Illinois law says that workers who suffer a job-related injury or illness are entitled to benefits. Sometimes, workers have to go after these benefits themselves (ideally, with an attorney), and other times benefits are awarded fairly routinely. A denial of benefits is not the final word – an arbitrator will make the decision in a disputed case.
Many companies in Illinois are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. The employer’s insurance company should pay the following benefits, according to Illinois law:
Medical: All reasonable and related medical expenses should be covered 100%, with no out-of-pocket costs or co-pays. This includes prescription medication, diagnostic tests, treatment, surgery and even physical therapy. Your medical benefits generally continue until you reach what’s called maximum medical improvement, which basically means you are as good as you are going to get.
Lost wages: If you have to miss work while you recover, whether it’s a few weeks or many months, or even more, you are entitled to get paid for a portion of what you would have been making if you were still working. These benefits, which are equal to 2/3 of your average weekly wage, should be paid out regularly. If they stop, or if you are denied, you can request a hearing in front of an arbitrator.
Settlement: When a claim comes to an end, the insurer might make a settlement offer. This is a lump sum that is meant to compensate the worker for the permanency of their injury. In exchange, the worker gives up his or her right to future medical benefits for that injury. Not all cases end in settlement, but many do. If your case ends with a trial, the outcome could be different, with future medical benefits available.
Death benefits: When a worker is killed on the job, his or her surviving spouse, minor children and other dependents are eligible for death benefits.
Other: The law also considers how difficult it can be to re-enter the workforce. You might be eligible for job re-training if your injury makes it so that you can’t return to your old career.
In order to have the best shot at getting your benefits, file a claim as soon as possible. Technically, you have three years from the date of the accident to file a claim for benefits, or two years from the last payment of benefits, whichever is later. But sooner is better. Also, the law says that you must notify your employer of your injury within 45 days.
Don’t let your boss or the insurance company tell you that you aren’t eligible for benefits. Always check with an attorney. An initial consultation should be free.