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Are amputations covered under workers’ comp?

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2015 | Workers' Compensation

Amputation injuries are life-changing for workers and their families. The loss of an arm, a leg, a hand or a foot can have a permanent impact on every part of a person’s career. Illinois workers’ compensation provides benefits for people who have been disabled by amputations on the job.

Unlike less serious injuries, amputations are covered in separate detail in state workers’ compensation legislation. Each type of amputation is awarded a distinct level of benefits, as a McHenry worker compensation attorney knows. In the most severe cases, such as the loss of a whole leg or the loss of multiple limbs, the worker may need medical support and help with wage differentials for the rest of his or her life.

What kinds of benefits are available to amputees?

To understand the provisions made by Illinois law for people who have lost a limb on the job, it is helpful to begin with the four different types of disability benefits offered in Illinois. Every disability case is different, but all benefits fall under one of these four general headings:

  • Permanent partial disability
  • Permanent total disability
  • Temporary partial disability
  • Temporary total disability

Almost all amputations, with the exception of some finger amputations, are irreversible and cannot be fixed by modern medicine. The injury is permanent by definition, so the compensation offered to the amputee is also permanent. These benefits are located in one of the first two categories: permanent partial disability or permanent total disability.

How does PPD help amputees?

When an employee suffers an amputation on the job, there is almost always a lengthy hospital stay involved. The injured worker may be unable to return to the former job. Permanent partial disability is designed to help workers rebuild their lives by making up the long-term difference in wages after the injury.

These benefits also include medical expenses during the process of recovery, as every McHenry worker compensation attorney is aware. Medical expenses are covered until the worker has reached the stage of maximum improvement. After the patient has healed from surgery and the immediate effects of the amputation, PPD will step in to help with the long-term financial consequences of the injury.

Who is entitled to PPD?

PPD is designed for employees who are not completely disabled but are still suffering lifelong effects from their injury, including decreased ability to work and possible cuts in pay. Many amputees fall into this category. They are not completely removed from the workplace, but they have lost earning power.

What does PPD offer?

According to Illinois law, PPD benefits cover two-thirds of the difference between the worker’s former wage and the current wage earned. If a factory worker earned 18 dollars per hour before an amputation in the workplace and can now earn only 12 dollars per hour, PPD will award the worker an additional 4 dollars per hour, two-thirds of the lost wage differential. These benefits do not restore the injured employee to the same income level or quality of life enjoyed before the amputation, but they make up some of the difference in earning power before and after the accident.

How long does PPD last?

PPD may last for the worker’s entire career up to the point of retirement. Each type of amputation is eligible for a minimum number of weeks of compensation in Illinois. The loss of an arm below the elbow is currently compensable for a minimum of 253 weeks, or a total of almost five years. If the arm is lost above the elbow or at the shoulder joint, the figure is increased by as many as 87 weeks. The loss of a hand is eligible for a minimum of 205 weeks of PPD. The loss of a leg is compensable for a minimum of 215 weeks, and even more if the amputation includes the thigh or the hip joint. The loss of fingers and toes is also compensable, often for shorter periods of time while the worker adjusts to the aftereffects of the injury.

What counts as an amputation in Illinois law?

An injury counts as an amputation in Illinois law if it involves the total and irretrievable loss of a body part. An injury that removes only soft tissue, without damaging bone, does not count as an amputation according to state workers’ compensation law. The loss of a single finger joint or part of a hand or foot is counted as a statutory amputation if the worker’s function is compromised.

When are amputees eligible for permanent total disability?

According to a study carried out by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Standards, more than 3,600 Illinois workers suffered a traumatic amputation injury on the job during a recent seven-year period. In some cases, these amputations are too severe for partial disability benefits. The injured employee is permanently unable to return to work and must rely on permanent total disability. People who have lost both legs, both arms, both hands or both feet are automatically eligible for PTD.

What does PTD offer to injured workers?

PTD offers two-thirds of the employee’s former wage for the duration of what would have been his or her career. If a construction worker made $36,000 per year before the loss of both legs, PTD would pay $24,000 per year until the worker was old enough to begin collecting Social Security benefits.

Recovering from an amputation is slow and painful. Workers who have lost a limb on the job should speak with a McHenry worker compensation attorney about their options and their rights.