A hearing site is basically a courthouse for workers’ compensation cases. Work injuries are resolved through a claims process rather than an injury lawsuit, so you won’t be appearing in court. The hearing site is where any disputes will be heard, where your attorney will go for periodic status hearings, and where your trial will take place if you end up going to trial instead of settling.
After you file a claim, which is done by filing out an Application for Adjustment of Claim and submitting it to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, your case will be assigned to a hearing site and an arbitrator, who acts as a judge. You may or may not have to be present for a status hearing; you will have to be there if you go to trial or if there’s an emergency hearing.
Most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to pay benefits to employees hurt on the job. These benefits include medical bill payments and checks for part of the income you lose while you are potentially unable to work because of your injury.
There are hearing sites all over the state. Yours will typically be the hearing site closest to where your injury happened. Often, this is close to your main place of work. However, if you were injured out of state (you can still get Illinois workers’ compensation), the hearing site will probably be the location closest to your home here in Illinois.
There are some situations in which a worker does not live or routinely work in Illinois, yet still qualifies for Illinois workers’ compensation benefits. This can be the case if the employee was hired in Illinois. In that case, the hearing site will probably be a location that is considered convenient for everyone involved.
There are status hearings every three months on workers’ compensation cases. Your case will be on the arbitrator’s calendar and that day they will hear whether there is any progress on the case or if it will be continued for another three months. Either side can request that a trial date be set. The arbitrator monitors cases this way for up to three years, at which point they will push for resolution in the case. