Workers’ compensation is a system of benefits for workers who are injured on the job. In Illinois, these benefits include payment for 100% of your medical expenses (as long as they are reasonable, as well as related to your injury). Benefits also include payment of 2/3 of your wages while you are out of work recovering, and if your injury is permanent, you’ll likely get some sort of lump sum settlement at the end of your recovery when you’re as good as you’re going to get.

Workers’ compensation is an exclusive remedy, meaning it’s your only option. Workers’ compensation provides benefits to workers no matter who was at fault for the injury, and you do not need to go to court to get them. Most Illinois employers carry workers’ compensation insurance that pays out these benefits. In exchange, your employer is protected from lawsuits by injured employees.

Despite the fact that it is an exclusive remedy, there are a few situations in which an employee can bring a lawsuit after a workplace injury. One is called dual-capacity. If your employer has a second, distinct relationship with you (legal relationship), then you might be able to sue them in that second capacity. For example, if they own the building where you were injured, then they potentially wear two hats, one as your employer and another as a landowner who owes you a duty to keep their premises safe. 

In order to bring a lawsuit under this dual-capacity exception, you’ll have to prove two things. First, you will have to show that there was a second capacity or relationship that is separate from their role as your employer. Second, you have to show that your injury was caused by the defendant when they were acting within that second capacity or role. If the roles are one in the same, it will likely be deemed a work injury and fall under workers’ compensation.

These cases are rare but worth noting. It comes down to the specific facts of your individual situation, so feel free to give us a call if you have questions about something that has happened to you.

By Michael Helfand