Deadlines are one of the few predictable things in the law. Like most areas of law, Illinois workers’ compensation law provides specific deadlines. There is little room for argument if you wait too long to file your claim for benefits. Your time starts on the date of your injury.

In Illinois, the general rule is that you have three years from the date of your work injury to file a claim for benefits, or two years from the last payment of benefits, whichever is later. (You can begin receiving benefits without filing a claim.) The deadline is called the statute of limitations.

Pretty much any attorney will recommend that you do not wait until the deadline is near before filing a claim. In fact, there is generally nothing to lose by filing right away. Even if you start getting benefits without filing a formal claim, having one on file will give you a head start if you need to request a hearing because an issue comes up down the road. The official form is called an Application for Adjustment of Claim, and they are filed with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

One situation where the deadline is not as certain is when you have an uncertain accident or injury date. If you do not know when your injury occurred because it was not a single incident that caused the injury, there is another rule. The statute of limitations still applies, but it starts on the date you knew or should have known that you had a work-related injury.

Overall, Illinois is one of the more worker-friendly states in which to file a claim for compensation. If your injury arises out of and in the course of your employment, you are entitled to payment of lost wages (2/3 of your average weekly wage), plus 100% coverage of your medical bills. However, these benefits are not available if you fail to obey the statute of limitations.

We talk to people all the time who are unsure of the deadline in their case. The most important thing is not to wait. When you call us, we don’t want to have to tell you that you missed your chance.