The Importance of Procedural Details in Your Illinois Workers’ Compensation Case

In a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, filing all of the required documents, and filing them on time, is of the highest importance, since meeting deadlines as opposed to filing too late can be the difference between a successful outcome and a failure. That’s why you should not delay in reaching out to an experienced Chicago workers’ compensation attorney whenever you’ve been hurt at work.

Moving quickly is essential because the law imposes strict deadlines on certain steps in your workers’ compensation claim process. Miss any one of those filing obligations or deadlines, and your case may get thrown out regardless of how impressive, voluminous, or persuasive your factual evidence was.

To see just how harmful a delay can be, look at the case of B.C. B.C. worked for a central Illinois school district when she was hurt on the job in November 2011. She filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

The first step in litigating a workers’ compensation benefits claim is to go before a workers’ compensation arbitrator. B.C. did that, and the arbitrator awarded her certain benefits.

If one or both sides are dissatisfied, the next step is to appeal for review by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The commission reviewed B.C.’s case and upheld what the arbitrator decided.

If you still feel the outcome is improper, you can next take the case to the local circuit court for a judge to review what the commission decided. B.C., not happy with the low amount of benefits awarded, filed that paperwork, and the local circuit court took the case. Eventually, though, the circuit court dismissed the case and never reviewed what the arbitrator and commission decided.

No timely filing meant no jurisdiction for the circuit court

What went wrong? The circuit court concluded (and the appeals court affirmed) that it did not have jurisdiction to review the case. There are several reasons why a court may not have jurisdiction over a workers’ compensation case, and one of those reasons is a failure to meet one of the required filing deadlines.

In B.C.’s case, the employer argued that the employee never filed either (1) proof with the circuit court that she had earlier filed a “notice of intent” with the commission or (2) an affidavit to that effect within 20 days.

The employee acknowledged that she had not filed the required document(s) within the mandatory 20-day time period, but she argued that this failure did not automatically remove the circuit court’s jurisdictional authority to review the case.

The appeals court disagreed. Compliance with this filing obligation, and completing compliance within 20 days, was a jurisdictional requirement. Not filing or filing too late was a “show stopper” in terms of the circuit court having the legal authority to take the case and review it.

B.C. received notice of the decision on October 27. She mailed a notice of intent to the commission on November 13, which was within the deadline. She had three more days, until November 16, to provide proof of that notice to the circuit court. She did not file by November 16. In fact, when the employer asked for dismissal on December 9, she had not yet filed at all.

That procedural shortcoming cost B.C. her case in the circuit court. No matter how many strong arguments and how much persuasive evidence she had planned to provide to the circuit court, it didn’t matter because that court never got to consider any of it.

Workers’ compensation is one of the areas in which technical details like document filing requirements and filing deadlines have an exceptionally high degree of importance, since any defect may result in your case getting thrown out. That’s true whether you’re in the circuit court or going before the workers’ compensation arbitrator.

It is reasonable to expect that, no matter how well you know the factual information related to your workplace accident, you don’t know all of the detailed procedural obligations of a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. For that knowledge and more, rely upon the experienced and diligent Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck. Our attorneys have been helping injured workers for many years and are here to discuss your case with you and do what needs to be done to get you the benefits you deserve. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website.