There are several reasons why the date of your injury matters in an Illinois workers’ compensation case. One is that the deadline for filing a claim is based on this date. You have three years from the date of your injury to file a claim for benefits, or you lose your chance, which means missing out on benefits such as payment of medical bills and a portion of your lost wages. If you have received some benefits, then your deadline is two years from the last payment of those benefits.

You have 45 days from the date of your injury to notify your employer, or benefits could be denied. It’s important to know the date of your injury for this purpose, as well. Although we wouldn’t recommend cutting it close and waiting until the last day.

You’re probably thinking that this sounds pretty straightforward and that a seriously injured worker is not going to forget the date of his or her job accident. It can be less clear, however, when someone suffers from an injury – or illness – that occurs slowly over time. If this has happened to you, you might not know the date when it all started.

The date of injury in these cases, which are usually repetitive stress injuries, is the date on which you knew or should have known that you were injured and that the injury was related to your work. Sometimes, this is the date you saw a doctor and he or she told you that your job was likely causing your pain or other health issues.

The date of your injury also matters when the law changes, as it often does. You’ll want to know whether a recent law applies to your case. When there is a change to Illinois workers’ compensation law, it generally only affects claims going forward. But it’s based on the date of your injury, not your claim. So the date of your injury will tell you whether a new or recent law applies. For example, a new law might say that it affects injuries occurring “on or after June 28, 2011.”

Always check with your attorney if you have questions about dates or deadlines, because a mistake can mean the end of your case.

By Michael Helfand