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?
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)