Dealing with, and Overcoming, Unforeseeable Hurdles in Your Illinois Workers’ Compensation Case

A worker who suffers a workplace injury in Illinois is entitled to pursue a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Some claims may proceed in a straightforward way, where the focus falls primarily, or solely, on whether or not the injury was compensable and the extent of benefits to which the worker was entitled (and which the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer will pay).

Other times, though, there are added “wrinkles” in a case. Many times, these extra hurdles are things that are impossible to see in advance. One of the best ways to protect yourself and your claim is to make sure that you have an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorney on your side, who knows how to navigate the system and engage in the proper procedural steps in response to any unexpected hurdles.

What do we mean by unexpected additional hurdles? Look at the case of G.K., an employee of a stucco contractor. G.K. was reportedly injured on the job in 2008 and filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. At this point, G.K.’s case might have seemed straightforward, but it wasn’t. There was a problem that was completely not the worker’s fault: the employer had breached its contract with its workers’ compensation insurer, so the courts decided that the insurance company was not legally obligated to pay anything in G.K.’s case.

When that happens, that does not mean that you, as an injured worker, are “out of luck” in terms of receiving payments of benefits; it just means that you have make some procedural changes in your case to get your benefits. G.K. made the proper change, adding the Illinois State Treasurer as a party in the case. (The state government has an Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund that pays injured workers whose situations were like G.K.’s, and that fund is administered by the Treasurer.)

G.K.’s case wound through the courts for an extended time. The arbitrator, commission and circuit court all ruled in his favor, but the Treasurer appealed all the way to the Appellate Court. While the case proceeded in that court, G.K. died of causes unrelated to his workplace accident.

Again, this complication does not mean that the benefits are lost; it just means that some additional legal action is required to deal with the change. Specifically, a probate estate for the deceased person must be opened and the estate must seek (and obtain) a court order appointing a person or entity to serve as the personal representative of the deceased person’s probate estate. Once the probate court has issued its order naming the personal representative, then court papers must be filed in the workers’ compensation case substituting the personal representative for the (now deceased) worker.

That step is essential because, under Illinois law, when an injured worker dies while his case for workers’ compensation benefits is ongoing, that death temporarily removes the court’s jurisdiction to do anything until a proper plaintiff is substituted to continue pursuing the case onward. That proper plaintiff is the personal representative.

What you can take from G.K.’s case is that it pays to be prepared for whatever wrinkles your case might have. You need an advocate who knows how to respond and what procedural and legal steps to take. For that kind of reliable representation, count on the knowledgeable Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca. Our attorneys have been helping injured workers and their families for many years and are ready to help you as you navigate the workers’ compensation claims system. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.