Here are some questions we’ve received recently and thought we would share, since the answers apply to many people with a potential workers’ compensation claim.

How do I give my employer official notice of my injury? I was told I have to do this.

Yes, the law in Illinois requires an injured worker to notify his or her employer within 45 days of the injury in order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. First of all, if you can give notice sooner, it’s usually better. The more time that goes by, the more questions there might be about whether you really injured yourself at work. Second, give notice in writing. Include the date and keep a copy. Give the notice to your boss or supervisor. You can also fill out an accident report that your employer might require anyway. It’s a good idea to also file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, especially if you don’t trust your employer to follow through and get your benefits started.

How much does it cost to hire a lawyer for my work injury case?

Illinois law limits the fees for lawyers who handle workers’ compensation cases. In most injury cases, a typical fee is 33%, but in workers’ compensation it’s limited to 20%. The fee is a contingency fee, which means that you only pay your lawyer if you win. Your attorney should not take a fee out of your lost time checks or medical benefits unless it requires a hearing or trial. In other words, no fee should come out of routine benefits. For the vast majority of our cases, we only get paid at the end after obtaining a settlement for the client.

How can I get a good arbitrator to hear my case?

In workers’ compensation, arbitrators oversee claims much like judges oversee court cases. We always recommend that your attorney know the arbitrator. They should be familiar with the way the arbitrator usually rules on certain issues and generally know their personality and tendencies. This helps your attorney predict outcomes in your case and establish the best strategy. If the facts are on your side, and you have an experienced attorney with a good reputation, you don’t really need to worry about getting a “bad” arbitrator.

My attorney says it will take years to get a trial date. Is that true?

If you are at “maximum medical improvement,” also called MMI, then your case should not linger for years. It might take months to get a trial, but not years. Some attorneys inexplicably let their cases sit around. We don’t know why, especially since these attorneys only get paid if they finish up the case. It’s bad for the client and for the lawyer. It’s important to get an attorney who has a reputation for being proactive for their clients.