A serious work injury is impossible to predict, and if it happens to you, it can seem like there are a million unknowns. What happens from the time of your injury, legally speaking, can differ based on your particular circumstances, but there is a general timeline of a typical workers’ compensation claim.
Work injury. A slip and fall, or something more serious, is usually the start of a workers’ compensation case. Whether it’s a sudden injury or something that develops over time, you shouldn’t just wait it out. One of the best things you can do, aside from seeking medical treatment, is to be proactive about your claim for benefits. Gather all the information you can.
Medical treatment. If your injury is sudden and severe, medical treatment is a given. But even if it seems like you might be able to work through it, go see a doctor if there’s any doubt. An injury can worsen quickly. If you wait, things might get worse. You could put your health, and a potential claim for benefits, at risk.
Notification deadline. You have to notify your employer of your work injury within 45 days of the date of the injury. If your condition or injury doesn’t have a specific date on which it occurred, then your deadline is 45 days from the date you knew your injury was work related.
Talk to an attorney. There’s no such thing as doing this too soon, especially if your injury is serious. If you’re unsure of whether you need legal help, at least get a free consultation and get all of your questions answered.
File a claim for benefits. You might start getting benefits regardless, but make sure to get this paperwork filed in case a problem comes up down the road and you need to request a hearing with an arbitrator. The form is called an Application for Adjustment of Claim and is filed with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Your arbitrator. Every claim is assigned to an arbitrator, who acts like a judge in your case. They will put your case on their docket regularly for status hearings to monitor any progress. If there is a dispute in your case, the arbitrator will make a decision after a hearing. They’ll also oversee your trial if you have one.
Your benefits. Ideally, you should start getting benefits fairly quickly. Temporary Total Disability benefits are available four days after you get hurt and you can expect TTD checks every two weeks. These are if you are unable to work. Your medical benefits should start right away, and you should be covered 100%. This includes doctor visits, medication, tests and even surgery.
Status call. These usually happen every three months to monitor the progress of your claim. If your case is moving along normally, then nothing much will happen and your case will be put on the calendar for another three months. If you want a trial, your attorney can request one at your status hearing.
Hearings on a dispute. As we mentioned, your attorney can request a hearing if there is a dispute in your case. A common reason is because benefits aren’t being paid. Your attorney will argue that you are entitled to benefits and hopefully the insurance company will be forced to pay.
Settlement. The majority of workers’ compensation claims in Illinois settle at the end. This means that you receive a lump sum in exchange for ending your case (no more benefits in the future). It’s important to understand what rights you are giving up in a settlement. It’s also important to go through this process with an attorney who understands the value of your case. You won’t get a second chance.
Trial. If a settlement agreement can’t be reached, the case can go to trial. Attorneys for both sides will present their cases, and the arbitrator will make a final decision. Make sure your attorney is willing to take your case this far if it’s necessary in order to get you a fair outcome.
Lawyers aren’t always good at explaining the big picture to clients or letting them know what to expect step by step. We try our best to give straightforward information to people. We hope this answers your questions, but if it doesn’t, just give us a call.