One feature of Illinois workers compensation cases is that workers will get hurt and recover, but perhaps not fully recover. It could be a temporary issue where you might be 100% in a few weeks or months or it could be permanent. And of course there are many instances right after a work accident where you can return to work, but maybe not to your full job.
When these situations happen, it’s likely your doctor will release you to return to work with restrictions. It could be something like no lifting more than 20 pounds or no overhead work. If you have a light duty or desk job then these restrictions probably don’t matter. But if you are a laborer or work in a factory setting then it could be a problem. In other words, if you are a carpenter, you probably will need to do overhead work. If you work on an assembly line, it’s likely you often lift more than 20 pounds.
In those situations, returning to work could be a risk to your health. So it comes down to will your employer accommodate those restrictions. Sometimes they say they will, but it’s really bs and they will pressure you to do more strenuous work than your body can handle. Other times they will simply state that if you can’t work your normal job there is no work for you.
When that happens, your job is to focus on getting healthy. In the meantime, you should receive TTD benefits on a weekly basis. You do not have to look for work within your restrictions. You also do not and should not try to return to work in violation of what your doctor recommends. There is no time limit for how long you can receive TTD benefits. Please note that if you have a second job that is within your doctor’s restrictions, you can continue to perform that work.
In some cases, your restrictions become permanent. In other words, for the rest of your work life you will be limited in how much you can lift, how long you can stand, etc. In one case, we represented a 20 something year old who was left with permanent restrictions for life before he turned 30. These restrictions happen when there are really serious accidents or medical issues. It also happens when you have a really heavy duty job.
When this happens and your employer can’t find work for you, you are then required to look for work within your restrictions. As long as you do that, you should receive maintenance benefits. These payments are the same amount as TTD. You can also request, at the expense of the insurance company, vocational rehabilitation. This is a medical benefit wherein a job counselor can help you look for work, prepare a resume, suggest lines of work that would be good for you, help you prepare for interviews and more.
This process also does not have a time limit, although generally speaking within six months or so we’d expect to have an idea how much you can earn.
The goal is for you to earn as much in the new job as you did in your old job. If there’s a significant gap, the insurance company could be on hook for 2/3 of the difference, tax free, for the longer of five years or until you turn 65. And if it’s determined that there is no stable job market for you due to your injuries and job capabilities, you could be declared permanently disabled and receive benefits for the rest of your life.
What we would warn you of is that employers and insurance companies often play games or otherwise try to stop you from receiving benefits. You should follow your doctor’s guidance and not let them pressure you. A good attorney can protect you from insurance company attacks like IME’s, surveillance or other actions. If you’d like to speak with an experienced lawyer for free, you can call us any time at 312-346-5578.