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Receiving Permanent Total Disability Benefits After a Work InjuryMost workplace injuries are ones that you expect to recover from with time. You may need to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages if you miss time from work. Unfortunately, some injuries cause permanent disability that will forever affect your ability to work. If your disability makes you unable to work any job, you may qualify to receive Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits for the rest of your life. Because the workers’ compensation insurer is likely to contest a PTD claim, you would need the help of a workers’ compensation lawyer to prove your case.

What Is a Permanent Total Disability?

Your disability is permanent and total if you are incapable of performing any work tasks for which you could receive employment and if your condition is unlikely to improve. Most PTDs involve losing a body part or losing your ability to use that body part. However, you do not have to be completely incapable of normal function in order to qualify for PTD benefits. You can argue that your disability has made you unable to obtain employment if:

  • You make a good-faith effort to apply for jobs but have not received any job offers
  • You do not have the education or training to qualify for jobs that could accommodate your disability
  • Your age makes it unreasonable to expect you to retrain for a new career

You may qualify for Permanent Partial Disability if you are capable of working in a limited capacity or in a position that pays less than what you made before.

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What Are Retail Employees’ Rights to Workers’ Compensation?Though they may not have the most dangerous job, retail employees have a high rate of work-related injuries. You are less likely to suffer a catastrophic injury while working at a retail store than working for a construction company, but labor studies suggest that retail workers have a higher injury rate than construction workers. If you have suffered an injury from retail work, you have the right to request workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses and missed pay from the time you are forced to take off from work. Your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Retail Injuries

Many retail stores require their employees to perform physical tasks that can result in injury. For example:

  • A customer has spilled a drink or tracked water into the store, and you slip on the liquid because you did not notice it.
  • The repetitive strain from lifting heavy objects causes chronic muscle pain.
  • You accidentally cut yourself with a knife while opening a box.
  • You are involved in a forklift accident while working in the stockroom.
  • You are hit by a car while collecting shopping carts from a parking lot.

It does not matter who was at fault for your injury or whether you could have avoided the injury. If you are injured while you are working for your employer, you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

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Workers’ Compensation Includes People Who Work From HomeAll non-essential businesses in Illinois have been closed to the public in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Some employees are able to work from home and may continue to do so after the stay-at-home order is lifted. Even before this public health crisis, many jobs were trending towards telecommuting in order for businesses to save money on office space. Because you are rarely in an employer-owned office, you may be surprised to learn that it is possible to receive workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured while working from home.

When Do Home Injuries Qualify?

Workers’ compensation claims are not limited to incidents that occur while you are on your employer’s property. The workers’ compensation insurance covers any injuries that happen while you are doing work on behalf of your employer. For instance, you are working if you are visiting someone on a sales call or driving a truck to deliver goods. The same applies when you are working from home. If you trip and fall while working at home, you can file a claim to cover your medical expenses and provide you with disability benefits if your injury prevents you from working. It does not matter that your employer does not control the safety conditions of your home.

Proving Your Claim

When you are injured on company property or in a public place, you have the advantage of witnesses who can confirm that you were injured and when it occurred. You likely do not have a witness if you are injured while working at home, which may give your employer and its workers’ compensation insurer a reason to scrutinize your claim. To support your claim, you should:

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Creditors Cannot Touch Your Workers’ Compensation SettlementSuffering an injury at work can put you in an immediate financial bind. Although you can receive disability benefits if you are unable to work, those benefits are only two-thirds of what you normally make. Your expenses also go up if you need continued medical treatment for your injury. Without adequate health insurance to cover your treatment, you could end up owing hundreds of thousands of dollars to doctors. Injured workers rely on receiving workers’ compensation benefits in order to pay these expenses, but sometimes the debts pile up too fast before the worker can receive payment. If you file for bankruptcy, will you be able to keep your workers’ compensation benefits? A recent Illinois Supreme Court ruling confirmed that money awarded or settled upon in a workers’ compensation case is protected during bankruptcy from the healthcare providers that treated the injuries related to the workers' compensation case.

Protection for Your Compensation

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act includes a section stating that creditors cannot seize a debtor’s workers’ compensation award or settlement. Illinois and federal courts have long recognized that this section of the law works as an exemption when someone files for bankruptcy. The total benefits received in a workers’ compensation case can be used to pay for:

  • Medical expenses
  • Missing wages
  • Wage differential compensation
  • Vocational training

Recent Case

In the case of In re Elena Hernandez, a woman had filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy in 2016. Among her debts were $138,000 she owed to three medical practices that had treated an injury related to an ongoing workers’ compensation case. The woman listed her pending workers’ compensation claim as an asset and estimated its value at $31,000. She reached a settlement with her employer for approximately that amount two days after filing for bankruptcy. The three medical providers argued that the workers’ compensation settlement should not be exempt from them because of amendments made to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act in 2005. The revisions created new fee schedules for injuries and limited what providers could collect from employers. The providers claimed that the revisions created a new exception to the part of the act that exempted workers' compensation settlements from creditors.

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How Workplace Injuries Can Lead to AmputationAccording to a 2017 survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor, one out of every 20,000 workers suffers a workplace injury that results in or requires an amputation. However, that statistic is deceptive because it includes all workers, including those at jobs where there is virtually no chance of someone losing a body part. Manufacturing, construction, and agriculture are the industries with the highest rate of amputation injuries, which may be as high as 2.1 out of every 10,000 workers. There are several reasons why amputation injuries are more likely to occur in these industries.

What Causes Amputations?

A workplace injury may result in someone losing a body part if the part was cut off during the incident or damaged to the point that a doctor was forced to amputate it. According to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, amputation injuries can occur when a worker:

  • Operates a machine that is used for actions such as cutting, pressing, grinding, and crushing
  • Sets up or performs maintenance on these machines
  • Handles heavy materials that may fall on and crush a body part
  • Uses tools that are capable of cutting or otherwise severely injuring someone

How Do You Prevent Amputation Injuries?

OSHA states that amputation injuries most often occur because guards on the machinery are not being used, workers are inadequately trained to use the equipment, or proper safety procedures are not in place. To prevent these accidents, OSHA advises that employers should make sure that:

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