Most people who suffer a job injury don’t know much about workers’ compensation, which makes sense. It’s not something you’d look into unless and until you have a need for it. So one of the main questions we get about Illinois work injury law is “Am I covered?”

This area of law is very fact specific, so we don’t usually have a good answer until we talk to the person and ask them questions about what happened, what their job entails, where they work, etc. However, if you’re looking for the basics, here is what matters:

How your injury relates to your job. This is a huge question with many relevant factors. In general, however, your injury has to be caused by your job. If you fall off a ladder while changing a light bulb in the retail store where you work, then that is work related. Even if you are a cashier, you were doing something for your employer. If you have a heart attack while doing your job as a cashier, then that probably isn’t work related. A heart attack while the retail store is being robbed would be another story. Again, there are so many possible scenarios.

Whether you are an employee. In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation in Illinois, you have to be an employee. Part-time and brand-new employees should be covered. Volunteers and independent contractors are not included – just make sure you really are an independent contractor. Employers sometimes mislabel their employees.

The date of your injury. There are deadlines for filing a claim and notifying your employer. If you miss these deadlines, it could hurt your claim or possibly end it altogether. The law in Illinois requires you to notify your employer of a work injury within 45 days. The deadline for filing a claim is longer, although you shouldn’t delay. You have three years from the date of injury or two years from the last payment of benefits (if you received any), whichever is later.

Your doctor’s opinion. If you haven’t yet seen a doctor, it’s important that you do so. The medical opinion of a reputable doctor is extremely important in a workers’ compensation claim. If the insurance company has to pay you because you can’t work, they’re going to make sure it’s true that you can’t work. They’ll be looking for a credible opinion.

Whether you call us or talk to another attorney, you’ll likely get asked more specific questions. If you’re new to this area of law, the main things to do are see a doctor and notify your employer. Skipping these steps, or putting them off, can hurt your claim. Then, you can look into what you need to do to get medical benefits and temporary total disability payments if they haven’t already started.