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Posted On: January 20, 2012 by Donald W. Fohrman

Illinois mechanic proves material increase in disability, wins award under Section 8(d)2

The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission granted the claimant's petition for review under Sections 8(a) and 19(h), finding that the claimant's ongoing medical treatment was causally related to the work accident, thereby entitling the claimant to an award of medical costs. The Commission further found that the claimant proved a material increase in his disability since the date of arbitration, thereby entitling the claimant to an additional award of 35% loss of a person as a whole under Section 8(d)2.

Case name: Ridgeway v. TLC Inc., 19 ILWCLB 203

On Jan 8, 2002, Ridgeway, a head mechanic, went out to work on a truck, knocked over a jug containing a slippery substance, stepped in the substance, fell and fractured his left ankle. He underwent two surgeries and wore a brace to stabilize the ankle. His doctor opined that Ridgeway might need fusion surgery in the future. The arbitrator approved a settlement contract Feb. 18, 2005, with the defendant agreeing to pay Ridgeway 40% loss of use of the left foot. Pursuant to the settlement contract, the parties agreed to keep Sections 8(a) and 19(h) rights open under the WCA. At issue in this case is Ridgeway's petition for review under Sections 8(a) and 19(h). Ridgeway requested causally related medical expenses incurred since Feb 18., 2005. He also requested a wage differential award pursuant to Section 8(d)1. The Commission awarded additional benefits based on a material increase in disability to the extent of 35% under Section 8(d)2 and $5,507.66 for medical expenses under Section 8(a).

The defendant argued that Ridgeway was barred from seeking a wage loss differential because he elected a specific remedy and waived recovery under all other provisions of the WCA at the time he settled his claim in 2005. Rejecting this argument the Commission noted that when Ridgeway settled his case, he did not elect a particular remedy. Therefore he was not barred
from recover under other provisions of the WCA.

However, Ridgeway failed to prove entitlement to wage differential benefits because he did not provide evidence of the of the average amount he would be able to earn in the full performance of his duties as a head mechanic. As an award for wage differential benefits would be based on speculation, the Commission decided to award benefits based upon the loss of use of the person as a whole under Section 8(d)1.

Due to his left foot impairment, Ridgeway continued to work subject to permanent sedentary restrictions. He was unable to return to work as a full-time truck mechanic or driver because he cannot stand or walk for longer than two hours, he is unable to open a truck hood with a foot pedal, and he cannot stand on truck frames. Ridgeway underwent multiple surgeries, including an ankle fusion which left him with substantial physical limitations. He returned to work at a job with less pay and fewer hours. Relying on other Commission decisions which found it appropriate under Section 8(d)2 to award benefits for a specific loss, the Commission concluded that Ridgeway incurred a material increase in his disability to the extent of 35% loss of use of the person as a whole under Section 8(d)2.