In a case that illustrates what is required to receive benefits for permanent disability, based on the loss of use of the person as a whole, a claimant was awarded benefits after seriously injuring his hand and arm at work, and undergoing several surgical operations as a result. See Significant arm, hand injuries, loss of trade warrant award under § 8(d)(2). Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 28, Issue 16, November 13, 2020, p.5. The case discussed in the article, Casey v. Schaumburg Fire Dept., 28 ILWCLB 171 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2020), involved a claimant that was a fireman and paramedic, and who was injured while taking part in a practice drill at work. While picking up and carrying a co-worker pretending to be a casualty, the claimant felt a painful popping sensation in his upper left extremity, and shortly thereafter was diagnosed with a partial-thickness tear of his distal bicep tendon. The claimant underwent several surgeries, and rather than obtain benefits under a wage differential analysis, he sought benefits based on his assertion that he was permanently disabled. In establishing the scope of the claimant’s disability, under Section 8(e) of the Workers’ Compensation Act (WCA), the arbitrator gave significant weight to the fact that the claimant was no longer able to work in his pre-injury job as a fireman and paramedic due to his injuries, and also to the fact that the fire department could not find alternative work for the claimant to do. That the claimant was relatively young was deemed relevant as well, as he was permanently limited in the kinds of work that he could perform in the future. Moreover, the corroborating evidence of the claimant’s disability, as seen in his medical records, was also decisive for the arbitrator in deciding for the claimant, since the records laid out in great detail the claimant’s injuries, and the continuous and extensive treatment that was required for said injuries, including several surgeries, as well as proof of the effects of complications and physical limitations brought on both by the claimant’s injuries and the treatment necessitated for them, all of which prevented him from ever working as a firefighter and paramedic again. The pension board physicians who evaluated the case also agreed that the claimant was permanently prevented from working as a fireman and paramedic, and based on the foregoing, the arbitrator awarded the claimant permanent partial disability benefits to the extent of 47.5% loss of the person as a whole, under Section 8(d)(2) of the WCA. The fire department appealed, but the Commission affirmed the award of benefits and adopted the arbitrator’s decision.
While the above case is admittedly straightforward, it is still helpful because it shows what a claimant must prove, to be awarded benefits based on a permanent (physical) disability, for the loss of use of the person as a whole. Indeed, the claimant suffered a career-ending injury, such that the employer was unable to accommodate the clamant with alternate work, and with the claimant also undergoing lengthy treatment which resulted in complications that further limited what the claimant could do in the future, all of which enabled the claimant to prevail in this case.
Attorney Matthew Ludwinski
See Significant arm, hand injuries, loss of trade warrant significant award under § 8(d)(2). Illinois Worker’s Compensation Law Bulletin (also cited as ILWCLB), Volume 28, Issue 16, November 13, 2020, p.5.