If you suffer from a work-related injury, you are probably hurt, confused, and wondering: what do I do now? And how do I get the compensation that I deserve?
For more than 50 years, the Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca have been helping injured workers throughout Illinois obtain the workers’ compensation benefits that they deserve. We are committed to helping injured workers protect their legal rights and educating the public on Illinois workers’ compensation laws. In this article you will find answers to the following commonly-asked questions:
- What are Illinois’ workers’ compensation laws?
- What benefits are provided under Illinois workers’ compensation laws?
- What jobs are covered by Illinois workers’ compensation laws?
- What jobs are covered by Illinois workers’ compensation laws?
- How do I file a workers’ compensation claim?
- What are the time limitations on filing a workers’ compensation claim?
- What injuries are covered by workers’ compensation?
- What should I do if I sustained a work-related injury or illness?
What Are Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Laws?
Pursuant to Illinois workers’ compensation laws, workers who suffer job-related injuries or illness are generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident. This means that even if you, as the employee, were entirely or partially responsible for your work-related injury, you are generally entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
There are a few exceptions, however, and an injured worker may be denied workers’ compensation benefits for the following:
- Self-inflicted injuries (including those incurred in a fight caused by the injured worker);
- Injuries sustained during the commission of a serious crime;
- Injuries sustained while the employee was not on the job; and
- Injuries sustained while the employee was engaged in conduct that violated company policy.
What Benefits Are Provided Under Illinois Workers’ Compensation Laws?
The amount of benefits to which you are entitled will depend on the extent of your injuries, the work that you are able to perform following the injury or illness, and your pre-injury salary. Pursuant to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, injured workers are generally entitled to the following benefits:
- Medical and rehabilitative expenses. Employers are required to pay for all medical care that is reasonably necessary to treat your work-related injury or illness. Medical care includes (but is not limited to): first aid, emergency care, doctor visits, hospital care, surgery, physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, medications, prosthetic devices, and prescribed medical devices. If the injury results in a disability that requires certain modifications to your home, such as a wheelchair ramp, your employer may be required to pay those costs, as well. If your employer does not dispute a medical bill, it will pay the medical provider directly and, if the medical treatment is covered by a group health plan, you are not required to pay co-payments or deductibles associated with the treatment.
- Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits equal to two-thirds of the employee’s average gross weekly wage if the employee is unable to work while recovering. There is no limitation on the period of time TTD will be paid as long as your doctor has not released you to return to work. If you are released for “light duty” and your employer indicates that a “light duty” or “restricted duty” job is not available or does not exist, you continue to be eligible for TTD benefits. Often times, an employer’s insurance company will stop making TTD payments, however, so it is beneficial to enlist the help of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer like those at Katz Friedman.
- Permanent total disability (PTD) or permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits, which are often paid as lump-sum payments. The amount of PTD payments you are eligible to receive are based on a percentage of your pre-injury wage, up to a weekly maximum payment amount. PTD payments may continue for life. The amount of PPD payments you may receive are also based on a percentage of your pre-injury wage, up to a weekly maximum payment amount, for up to 500 weeks.
- Job retraining.
- Lost wage differential, if you have to take a lower paying job as a result of your injuries.
Workers’ compensation benefits are not taxable income to the injured worker.
What Jobs Are Covered by Illinois Workers’ Compensation Laws?
Most Illinois employees are covered by Illinois workers’ compensation laws from the moment that employment begins. There are a few limited exceptions, but generally anyone employed or injured within the state of Illinois is covered by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.
You do not need to be an Illinois resident in order to be covered by Illinois workers’ compensation laws, however. In fact, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act covers:
- Employees who are injured in Illinois
- Employees originally hired in Illinois, but injured outside of Illinois
- Traveling employees, such as airline employees or truck drivers, whose principal place of employment is Illinois, but were injured while working outside of Illinois
How Do I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
If you were injured in an on-the-job accident or suffer from a work-related injury, you should promptly notify your employer via a supervisor or member of management. Generally, notice must be given to your employer within 45 days of the accident, but you should do so as soon as possible. You may want to provide written notice of the work-related injury or illness, but notice can be given verbally as well.
Employers are obligated to carry workers’ compensation insurance and assist you with filing a claim with the insurance company. If all goes smoothly, your claim with your employer’s insurance carrier will be approved and you will soon begin receiving your benefits.
Unfortunately, employers often dispute work-related injury claims in an attempt to keep their premiums down, and insurance companies often deny or limit benefits in order to minimize the amount of money that they have to pay on claims.
While injured workers are not required to file a claim with the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission (IWCC), many employees choose to file a claim with the IWCC in order to protect their right to receive future payments. Additionally, if your workers’ compensation claim is denied or limited by your employer or its insurance carrier, you can file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits with the IWCC.
