For Illinois workers, incurring a workplace injury can be a traumatic experience. On top of worrying over possible long-term effects on health and impairments to the ability to make a living, the anxiety over how to respond can be overwhelming. For this reason, understanding at a high level how to file for workers’ compensation, possibly with the help of an attorney, can provide relief.
The first step in the process is to seek medical care as early as is practical. Depending on personal circumstances, this may mean seeing an employer-sponsored doctor or another doctor of choice. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act requires employers to permit injured workers to see at least one doctor that is not necessarily sponsored by the employer.
Deadlines for notifying and filing
It is critical to officially notify the employer of the injury within 45 days of its occurrence. Executing this step in the process is a necessary condition for collecting benefits. Failing to notify the employer within that timeframe is tantamount to forfeiting the right to benefits, which is otherwise preserved by law.
After notifying the employer, the worker must file a claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. This claim is called an Application for Adjustment Claim and is to be delivered to the employer. In most cases, such as a back injury, this step must be completed within three years of the injury. Exceptions include injuries resulting from exposure to radiation or asbestos, along with other respiratory disorders.
The employer also has an active role to play in the claim process. Among other responsibilities, the following actions must be taken:
- Make the worker aware of approved medical providers
- Inform the employer’s insurer to begin the claims process
- Accept the worker’s claim or explain the reason for denial or delay
- File an accident report with the IWCC
The failure of the employer to uphold these responsibilities can jeopardize the injured worker’s ability to receive the care and compensation to which they may be entitled. This is another reason why an experienced attorney may prove beneficial.
Some helpful reminders
There are a few additional points to remember during the process of filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. First, workers’ compensation in Illinois is a no-fault system, which among other things means that, even if the worker’s actions contributed to the injury, the right to receive benefits remains in place. Second, concern over management’s perception of filing a claim is likely to be unfounded. In most cases, the transaction is taken care of between the worker’s lawyer and the employer’s insurer.