You don’t have to live or work in Illinois in order to get Illinois workers’ compensation benefits. Most people don’t know this, since common sense might say that you have to be here to get benefits here. It’s not a free for all. You do have to have some connection to Illinois, but it’s less of a connection than you might think.

There are several situations in which someone not living or working in Illinois can file for Illinois workers’ compensation. One is if you are working out of state for an Illinois company. If your employer is based here, you can file here. Another situation is if you were hired here. If you were interviewed and hired in Illinois, you are eligible for workers’ compensation here even if you’ve never been back here since. Obviously, if you work in Illinois and get hurt in Illinois, you are eligible, as well.

Just to clarify, eligibility depends on more than just the location of your injury or employer. In order to qualify as a work injury under the law, the injury must be related to your work and happen while you are on the job. You also have to be an employee (not an independent contractor) and you have to file a claim within the time limit. The statute of limitations on work injury claims is three years from the date of the injury, or in the case of an injury that develops over time, three years from the date you knew or should have known that you were injured and that the injury was work related. If you have received benefits before (sometimes this happens without a formal claim being filed), then you have two years from your last benefits payment to file a claim.

The number of employees who are told they are not eligible to file a claim or get benefits is much greater than it should be. In many cases where a boss discourages a claim or the insurer denies a claim, the employee is in fact entitled to benefits. The worst part is that some employees take the word of their employer or the insurance company as the final answer.

If you are having trouble getting benefits, because you work out of state or for any other reason, an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorney is going to be able to give you the best advice. The insurance company needs to look out for its bottom line, which is helped by not paying benefits. And a friend or neighbor offering advice, or sharing their work injury experience, means well but hasn’t seen outcomes in hundreds of cases.

By Michael Helfand