1. Home
  2.  » 
  3. Firm News
  4.  » An Award of Permanent Partial Disability Benefits Cannot Be Based on Speculation

An Award of Permanent Partial Disability Benefits Cannot Be Based on Speculation

by | Jun 6, 2022 | Firm News |

In a case that is illustrative of how a claimant’s award of permanent partial disability (or “PPD”) benefits at arbitration can be reduced by the Commission on appeal, if it is determined that the award was speculative in nature, the Commission basically affirmed the aforesaid award, but modified it based on what the Commission asserted was the available evidence. See Mental health tech’s foot, great toe fractures merit PPD awards. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 11, August 13, 2021, page 4.[1] The case discussed in the article, Bridges v. Illinois, State of/Vienna Correctional Center, 29 ILWCLB 115 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2021), involved a claimant that was employed as a mental health technician at a downstate correctional center. The claimant’s job involved working with mentally ill prisoners, some of whom could be very difficult to handle.[2] The claimant suffered two accidents at work, the first one occurring as a result of the claimant stepping down on her left foot in the wrong way, causing her to suffer a non-displaced commutated fracture of the base of her fifth metatarsal, as well as damage to her tendons, all of which required eventual surgical intervention. The second accident took place nearly two years later, when an unruly inmate stomped on the claimant’s left foot and broke her big toe.[3] In awarding benefits, the arbitrator applied the provisions of Section 8.1b of the Workers’ Compensation Act (or “WCA”) to the facts of this case, by reviewing and considering the various factors to be used in determining the claimant’s benefit award. Indeed, while the arbitrator placed some weight on the claimant’s continuing work as a mental health technician and her (future) earning capacity, the arbitrator placed greater weight on the claimant’s relatively young age which, to the arbitrator, meant that the claimant would have to continue to work while afflicted with her increasingly debilitating injuries for a longer period of time.[4] Based primarily on the last factor (the claimant’s age), the arbitrator decided that the severe nature of the claimant’s work injuries would inevitably reduce her earning capacity as she aged, and as a result, the arbitrator awarded the claimant PPD benefits for 35% loss of use of the claimant’s left great toe, and 35% loss of her left foot. Upon review, the Commission basically affirmed the arbitrator’s decision, but modified the arbitrator’s calculated amount of the percentage of loss of use of the claimant’s left big toe and left foot, as the Commission felt that the arbitrator’s estimation of the claimant’s use loss was too speculative, especially considering the claimant was still fully employed at the correctional center and did not suffer a corresponding reduction in her earnings.[5] Accordingly, the Commission adjusted and modified the arbitrator’s estimated loss of use of the claimant’s left big toe and left foot, to 20% and 30% respectively. The decision on appeal in this case is demonstrative of what can happen when, without definite evidence to support the factors listed in Section 8.1b of the WCA, an arbitrator’s PPD award can be modified by the Commission.[6]

[1]Mental health tech’s foot, great toe fractures merit PPD awards. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 11, August 13, 2021, page 4.
[2]See Id.

[3]See Id.

[4]See Id.

[5]See Id.

[6]See Id.