Insurance companies aren’t known for being easy to work with, or helpful to those seeking coverage, or honest and straightforward when explaining what you’re entitled to or how it all works. And that really stinks for an injured employee. You’re basically on your own. Actually, it’s worse than being on your own because the other side (the insurance company) is literally working against you.

The good news is that Illinois law allows you to punish bad behavior by seeking penalties, which is extra money they have to pay you on top of any benefits you are owed. Two sections of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act provide for penalties to injured workers when the party responsible for paying benefits denies them unreasonably. So if your TTD benefits aren’t getting paid, or your medical bills aren’t getting covered, and there is no good reason for withholding those benefits, you can file a petition for penalties.

In a recent case, an injured employee wasn’t getting the TTD payments he was entitled to. There was no written notice of the denial as required, and the worker had to repeatedly file petitions to try and get compensation. And when the worker finally filed a petition for penalties, the defendant didn’t even respond, even after the arbitrator gave them more time to do so. What’s most important is that the defendant’s arguments as to why benefits were withheld had no merit. So there was no excuse.

In that case, the defendant was ordered to pay 77 weeks of TTD, plus about $16,500 in penalties and a couple thousand more in attorney fees. So the injured worker got the payments he should have received all along, plus penalties.

Penalties aren’t appropriate in every case, because not every case is that blatant. For all the stuff in the gray area – low-ball settlement offers, horning in on your medical treatment, and all the other ways they try to save money on your claim – get a lawyer. Not only will an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorney know how to play the game in your favor, but the insurance company will know that they won’t be able to get away with all their little tricks.