If your injury was sudden and severe, your employer is probably aware of the incident. Perhaps an accident report was filled out. If your injury developed over time or your employer is not yet aware that you are hurt, you’re probably wondering what you need to do.

If you suffer a work-related injury in Illinois, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. In order to start the process, you need to inform your employer of your injury. They should then tell their insurance carrier, who actually pays the benefits.

The law says that you must notify your employer of a work injury within 45 days. It’s a good idea to do this as soon as possible, however, so that there is no dispute about when the injury occurred or whether it occurred at all. If you delay, it can cause suspicion and lead your employer to deny benefits and claim that your injury didn’t happen at work. It’s also a good idea to notify your employer in writing. You want to avoid any question about when or whether proper notice was given. If your injury develops slowly over time, notify your employer as soon as you realize that you have an injury and that it’s job related.

Also, you should file a formal claim for benefits. This is a document that you file with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, not directly with your employer. You may start getting benefits before filing a claim, but it’s recommended that you file one anyway. If your benefits are denied outright, or there is some other problem down the road, you’ll be in a better position to get a hearing in front of the arbitrator (similar to a judge). 

Your employer is not allowed to fire you for going after your benefits. You have a right to do so, and they can’t get in the way. If they fire you in retaliation for filing a claim, you can sue them for any financial loss you suffer. Other damages might be available, as well.

If your employer is disputing the extent of the injury or whether an injury even exists, it’s a good idea to talk to an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorney to make sure you don’t lose out on benefits. If you are honest with your doctor and work with a reputable attorney, you have a good chance of the benefits to which you’re entitled.

By Michael Helfand