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Workers’ Compensation Benefits: The Difference Between Partial and Total Disability

On Behalf of | May 5, 2023 | Workers' Compensation

Workers’ comp benefits are typically available for workers who are injured on the job. But not all injuries are the same, nor are they treated the same. For example, some injuries are classified as partial and some as total. For workers’ comp’s sake, what’s the difference, and how does this difference affect a workers’ benefits?

Partial Disability

A partial disability is a disabling workplace injury that limits but does not prevent a worker from engaging in employment. Workers with partial disabilities can engage in some but not all of the primary tasks of their employment. Hence, they return to work but on a limited basis and make less money than normal.


With a temporary partial disability, a disabled worker will return to full duties at some point. While healing from their injuries, they will continue working and receive a disability payment for partial wage replacement. 

The formula for determining a worker’s temporary wage replacement payment involves calculating two-thirds of the difference between the worker’s normal pay and their reduced pay. 


Permanent partial disability refers to partially disabled workers who have reached their maximum medical improvement, meaning there is nothing more that can be done for their condition. Qualifying workers receive wage replacement calculated on the basis of one of four methods:

  • Wage Differential: Two-thirds of the difference in wages until 67 years old
  • Scheduled Injury: Calculation based on specific body parts and impairment
  • Percentage of Loss: How the disability has affected a worker’s earning potential
  • Degree of Disfigurement: The degree of disfigurement of certain body parts

Generally speaking, the nature of the injury factors heavily in the amount of time permanent partial disabilities last. 

Total Disability

Total disability means a worker’s disability prevents them from working in their current job whatsoever. When a total disability case arises, insurance companies want to verify that a worker’s injury is indeed total. Sadly, some employers and insurance companies make it difficult for injured workers to certify their total disability. But with an attorney on their side, they can effectively counter these insurance and employer efforts against them. 


A temporary total disability means a worker can’t work but only temporarily. During their period of repose and healing, totally disabled workers may receive two-thirds of their normal weekly income and 10% for their spouse and each child. 

Temporary total disability payments cover the fourth day after a person has been out of work. If they are out of work for more than 14 days, disability payments will cover the day following the injury-causing accident.


Permanent total disability refers to disabilities that permanently take away a worker’s ability to earn income. Conditions that qualify as permanent and total for workers’ comp purposes must have no further treatment options available, and doctors must believe that there will be no improvement in the disability.

When a worker’s injury is ruled to be permanent and total, they will be entitled to two-thirds of their average weekly income for the rest of their lives. Common types of permanent total disabilities include:

  • Full or partial loss of a body part
  • Full or partial loss of the use of a body part
  • Full or partial loss of the use of your body 

As with any disability, you must have clear medical evidence verifying that your disability is permanent. 

Getting Help with Workers’ Comp

Our workers’ comp lawyers at Foote, Mielke, Chavez & O’Neil are ready to assist workers in Geneva, IL, with their workers’ comp claims. Let us help you like we have helped thousands of others. Call our office today for a consultation.