Normally, if you are hurt on the job in Illinois, you are limited to receiving only workers’ compensation benefits. If, however, your employer didn’t have valid workers’ compensation insurance at the time of your injury, then the range of outcomes is very different. In that circumstance, your employer isn’t shielded by the protections of the Workers’ Compensation Act, which means that you are no longer prohibited from suing your employer in civil court and getting a damages award in the full amount of the harm you suffered. This may help because a civil court damages award could be massively bigger than the award of workers’ comp benefits you otherwise would have received. To do that requires clearing many legal procedural hurdles that are often technically intricate and complicated, so it pays to have a knowledgeable Chicago workers’ compensation attorney on your side.
As an example, there’s the appellate court judgement regarding the case of J.G., a worker for a food manufacturer in the Chicago area. When he was hurt at work in early 2018, J.G. hired legal counsel to handle his workers’ compensation case. His attorney began investigating the case and discovered that J.G.’s employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance at the time of J.G.’s accident.
To be able to bypass the workers’ comp process and instead take your employer to civil court based on your employer’s lack of valid insurance coverage, you have to jump through several hoops in terms of proof.
In Illinois, one of those hoops is litigating a case before the Workers’ Compensation Commission in which you prove that the employer failed to maintain insurance coverage. This is something you must do before you can sue in civil court.
Proving your employer was not just uninsured, but ‘knowingly’ uninsured
In that case before the commission, you have to do more than prove that the employer lacked insurance coverage – you have to demonstrate that the employer knowingly went without insurance. This is a highly legally technical process that involves a great deal of minutia. For this kind of case, it is essential to have the right legal team, because even a very slight error or gap in your evidence may undo your claim.
In J.G.’s case, for example, he had proof that his employer lacked insurance when he was hurt; in fact, his employer admitted that. J.G. had proof that the employer’s old workers’ compensation insurer sent notices of nonrenewal (meaning warnings that the insurer was going to end coverage when the current policy period ran out.) Those notices dated back to late October 2017. On Dec. 31, 2017, at the end of the policy period, the employer’s insurance ran out. J.G. had proof of all of these things.
However, J.G. did not provide evidence of the mailing of the Nonrenewal Notice by the insurance company on “a recognized U.S. Post Office form or a form acceptable to the U.S. Post Office or other commercial mail delivery service.” On the basis of that missing piece of evidence alone, the appeals court said that J.G.’s body of proof was, as a matter of law, insufficient to show that the employer knew about its lack of insurance coverage. As a result of this one missing piece, the worker lost his case and his opportunity to obtain damages in civil court.
Many types of cases involve highly specific and extensive procedural requirements. Workers’ compensation cases are no exception. Make sure you are equipped for success by having the right legal team on your side. Count on the knowledgeable Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca for the effective advocacy you need. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.