Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Illinois Supreme Court allows PTD and PPD in same case

The Illinois Supreme Court on May 21, 2009 in Beelman Trucking v The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission, addressed whether claimant could obtain both a statutory permanent total award for leg injuries and additional PPD benefits for loss of use of his arms.

Claimant sustained injuries in 1995 while driving his employer's truck, resulting in paralysis of both legs, paralysis of the left arm, and amputation of of the right arm above the elbow. The arbitrator found claimant a statutory PTD under 8(3) (18) for the loss of his legs, The employer appealed an award of over 400 weeks for additional disability to the arms. The employer disputed an award of over $12,000 for a home computer system as a reasonable and necessary expense to control lighting and allow claimant to use the internet. The employee's doctor concluded the computer system was necessary for therapeutic purposes to "preserve some vestige of autonomy. "

The employer argued that an award of total under section (18) precluded an additional award for PPD. The court rejected the defense noting a statutory "total" was not a literal meaning but a determination that certain injuries should be compensated at certain fixed figures, citing Freeman in which a worker was a statutory total but continued to work and received benefits for a subsequent injury. In Beelman, claimant did not elect to obtain duplicate benefits for the same body part, as in Arview, but could recover under (18) for his legs and separately under (10) for his arms.

The court concluded the finding that computer-related expenses were necessary and reasonable medical expenses was not against the manifest weight of the evidence. The court also affirmed an award of insurance premiums for a modified van to pay additional fees to insure the modifications to the van that the disability requires.