Usually, the answer to that question is no. The general rule in Illinois is that you can’t file a lawsuit against your employer if you get hurt on the job. Your only remedy, in most cases, is to file a claim for workers’ compensation and get benefits from your employer or their workers’ compensation insurance company. Benefits include payment of medical bills and checks for 2/3 of your lost wages while you are unable to work.

That said, there are some situations in which you can file a lawsuit for your injury. These wouldn’t be against your employer, but against a third party. These third-party lawsuits are appropriate when someone other than your employer is to blame for your injury.

One example of a third-party lawsuit is when a worker is injured by a piece of defective equipment while on the job. If the manufacturer of the equipment is at fault, a third-party lawsuit might be an option. Another example is when a worker is injured on someone else’s property (not the employer’s). If a dangerous condition exists on someone’s property and you are injured while working at that location, a third-party lawsuit against the property owner might be recommended.

Look for a workers’ compensation attorney who also has experience in third-party lawsuits. It’s a specific type of case and the more experience your attorney has, the better your chances, in our opinion. If a third-party lawsuit isn’t an option for you, then be sure to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits as soon as possible. You are required to notify your employer of a work injury within 45 days, or you could be at risk of losing out on benefits.

Illinois workers’ compensation law was created as a compromise. Employers are protected from lawsuits every time an employee gets hurt, which saves them time and money, as well as exposure to liability. Employees benefit by the ability to get compensation for their injury more quickly than they would if they had to file a lawsuit and go through months or years of litigation. Litigation also can be unpredictable, and workers’ compensation is meant to be more certain for the injured worker. If their injury happened in the course of their employment, the law entitles them to benefits regardless of fault.

By Michael Helfand