Section 8.1b of the newly amended Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act states that Arbitrators must now consider the American Medical Association’s “Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment” as a factor in deciding permanency awards. This means that employers and insurance companies will hire doctors to rate an injured worker’s impairment based on the guidelines in this book.
An arbitrator recently approved a settlement contract for an injured worker who suffered a torn meniscus. The injured worker did not hire an attorney and negotiated his settlement with an attorney for his employer’s insurance company. The lawyer showed the injured worker a report which stated his impairment was 1% of the lower extremity. The injured worker then agreed to settle his case for 1.5% loss of use of the leg. This is compared to the 15% to 20% loss of use generally awarded in this type of case.
What the injured worker did not know is that the Arbitrator could have considered more than the impairment report. The Act requires the Arbitrator to take into account the injured employee’s occupation, age, future earning capacity and evidence of disability corroborated by medical records. By not having an advocate on his side this injured worker agreed to accept about twenty times less than his case was worth.