The process of an Illinois workers’ compensation case is a different from the process of an Illinois injury lawsuit, even though both deal with personal injuries. When you seek compensation for a work injury, it’s an insurance claim rather than a lawsuit, and the other side is usually your employer’s insurance company. It’s the insurer who typically pays benefits. They’re also the one who denies benefits.

When a dispute comes up, it’s usually about the payment of benefits. Maybe your TTD (temporary total disability) checks aren’t for the correct amount or aren’t coming at all, or maybe certain medical treatment that you need isn’t being covered. The workers’ compensation system has a process for disputes, where your case can be heard by an impartial arbitrator who is similar to a judge. So even though you can’t sue for your benefits, you have a similar option of getting your case decided by an impartial third party.

For these hearings, instead of going to a typical courtroom, you go to a hearing site. There are hearing sites throughout the state. Your claim will be assigned to the hearing site closest to where your injury occurred. If you were injured while working out of state, it will be the location closest to your home in Illinois. If you don’t live in Illinois, the hearing site will be the one that is most convenient for both sides. The location for your claim is assigned after you file an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

If a case can’t be settled, then it can go to trial. A workers’ compensation trial is in front of an arbitrator and is similar to a trial in other types of cases. The arbitrator will hear evidence and testimony from both sides and then make a decision. However, there are no juries in work injury cases.

Many times, injured workers wonder whether they can sue their employer instead, especially in cases where the employer was negligent and their negligence actually caused the accident that led to the injury. Unfortunately, the answer is no. The process described above essentially replaces the filing of a lawsuit. Fault doesn’t matter, which is another major way in which these claims differ from lawsuits. Your employer’s fault doesn’t matter, and on the other hand, neither does yours. If it’s your fault that you got hurt, you can still get benefits (if you’re otherwise eligible).

By Michael Helfand