In Illinois, employees are entitled to certain benefits if they get injured on the job. For any injury that arises out of your employment you should be eligible for payment of 100% of your medical expenses and payment of a portion of your lost wages if you are unable to work while you recover. In order to get these benefits, you have to follow a few rules.

One of the initial rules you need to be aware of is employer notification. The law says that you must notify your employer of a job injury within 45 days. If you fail to do this, your claim for benefits could be denied and you might miss out on the compensation you need, even if you have a legitimate work injury. That said, if you think you have already missed the deadline, don’t give up. Check with an experienced Illinois work injury attorney as soon as possible.

Ideally, you should notify your employer much sooner than 45 days. It doesn’t have to be complicated. You can just tell your supervisor that you got hurt and include the when and where. Your notice is considered sufficient if it gives them enough information to look into it further. However, like most things, it’s safest to put it in writing. Don’t forget to include the date.

The problem with delaying on this is that the more time that passes, the harder it is to prove that your job caused the injury. And the connection to your job is what will get you benefits. For example, if you come back after a long weekend and tell your boss “I hurt my back at work last week” they might be suspicious that you actually hurt yourself at home over the weekend. 

Don’t trust that your employer, or their insurance company that is paying out the benefits, is going to give you the benefit of the doubt. Even if you have a good relationship with your employer, they’ll most likely jump at the chance to deny your claim. The insurance company makes money when they don’t pay, and their priority is their bottom line.

For most work accidents, the date of injury is clear. It’s the date on which you had the accident. For repetitive trauma injuries, on the other hand, the date of injury is less clear. The law says that you have 45 days from the date on which you realized that your injury was caused by your work. So this could be the day that you see your doctor for the pain in your hand and wrist and they tell you that it’s carpal tunnel syndrome and most likely caused by your work. Again, as soon as you know you have a work injury, let your employer know.

Some employers require you to fill out an accident report after something happens. Make sure you follow this, because you don’t want to get fired or face other consequences from your employer. However, your claim for workers’ compensation is not at risk if you fail to do so. The law requires you to notify your employer but does not require you to fill out an employer’s accident report in order to get benefits. Don’t let your employer convince you otherwise.

There’s no real risk in reporting your injury ASAP, but there’s a lot to lose if you wait too long. The law’s 45-day rule is a good guideline, but sooner is usually better. If you have questions before reporting your injury or concerns about your employer’s reaction, it’s confidential and free to talk to an attorney first.