Chicago Workers’ Compensation Lawyers & Illinois Injury Lawyers

Using the Procedural Rules to Your Benefit in Your Illinois Workers’ Compensation Case

| May 29, 2024 | Worker Compensation |

There are several different ways you can win your legal case. One way to succeed is to persuade the court that your case is sufficiently strong on the facts to necessitate a decision in your favor. Another way is to argue compellingly that, regardless of certain facts, you are entitled to a favorable ruling based on some aspect of the law or rules of procedure. Both are viable ways to achieve a successful outcome, and the latter is one in which the skill and knowledge of an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorney can provide major benefits.

An example of the latter situation, and a worker who achieved success as a result, was the workers’ compensation claim filed by Ashley, a worker for a nursing home in a small town in north-central Illinois. During her employment with the facility, Ashley injured her left shoulder in November 2010. The worker filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, and the case went to a hearing. The arbitrator ruled in favor of Ashley, awarding both temporary total disability and permanent partial disability benefits. The employer noticed a clerical error and brought it to the arbitrator’s attention, and the arbitrator issued a corrected decision that still awarded Ashley benefits.

In many cases, your hearing before a workers’ compensation arbitrator is not the end of the line. The next step for the unsuccessful side is the Workers’ Compensation Commission. If a losing party chooses to continue, the next step is to appeal to a circuit court. The next step after that is the Illinois Appellate Court.

The commission and a LaSalle County circuit judge ruled for the employer, but the Appellate Court gave Ashley a favorable outcome. Whichever step you are at in the process, it is important to understand all of the rules and all of your options and make sure that the case you present to the court (or other decision-making entity) gives the court as many different bases as possible for ruling in your favor.

Ashley’s case in the Appellate Court had two major prongs. She attacked the content of the commission and Circuit Court’s decisions, arguing that those rulings were “against the manifest weight of the evidence,” meaning that the factual evidence necessarily required a ruling that her injury was job-related and that she should receive benefits. She also put forward a technical argument that, regardless of what the Appellate Court thought of the factual evidence, the employer was not entitled to succeed because it did not follow the proper procedural steps when it made its first appeal to the commission.

The procedural argument Ashley made was the one that won her appeal. The rules give a party who seeks to appeal an arbitrator’s decision 30 days to file. The employer filed within the 30-day deadline in this case, but it requested that the commission review the arbitrator’s original order, rather than the corrected decision. The employer never filed for review of the corrected decision at all. That might seem like a very technical and insignificant error, but it was major in this case. Since the arbitrator issued a corrected decision, that made the original decision non-final and non-appealable. Since the employer sought review of a non-appealable order and never sought review of the final, appealable decision in a timely manner, the commission didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the case, and the arbitrator’s decision in Ashley’s favor was required to stand.

Many rules of procedure are strict and have severe consequences for failing to follow them. Sometimes, those consequences can work in your favor. If you have been hurt at work, make sure you have representation that gives you the in-depth knowledge of the law and the rules that you need. The diligent Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca have been helping injured workers for many years pursue their cases and seek the benefits they deserve. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 312-724-5846 or through our website.

More Blog Posts:

An Illinois Truck Driver’s Pre-Existing Conditions Didn’t Stop Her From Proving Her Workplace Accident Caused Her ‘Condition of Ill-Being’, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Oct. 16, 2017

Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Workers’ Compensation Award for Firefighter with PTSD Injury, Chicago Injury Attorneys Blog, Aug. 31, 2017