Wage Differential: When Injuries Prevent You From Working
April 18, 2022
Under Illinois workers' compensation law, employers and their insurance providers must pay benefits to employees who get injured at work or suffer occupational illnesses. If you believe that you are entitled to wage differential payments, it’s important to reach out to a workers' compensation attorney to determine if these benefits apply to your specific case.
At Marker & Crannell, our results-driven and knowledgeable attorneys based in Naperville, Illinois, serve clients throughout the state, including Aurora, Woodridge, Romeoville, Bolingbrook, Lisle, Wheaton, and Joliet. We’re ready to advocate on your behalf to help you find a path forward.
What Are Wage Differential Payments?
Workers' compensation benefits cover an injured worker's medical expenses and pay for their permanent total or permanent partial disability. However, there is also another category of benefits under the Illinois workers' compensation system. These payments are known as "wage differential."
As the name implies, wage differential refers to the difference between the worker's pre-injury and post-injury wages. Wage differential payments may be available in a workers' compensation case when your injuries prevent you from working at full capacity.
Under Illinois law, workers may be entitled to wage differential benefits when their work-related injury or illness prevents them from returning to their pre-injury work and results in the reduction of wages.
How Much Are Wage Differential Payments?
In Illinois, workers can receive 66 2/3 percent of the difference between the wages they earned before the injury/illness and what the worker is currently earning. However, the amount paid to Illinois workers in wage differential benefits cannot be lower than what the worker would have earned during their disability.
Example. Let's imagine that a worker is disabled for 15 weeks after a workplace accident and returns to work that pays 500% less than his pre-injury wages. In this case, a wage differential payment would be $4,950. The calculation is as follows: 66% of $500 equals $330. Since the worker was disabled for 15 weeks, $330 should be multiplied by 15, which equals $4,950. The wage differential payment is $4,950.
Many workers do not realize that wage differential payments are in addition to any other workers' comp benefits they are entitled to because of a work-related injury or occupational illness. Speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your specific situation and help you determine if you are entitled to wage differential benefits.
Does a Wage Differential Apply to My Case?
There are two elements an injured worker must prove when seeking wage differential benefits in Illinois:
Partial incapacity. The worker is partially incapacitated, which means their injury or illness prevents them from working at full capacity and earning their pre-injury wages.
Reduced earnings. The second element to prove is that your wage differential payment does not exceed 100% of the average weekly wage in Illinois. According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the statewide average weekly wage for the first half of 2022 is $1,301.12.
Determining whether or not you are entitled to wage differential benefits in your workers’ compensation case is not always easy. That is why you should contact a skilled attorney to analyze your specific situation.
An Insurance Company May Deny Your Wage Differential Benefits
Even if you think you are entitled to wage differential benefits, an insurance company may still deny your claim. One of the requirements to receive a wage differential payment is to obtain documentation proving that you earn less than you did before the accident because you cannot perform your pre-injury job duties. However, seeking permanent total disability benefits may also be an option if you cannot engage in any meaningful and gainful employment.
Wage differential benefits can extend throughout a disabled worker’s life, which is why insurance companies will often do whatever it takes to deny coverage to a worker even if they are eligible for a wage differential payment. A common reason for denying a worker’s wage differential benefits is arguing that the worker could have earned more money in a different position or job.
Workers seeking wage differential benefits in Illinois need to contact an attorney to protect their rights and fight for the benefits to which they are entitled. An attorney will gather all available evidence to strengthen your case and deal with the insurance company on your behalf. Furthermore, an attorney can:
Represent your best interests during settlement negotiations
Take care of the paperwork and handle other legal aspects of your claim while you focus on your recovery
Advise you on your best course of action
Typically, it costs nothing to hire a workers’ compensation attorney since most of them work on a contingency fee basis. It means that these particular attorneys will not charge you a single penny unless they are successful in securing the benefits you need.
Get the Legal Guidance You Need
If you believe that you are entitled to wage differential benefits in Illinois, don’t delay. Reach out to legal guidance to secure the benefits you deserve. Our knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorneys at Marker & Crannell will use their knowledge to your advantage and fight for justice on your behalf. Schedule a case evaluation today to discuss your eligibility for wage differential benefits.