One of the basic principles of Illinois workers’ compensation law is that you can not sue your employer for negligence.  That also means that you can’t sue a co-worker if they were negligent and that’s what resulted in your injury.  So if you are working on a machine with someone else and that person carelessly cuts you with a blade saw, work comp is your only option.
The exception to this rule can be for temporary employees.  Their employer is actually the temp agency, some place like Manpower or another organization.  So even if they send you to the Caterpillar factor or some other company, the temp agency writes your checks and covers your work injuries.
Not everyone you will be working beside is a co-worker.  They only are if they also came from the same temp agency as you.  So if they are careless or the company is, you may have a personal injury lawsuit to pursue on top of your workers’ compensation claim.  This is rare, but it can happen.
The job of your attorney is to look at every possible claim that you might have.  That doesn’t mean we have to represent you on those cases (we are solely a network of work comp attorneys, but we do recommend personal injury lawyers in Illinois too), but if we can reasonably figure out that you have an option, we have to educate you and let you make the choice.
We recently were contacted by a man who was beaten in to a coma by a co-worker at a factory.  Now if the victim was a temp and the guy that did the beating was a regular employee that had a violent felony on his background, we would potentially be able to sue the factory for negligent hiring.
Again, this is rare and not always probable, but one way the insurance companies make (or save) a ton of money is off of injured workers that aren’t fully aware of their rights.  Some times they don’t know that a nurse case manager isn’t allowed to talk to your doctor.  Other times you aren’t aware that you can choose your own physician.  I could probably list 20 other examples that tend to result in workers getting screwed.
The point is that education and knowledge is important and it’s really where a good lawyer adds value.

By Michael Helfand