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Carpenter’s Injuries to Fingers Warrant Multiple Permanency Awards

Casey Woodruff

undefinedAttorney Lee Alhambra’s recent arbitration victory on behalf of a Carpenter was featured in the January 29, 2014, Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, a publication that highlights significant decisions and developments in workers’ compensation law.

In the case, the claimant worked as a lead carpenter, performing home remodeling and basement finishing. The claimant sustained severe lacerations to his fingers when he attempted to reach out and catch a falling reciprocating saw. The claimant sustained open fracture of the right index finger, laceration to the digital ulnar nerve, lacerations to the right little finger, fracture of the little finger and a laceration to the middle finger. The claimant underwent open reduction surgery with hardware and internal fixation of the right index finger. Damage to the digital nerve was not repairable.

Generally, claimants are entitled to one disability award (PPD) per injured body part. However, for work accidents that involve multiple digits, if the claimant can show that the injuries to the fingers ultimately results in ongoing symptoms of pain, problems with grasping, decreased grip strength and decreased range of motion, he may be entitled to disability award for not only each finger, but also a disability award for the hand.

In this case, the claimant testified that he continued to have shooting and throbbing pains, as well as numbness and tingling to the index and little finger. The claimant also testified that he was no longer able to work as a carpenter due to his inability to pull a trigger on a saw and difficulties gripping a hammer. He demonstrated at trial that he was unable to make a complete fist. The Arbitrator found these complaints credible and awarded 40% loss of right index finger, 20% loss of the right little finger and 10% of the right hand under Section 8(e) of the Act.

The Respondent appealed the permanency awards, arguing that the claimant was only entitled PPD based on the loss of use of the index and little fingers. Upon review, the majority of the Commission affirmed and adopted the decision of the arbitrator.

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