The length of time that it can take for an Illinois workers’ compensation claim to be resolved can vary greatly, and depends on many factors. In many cases, patience and time is required in order for the injured worker to obtain the maximum value for his or her workers’ comp case. As an example, I will discuss the case of injured worker Kenneth Lenhart, which took approximately five years. The original injury occurred in December 2004, but no vocational training was offered until 2009. Mr. Lenhart’s case was then presented before an arbitrator. A number of witnesses testified at the hearing, including several doctors and rehabilitation counselors.
The arbitrator felt that the injured worker failed to prove that he was totally and permanently disabled, on what is known as an, “Odd Lot Theory.” Instead, the worker was awarded a percentage of loss of his whole body of 75%, equaling $212,951 over a period of a little over seven years, in December 2004 rates.
The Illinois Industrial Commission confirmed the findings of the arbitrator, but their decision was further appealed by the injured worker. In an opinion dated March 20, 2015, the Illinois Appellate Court affirmed only part of the Commission decision, but ruled that the injured worker was entitled to be evaluated under a wage loss theory, since he had not waived his right for that kind of determination in his case.
The wage loss theory in effect states that the injured worker may recover two-thirds of the difference between what he could have earned through the full performance of his duties and the amount that he is actually able to earn. Using the figures stated in the Appellate Court decision, this award would mean the client would receive $559.73 per week, since currently, he could only earn between $10 and $15 per hour, and, at the time of the injury, he would have been able to earn $33.49 an hour, meaning that his loss would be $20.99 an hour. Two-thirds of this sum is $13.99, or $559.73, or $29,106.13 per year for the duration of his disability, which theoretically would continue into the future, based on his permanent restrictions.
It would take the injured worker less than 10 years to recoup the same amount of money in the wage loss. Unfortunately, the injured worker’s age is not stated in the decision, so it’s hard to tell how long he would likely receive the wage loss benefit, and of course, it would be extinguished in the event of his death from causes unrelated to the original work injury. It appears to me that the length of time it took for his workers’ compensation case was worth the wait for him, since much of the weekly benefits would have accrued during the lengthy appeal.