Injured Worker Awarded Both Wage Loss Benefits and Permanent Total Disability Benefits
A beer truck delivery driver injured his low back on July 15, 1999 while moving cases of beer with a hand truck. He had surgery a few months later. Unfortunately, because of the severity of his injury, he could not return to his beer truck driver delivery job. His doctor had placed him on permanent restrictions. However, his employer did find him a job in its warehouse. The warehouse job paid much less. As his employer is required to do under Illinois law, it began paying wage differential benefits to compensate him for his permanent loss of income.
Unfortunately for this worker, he suffered a new injury on October 23, 2002. This time, he injured his neck while working in the warehouse. His doctor performed surgery a few months later. Following this surgery, his doctor placed him on even greater permanent restrictions. His employer could not accommodate these restrictions. The injured worker searched for a new job within these restrictions but could not find one. He took both of his cases to hearing. He argued that he was entitled to both the wage differential from his first injury and permanent total disability from his second injury.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission agreed that the injured worker was permanently disabled as a result of the second injury. However, the Workers’ Compensation Commission said that his right to wage loss benefits ended when he was unable to work following his second injury. The Circuit Court agreed.
The Illinois Appellate Court agreed with the injured worker and reversed the decision of the Circuit Court and the Workers’ Compensation Commission! The Appellate Court stated that the injured worker is entitled to both benefits — at the same time. The Appellate Court said that since the injured worker suffered two separate accidents, he is entitled to full compensation for both. His decreased earning capacity following the first injury did not end with his second, more severe injury. The first injury had resulted in permanent economic loss — one that prevented him from earning wages as a beer truck delivery driver. The second injury did not change the economic loss that the first injury had caused.
The Appellate Court said that Petitioner is not getting a double recovery. He suffered two distinct injuries with two distinct economic losses. He is entitled to recovery for both losses.