What it Means to Be Permanently and Totally Disabled Under Illinois Workers’ Compensation Laws
Under Illinois workers’ compensation laws, a worker may be qualified as permanently and totally disabled when injuries are so severe the worker can no longer perform any work duties.
Understanding Permanent Total Disability Benefits
In Illinois, workers who qualify for permanent and total disability benefits have usually sustained severe work-related injuries. Because physical injuries prevent most workplace duties, severely injured workers may receive workers’ compensation disability benefits for life to compensate for their injuries.
When on-the-job accidents and injuries occur, all Illinois workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under state laws. To determine if a worker is eligible for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits, the injured worker must be examined by a licensed physician and go through a series of physical tests that determine the severity of the injury. PTD benefits are only awarded to workers who are deemed permanently disabled and no longer able to work in any capacity.
Maximum Medical Improvement
Workers who receive PTD benefits are usually required to have regular physical exams that monitor any improvements in their condition. Physical exams look for maximum medical improvement (MMI), the point where the patient’s condition has stabilized. For a physical injury, MMI means that the condition will not improve with further medical treatments. When a patient reaches his/her MMI, the likelihood of any future recovery is unlikely.
A licensed, examining physician is the only person who can determine an MMI diagnosis and date. In some cases, an employer’s insurance carrier may require an independent medical examination (IME) by a physician within their preferred providers program to validate MMI. The IME physician will send a copy of their examination to the injured worker and his/her physician. If both physicians agree that the worker’s MMI has been reached, PTD benefits will likely be awarded. If physicians disagree, the worker’s claim will likely be forwarded to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Board or to a judge who hears workers’ compensation cases.
Insurance companies commonly offer settlements to claimants once MMI is reached. This is usually to avoid higher payouts and possible legal actions through a workers’ compensation attorney. For injured workers in Illinois, signing a settlement agreement means relinquishing any rights to future workers’ compensation benefits related to the same injury. When injuries are severe enough to warrant PTD benefits, accepting a settlement offer will prevent future benefits, if injury complications or related health conditions arise. Permanent and total disabilities often result in life-long payments for work-related injuries.