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What Are Permanent Disabilities?

Posted By Legal Team | April 28 2023 | Personal Injury

It’s all too easy to genuinely empathize with other people who have disabilities but never consider that it could happen to you—until it does. Whether it’s a catastrophic accident, a grave illness, or an ongoing medical condition, disability isn’t something anyone wants or anticipates, but approximately 1 in every 4 adults in the United States lives with a disability, with conditions ranging from mobility problems to cognitive impairment.

In Illinois and other states, Workers’ Compensation insurance defines the difference between temporary and permanent disabilities in their claims. Temporary disabilities are those that improve over time and eventually allow the employee to return to work in their former capacity while permanent disabilities are indefinitely ongoing and don’t allow the disabled person to return to their former position. A person with a permanent disability may have to seek a different line of work or exit the workforce completely. Permanent disabilities require a different level of benefits from Workers’ Compensation insurance and private disability insurance coverage compared to temporary ones.

Types of Permanent Disabilities

Insurance law considers two types of permanent disabilities:

  • Partial permanent disability: includes the loss of a body part, loss of function of a body part, or the partial loss of whole body function. This may require an employee to take a lesser-paying position that doesn’t demand as much from them physically as their previous position.
  • Permanent total disability: a complete disability that leaves the employee totally unable to work.

Once an injury victim reaches what a doctor considers their Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) Workers’ Compensation benefits may end when the employee is able to return to work in their previous capacity or in a different position. If their MMI leaves them permanently disabled, the benefits of private insurance may continue into retirement, but Workers’ Compensation uses a schedule of payments that max out eventually depending on the nature of the injury.

Workers’ Compensation benefits only cover workplace injuries. Employees injured in accidents that are unconnected to their employment must rely on either their private disability insurance or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). 

Examples of Permanent Disabilities

Some permanent disabilities occur on the job, such as the loss of a limb from a piece of dangerous equipment. Other workplace-related disabilities may develop over time, such as cancer from toxic exposure on the job. Examples of permanent disabilities include:

  • Amputations
  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Brain injury
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s disease

Determining Permanent Disabilities

Whether or not you can receive benefits for a permanent disability depends on a doctor’s prognosis for your condition. Regardless of how the injury occurred, a doctor must perform a complete evaluation to determine that your outcome is a permanent disability once you’ve reached maximum medical improvement. A part of this medical evaluation process also determines if your disability is partial or permanent. Anything less than a doctor’s agreement that you are 100% disabled typically results in a determination of partial disability.

Both Workers’ Compensation insurance and private insurance companies will argue against a rating of permanent total disability and use a variety of tactics to deny claims in order to avoid long-term compensation payouts. Many people who find themselves facing a permanent disability hire an experienced Chicago personal injury lawyer to advocate strongly for their rights.

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