If you work in Illinois and have been injured on the job, you’re eligible to receive workers’ compensation. Yet you may not know anything about the workers’ compensation program.
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that every employer in the state needs to carry. It provides their employees with benefits for injuries that take place in the workplace or illnesses that arise out of the job. Employers in every state are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, although states often differ in their approach to the program.
For instance, some states don’t require employers to have workers’ comp insurance if they employ fewer than a minimum number of employees. Many other states have no such restrictions. In Illinois, anyone who employs even one person must provide workers’ compensation insurance.
All employees injured on the job, who have contracted an illness while on the job or have had a pre-existing condition made worse by work-related conditions are entitled to receive medical care related to their illness or injury. The employer, or the employer’s workers’ comp insurance company, will cover the cost of all medical treatment. An employee is also entitled to receive a portion of their wages if they miss time on the job due to a work-related illness or injury.
It’s important to note that workers’ compensation is not tort — that means that you can’t sue your employer for an injury or illness that you suffer because of your job. Workers’ compensation is no-fault. It’s an insurance program designed to cover medical costs and lost wages because of a workplace-related injury or illness. The only time you may be able to use tort is if you are in the small category of workers who are not covered by workers’ compensation. In that case, you could sue if you are injured in your workplace.
Illinois has had a workers’ compensation law for more than 80 years. Workers’ compensation in Illinois is administered by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC). It’s the state agency that resolves any disputed claims between an employee and their employer. The commission can explain its operation and the rules and laws under which it operates, but it cannot provide legal advice to either party in a dispute.
Illinois employers must provide workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. The insurance companies hired by employers to administer their workers’ compensation plans provide the funds to pay claims. Not all claims are settled, however. Sometimes an employer or their insurance company will deny an employee’s claim. Frequently they argue that the injury occurred off the worksite, it was the employee’s fault because of a drug or alcohol problem, or the injury was not work-related.
When such a dispute occurs, the IWCC adjudicates the claim and decides whether or not the employer owes the employee workers’ compensation benefits.
Employees injured on the job are entitled to medical care until they are fully recovered, and a doctor has decided that they are ready to return to work. The workers’ compensation program covers the cost of this medical care. Injured employees will also receive part of their wages if their injury or illness causes them to miss any time at work.
Almost all employees of any business in Illinois are covered by workers’ compensation. Exceptions include if you are an independent contractor, a federal worker, a farm worker or a Chicago police officer. We’ll discuss independent contractors more below.
If you were hired in Illinois but injured in another state while performing your job duties, you will still be covered under Illinois workers’ compensation laws.
Even if you have only been on the job one day or are still in training, you are entitled to workers’ compensation. According to the law, independent contractors are not covered under the Illinois workers’ compensation program. However, check your status closely. Occasionally, employers will try to avoid paying workers’ compensation benefits by labeling an employee an independent contractor even though they are not one. If you find yourself in such a situation, discuss it with an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney right away.
As we noted above, the workers’ compensation program is no-fault. You don’t need to show your employer was responsible for creating the conditions that led to your injury, but at the same time, you are not allowed to sue your employer.
Almost all injuries or illnesses that occur because of your employment are covered, whether in whole or in part. Even if you are responsible for the injury, if it occurred as part of your regular duties, you are still covered under the workers’ compensation law.
Some examples of the kind of injuries or illnesses covered include:
You are also covered by workers’ compensation if you are injured while carrying out duties off-site that are a part of your job. For instance, a person making deliveries or a cable-TV installer who is injured in the performance of their duties may file for workers’ compensation even though the injury did not take occur in the primary workplace. Nor does the injury or illness need to occur at a specific time. If you have developed an injury or illness over a period of several months, and that illness or injury is directly related to your employment, you can file for workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation also applies if you have a pre-existing condition that is made worse because of what you do as part of your job. For instance, if you have asthma and exposure to some substance makes that asthma worse, you can file a workers’ compensation claim.
There are some situations, however, where the Illinois workers’ comp laws do not cover employees:
Benefits available to an injured or an ill employee depend a great deal upon the nature of the illness or the injury, the state’s mandated regulations for specific kinds of injuries or illnesses and the benefits included as part of the entire program. For instance, along with the coverage of medical costs and lost wages, workers’ compensation benefits may also include:
How much you will receive for each injury depends upon the extent to which the injury leaves you disabled and unable to work. So a worker who is totally and permanently disabled and unable to return to their job at any point in time will, as a result, receive more compensation than an employee who is only temporarily disabled. For example, someone who has lost a leg as a result of a workplace injury will receive more compensation than someone who has a broken leg as a result of their employment.
Some of the payouts for temporary and permanent injuries under the Illinois comp laws include:
If an employee has a temporary total disability — meaning they have an injury serious enough to keep them away from work but not so severe that they can never return — they must wait three days before they can receive benefits. If the disability lasts two weeks or more, the employee can receive retroactive compensation. This means they can be compensated for the time between when the original injury occurred and when they started to receive benefits.
It is important to note that pain and suffering are not considered when determining the amount of a benefit under the workers’ compensation law that is due to an employee injured on the job.
If you are injured because of your employment, report that injury to your employer as soon as possible. If you are unable to report the injury immediately — perhaps you need emergency care at a medical facility — then you have 45 days to report the injury. If you wait longer than 45 days, you will lose the right to claim workers’ compensation benefits in almost every case.
There are some exceptions to the 45-day rule. For instance, if you have an illness that has developed over several months or years as a result of your employment or if you have an injury that’s a result of a repetitive act such as typing, you need to notify your employer as soon as you are aware of the acts of the illness or injury. If you were exposed to radiation and later suffered an injury because of it, you have 90 days after you know you were exposed to tell your employer.
It is illegal for an employer to harass or fire an employee because they have filed a workers’ compensation claim. They can, however, deny that claim, for some of the reasons we have mentioned above. If this does happen, the employee has the right to appeal to the IWCC, and the IWCC can order the employer to pay the employee’s benefits. An employee usually has up to three years after the original injury to file an appeal with the IWCC if their employer has denied the claim.
The time limit for filing a claim can vary to a significant degree in some cases. For instance, in any claim that involves asbestos, an employee has up to 25 years to file a claim. If an employee is exposed to radiation, they also have up to 25 years to file a claim after their last exposure to radiation.
The employer must then either accept the employee’s claim and start paying them their benefits or provide them with a written explanation of why their claim has been denied or delayed. The employer also needs to file an accident report with the IWCC within 30 days of being notified of any injury. If the employer fails to respond to the employee’s notification of their injury, the employee must file a claim with the IWCC.
If your employer or their insurance company deny your workers’ compensation claim, you have the right to file an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the IWCC. Once this claim has been filed, you can request a hearing before an IWCC arbitrator.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim is never easy. There’s a lot of paperwork involved, deadlines to meet and sometimes hearings to attend. Trying to do it on your own can be difficult, especially if you’re still suffering from the effects of your injury. That’s why it makes so much sense to work with attorneys experienced in the field of workers’ compensation law, like the attorneys at Argionis and Associates.
We care deeply about our clients and use our experience in workers’ compensation law to help them feel whole again and receive the benefits to which they are entitled. When you work with us, your case won’t be passed off to clerks but handled by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. We also work on a contingency basis, so you only pay legal costs if and when we recover all the benefits you deserve.
If you’d like to know more about our workers’ compensation experience, call us for a free consultation at 1-312-626-6294 or contact us online and a member of our team will get back to you as soon as possible.