Some Illinois work comp legal terms make total sense and need no explanation. Others for whatever reason are very confusing and if you’ve never been involved in a work injury case before they seem like a foreign language.

One such term that comes to mind right away is “man as a whole.”  When you settle your case, you get a percentage of loss of use to a certain body part. It’s a legal fiction that tries to state that you’ve somehow lost a certain amount of use to a part of your body. I call it a fiction because it is something you get even if you make a full recovery.

If you hurt your knee, your settlement will be based on a percentage loss of the leg. If you hurt your elbow, you will be paid based on a percentage of the arm.  If you hurt your wrist it’s based on a loss of the hand.  Each body part is assigned a certain value.  A leg is worth 200 weeks of benefits.  So if your leg got cut off, you’d receive 200 weeks of benefits. If you had a surgery and an Arbitrator awarded you 25% loss of the leg, you’d get 50 weeks of benefits even if you can walk.

There is no loss of use of the back or neck or head.  They are all grouped in to something called “man as a whole.”  What that means that if you get a concussion or a back fusion from the job, it’s called man as a whole even though they are different body parts.  Man as whole injuries are the most valuable cases in Illinois work comp as they are based off of 500 weeks of benefits.

You’ll never have a 100% loss of the man as a whole case because if you had your head cut off you’d of course die and if you back or neck were so seriously injured you’d receive permanent disability benefits.  But it’s not uncommon to have such a big injury that you get 40% loss of a man as a whole as your settlement which is the same as you’d get for having a leg cut off.

As of now (an important case related to it is under appeal), if you hurt your shoulder, it’s actually considered a loss of use as the man (another way to say man as a whole case).  This is important because if you hurt your arm or any other body part and get a settlement, if you ever have an injury to that same body part in the future, your future settlement would be reduced by the old one. For example, if in 2015 you settled a work comp case for 15% of the leg, if in 2020 you had a new injury that was worth 25% of the leg, you’d only get 10% of the leg as the insurance company gets credit for the old injury.

But for man as a whole cases, there is no credit.  So you can get 35% loss of the man in 2015, 40% loss of the man in 2018 and 35% loss of the man in 2020 (total of 110%) and get paid the full amount each time.  This is really important and a good lawyer won’t put the settlement to any body part if they can avoid it.

These body parts are worth the most because if you have injuries to any of them then the rest of your body will not function well. It’s not common sense stuff for sure.  If you want to talk with one of our lawyers for free about it, you can call or email us any time. We help injured workers everywhere in Illinois.