Employees who are injured on the job can get help, in the form of various benefits, from their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. This system of compensation is set by law in Illinois. The law covers eligibility, benefit amounts, timelines, deadlines and other details.

There are some situations, however, that fall outside of Illinois’ work injury laws or that aren’t addressed at all by these laws. We get questions about many of these issues, so here are a few things that aren’t part of workers’ comp law.
Independent contractors: Illinois workers’ compensation is only available to injured employees, not injured independent contractors. However, if you think you are an independent contractor, or your employer tells you that you are, make sure you really are. The law defines “independent contractor” in a specific way and you might actually be an employee. 

Third-party defendants: If your injury was caused by someone other than your employer, such as a customer or other property owner, then you might be able to sue for damages. Workers’ compensation law says that you can’t sue your employer. A third party that is not your employer falls outside of this law.

FMLA: The Family Medical Leave Act allows workers to take time off of work for injury or illness or to care for a family member with injury or illness. It doesn’t provide pay, but it requires their employer to hold their job for them. This is a federal law that is not addressed by state workers’ compensation law in Illinois. Legally, they are separate issues.

Pain and suffering: Workers’ compensation benefits include payment of medical expenses and lost wages. However, these cases are not lawsuits. They are claims for benefits, and payment for pain and suffering simply isn’t available.

Although these things aren’t covered under Illinois workers’ compensation law, it’s a good idea to talk to an attorney if you have questions. Don’t take the advice of employers, insurance adjusters or even friends and family when trying to figure out whether you have a valid work injury claim.

By Michael Helfand