By far the number one question we get from injured Illinois workers is, “What is my case worth?”  That makes sense. If you are missing time from work, it can greatly impact your life financially. It’s natural to be curious about how you will be compensated in the end.

One unknown thing from just about every injured Illinois worker I talk to about settlements has to do with the issue of credits for prior injury. I try to talk in plain English and will attempt to do so here, but this involves breaking down a legal concept that isn’t common sense. So if you have any questions about this or I’m not being clear, please fill out my contact form or call me at 888-705-1766.  Misunderstanding how this works could cost you tens of thousands of dollars if you have an arm injury from the job.

When we settle work comp cases, a lot of factors come in to play. Your wages, medical treatment, ultimate recovery, age and any controversies all factor in to the value.  So to does the body part involved. Each body part has been assigned a value of up to 100% disability. For example, a foot is valued at 167 weeks of disability. If you lost 100% use of your foot, your settlement would be 167 times your permanency rate which is 60% of your wage.  If you weekly wages were $1,000.00, your permanency rate would be $600.00.  And if you lost 100% use of your foot, you’d end up with $100,200.00 which is 167 weeks times $600.

Now in almost no case does someone get a 100% loss unless there is an amputation. So if you had a disability rating of 30% loss of your foot, you’d get 50.1 weeks of benefits (167 x .3 = 50.1). Hopefully this makes sense so far. Now comes the important part.

If you had one settlement for 30% loss of a foot, if you ever had an additional injury to that foot, your employer would get a credit for any additional injury. In other words, if your next case resulted in a 40% disability, they’d only have to pay you 10% in new money. If you had a minor injury like a foot sprain, they’d probably have to pay you nothing.

Like I said, each body part is assigned a different value. A leg is 215 weeks. The arm is 253 weeks. Neck, head, and back injuries are called “man as a whole” because when you hurt that part of your body, it impacts everything. As a result, they are worth up to 500 weeks of benefits, by far the most valuable injury you can have. On top of that, the insurance company doesn’t get a credit if you have a new injury. So you could have a 25% man as a whole injury two years ago from a back problem. If you re-hurt your back (neck or head too) and got an injury worth 35%, you’d get all of that money without any deduction for the old problem.

Stick with me, because here’s where it gets really important. The shoulder most people would say is part of the arm and it was that way at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission until 2012. At that time, a case called Will County Forest Preserve somehow decided that shoulder injuries should be considered “man as a whole” which means that if you had previously hurt your arm and got a settlement for a loss of the arm, if you now hurt your shoulder, the insurance company gets no credit.

This was and is a controversial ruling and there has been a lot of discussion about the legislature over-ruling it. But here we are ten years later and nothing has changed.  That said, we still see insurance companies and defense attorneys trying to make settlements for rotator cuff and other shoulder problems as loss of an arm, not loss of a man as a whole. They want to do this because if in the future you were to hurt your elbow, forearm, etc., that case would be worth much less.

We also see workers who hurt their shoulder before the law changed and got a settlement for loss of use of the arm. Now years later they have a new shoulder injury and the insurance company wants to get a credit from the old case. That’s not how the law works and only a weak attorney would let them get away with it.  That type of mistake would cost you tens of thousands of dollars and should never happen.

This isn’t an easy subject to write on clearly, but it’s really important for injured Illinois workers to know about. If you have ANY questions please do not hesitate to reach out. It will always be free and confidential.