We get a good amount of questions about safety rules and regulations and how violations of safety measures affect an Illinois work injury case. Specifically, people want to know if it helps their case if their employer created an unsafe work environment. Common sense seems to say that it should, but a workers’ compensation case is not like a typical lawsuit where the focus is on fault.

The simple answer is that in the realm of workers’ compensation, fault does not matter. If your employer was negligent and caused your injury, it does not work to your benefit, at least not in any official legal way. It may seem unfair, but consider what it means in the opposite situation. If you, the worker, cause your own injury by being careless, your fault doesn’t matter either. You are eligible for benefits regardless.

The next question we usually get from an injured worker in this situation is whether they can sue their employer separate from, or in addition to, their workers’ compensation claim. Unfortunately, it’s usually not an option. The Illinois workers’ compensation system is meant to be more efficient than conventional litigation, and filing a claim essentially replaces the right to file a lawsuit. The exception is if your injury is caused by a third party who is not your employer. In that situation, a third-party lawsuit might be an option.

The intended result of this system is that injured employees get compensated more quickly and employers avoid the threat of a lawsuit every time someone gets hurt on the job. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we have. And in most cases, someone who is hurt while working can get the compensation they’re eligible for, which includes payment of 100% of all reasonable and related medical expenses, payment of 2/3 of their wages if they are unable to work while they recover, and additional compensation if their injury is permanent.

In order to be successful, there are certain steps you should take after a work injury. Notify your employer about your injury, get medical treatment, follow the advice of your doctor, file a claim even if you start receiving benefits without doing so, and talk to an experienced Illinois work injury attorney if you have any questions or concerns.

But unless your employer does something intentional to hurt you – e.g. punches you in the face, purposely hits you with a car, etc. – then work comp is your only option for a recovery, no matter how bad their behavior is. 

By Michael Helfand