It is important to note that accepting benefits from your employer’s insurance company does not mean that you lose your right to file a claim with the IWCC. Similarly, if the employer pays benefits to you, it does not lose the right to later dispute your claim.
To file a claim with the IWCC, you must:
- File three copies of your Application for Adjustment of Claim with the IWCC, along with Proof of Service that a copy of the application was served on the employer. There is no fee for filing the application.
- Submit to a medical exam conducted by a doctor chosen by your employer or its insurance company.
- Prove that your injury or illness was sustained during the course of employment.
After you file a claim with the IWCC, your case will proceed as follows:
- Your claim will be assigned a case number and an arbitrator. Cases pending in Cook Country are randomly assigned among Chicago arbitrators. Cases pending outside of Cook County are assigned to the hearing site closest to the location of the work-related accident.
- The IWCC arbitrator will conduct a trial and issue a decision within 60 days.
- If you are dissatisfied with the decision of the IWCC arbitrator, you can appeal the decision before a panel of three commissioners. The panel will hear oral arguments from you and your employer and issue a decision within 60 days.
- If you are dissatisfied with the panel’s decision, you may appeal the decision through the Illinois court system.
In many cases, workers’ compensation disputes are resolved through a settlement between the parties. Cases are often resolved more quickly by settlement than by trial. According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, settlements are approved, on average, two years after the claim is filed.
What Are the Time Limits for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
In most cases, an injured worker must file a claim within three years of the work-related injury or within two years of the last payment of TTD benefits or a medical bill, whichever is later. The failure to file a timely claim will generally result in a loss of the right to claim future benefits. There are some cases of specific diseases or the death of an employee in which different time limitations apply, however. Because the process of determining the time limitations on claims can be confusing and complex, it is highly recommended that you consult with a skilled Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible after you sustain a work-related injury.
What Injuries Are Covered by Workers’ Compensation?
Nearly 3 million workplace injuries and illnesses were reported by private industry employers in 2012 alone, according to the Department of Labor. Workers’ compensation generally covers any work-related injury or illness that was sustained during the course of employment, but some of the more common work-related injuries and illnesses covered by workers’ compensation include:
- Repetitive stress injuries. Repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, tendonitis, muscle inflammation, chronic pain, and spinal disc injuries, are often attributed to work-related activities like computer use, assembly line work, or any work that requires repetitive movements for long periods of time.
- Back injuries. Back injuries can happen in any occupation, but they are commonly sustained in jobs that require heavy lifting, including construction jobs, manufacturing jobs, and airline baggage carrier jobs.
- Occupational exposure injuries. Sometimes, employees can develop medical conditions or illnesses due to the exposure to certain environmental hazards while on the job. Hearing loss, allergic reasons, asthma, and mesothelioma are all examples of occupational exposure injuries.
- Nerve, muscle, and tissue damage. Muscle strains, torn ligaments, and pinched nerves are common work-related injuries, especially in jobs that require heavy lifting, strenuous physical activity, or repetitive motions, such as airline industry jobs, manufacturing jobs, and construction jobs.
- Broken bones. Broken bones can occur when there is a work-related accident, such as a slip and fall or an equipment accident.
- Amputations. Amputations are among the most devastating work-related injuries. Workers in the airline, construction, and manufacturing industries are most at risk for work-related amputations.
- Emotional injuries. In some situations, an employee may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for work-related stress and emotional distress. In Chicago Transit Authority v. Timms, IWCC, 21 ILWCLB 37 (Ill. App. Ct. 1st 2013), a bus driver sought psychological care for mental injuries sustained as a result of a devastating accident that occurred while she was on the job. In deciding the case, Illinois Appellate Court confirmed that employees are entitled to workers’ compensation for mental injuries when the injured worker suffers a sudden, severe emotional shock that is traceable to a specific time, place, and cause. While the emotional shock must be sudden, the resulting psychological injury does not need to be sudden and an employee may still be eligible for workers’ compensation if the emotional injuries or stress disorder manifests itself a period of time after the incident.
What Should I Do If I Was Sustained a Work-Related Injury?
If you suffer from a work-related injury or illness, you should first get the medical attention that you need and notify your manager or supervisor of the injury or illness. You should also contact a knowledgeable Illinois workers’ compensation law as soon as possible. The Chicago workers’ compensation law firm of Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca has decades of experience prosecuting all types of work-related injuries. We frequently represent employees who work in the airline industry, as well as several major labor unions in a variety of industries. Our knowledge and experience has earned us the respect of our clients and peers alike as evidenced by the fact that we are an AV-rated law firm and five of our attorneys are Illinois Super Lawyers and four are rated “Best Lawyers in America.”