The Illinois Legislature recently amended the Illinois Workers Compensation Act. The majority of the changes to the Act became effective as of September 1, 2011, and apply to any work accidents that occur after that date. Three specific changes to the Act will directly affect an injured workers' permanency benefit. First, Illinois will now utilize AMA guidelines as one of several factors used to determine the value of permanent partial disability. The guidelines will define, among other things, loss of range of motion, loss of strength and any other measurable information that may assist in determination of the nature and extent of the disability. In addition to the AMA guidelines, the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission will consider the injured employees' occupation, age at the time of injury and future earning capacity in determining permanency. The second change affecting permanency applies to all individuals with hand injuries and, in particular, those claiming carpel tunnel syndrome. Section 8(e)(9) of the Act has been amended to reduce the maximum number of weeks for a hand injury to 190 (from 205). Additionally, a permanency claim based on carpal tunnel syndrome will be capped at 15% loss of use of the hand (28.5 weeks). If the employee can show additional disability by "clear and convincing evidence" the employee can receive up to 30% loss of use of the hand (57 weeks). Finally, an employee who has permanent restrictions as a result of the work injury and is unable to return to their prior employment will only be entitled to wage differential benefits until age 67, or five years from the date of the award, whichever is longer. This represents a significant change in the Act as the law previously allowed the injured employee to collect wage differential benefits for life. If you have questions regarding the recent changes to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act or any aspect of your workers' compensation claim please feel free to contact the attorneys at Noonan Perillo Ltd., at (847) 244-0111.