from a back injury, rated as a 25% impairment to the body as a whole. You would receive 60% of your average weekly wage for 125 week (25% of 500 weeks). If your average weekly wage is $1,000, you would receive $600 for 125 weeks, for a total of $75,000.
Illinois workers’ comp pays benefits for serious and permanent disfigurement to areas of the body that are commonly visible to the public—such as the face, head, neck, chest, arms, and legs (below the knee). These benefits are 60% of your average weekly wage for up to 162 weeks, depending on the severity. However, you cannot receive an award for both loss of use and disfigurement to the same body part.
A wage differential award is available when a worker also suffers a loss of earnings due to a permanent impairment. For example, if you need to take a new position due to your injury but it pays less than your previous position, you can receive wage differential benefits. These benefits are two-thirds of the difference between your average weekly wage before the injury and your post-injury earnings. They are paid for five years or until you are 67 years old, which ever happens later. However, if you receive wage differential benefits, you cannot receive an award for permanent partial impairment.
Illinois workers’ compensation also provides additional benefits, including:
As you can see, workers’ compensation only pays of a portion of your lost wages. Workers’ comp also does not pay anything for the pain and suffering caused by your injury. While this may seem unfair, it is part of the trade-off that is the workers’ comp system. The advantage of workers’ comp is that you can get benefits relatively quickly without needing to file a lawsuit or prove that your employer was at fault for causing your injury. The downside is that you can’t get the full value of your losses. (However, in some cases, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover pain and suffering and other losses. To learn more, see our article on suing outside of the workers’ comp system.)