As some may know, former workers comp arbitrator Jerry Jutila passed away recently. While he was battling illness, he nevertheless found the time to write a wonderful guide to arbitrators.
If you’re a workers comp lawyer, stop what you’re doing and read it. Right now.
It’s intended for arbitrators and practitioners and should help people (especially new attorneys) learn to do things the right way. Many do, many more don’t.
I’ll keep a copy at my desk and read it from time to time. I suggest you do too.
(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury and workers compensation attorney from Rock Island, Illinois, practicing primarily in Rock Island, Henry, Mercer, Knox and Whiteside counties in Illinois and Scott and surrounding counties in Iowa. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)
One of the key features of the new workers compensation act in Illinois is that arbitrators are directed to use the AMA Guides (6th Edition) as a factor when awarding permanent partial disability. Specifically, Section 8.1b(b) requires the arbitrator to consider (a) the reported impairment rating, (b) the occupation of the employee, (c) the age of the employee at time of injury, (d) the employee’s future earning capacity, and (e) evidence of disability corroborated by the treating medical records. Additionally, the arbitrator must explain the relevance and weight of each factor he/she used “in addition to the level of impairment as reported by the physician.”
So does a physician NEED to report a level of impairment? Likewise, does the arbitrator NEED an impairment rating to approve contracts or enter a finding of disability?
According to the Commissioner’s office, the answers are No, and No.
I’m speaking at a seminar in Fairview Heights in February in detail about the effect of the new rule and the application of the AMA Guides. For now, there may not be as much of a shockwave as we thought.
(Howard Zimmerle is a personal injury and workers compensation attorney in Rock Island, Illinois, practicing in all of Western Illinois. He can be reached at 309-794-1660 or hzimmerle [at] mjwlaw.com)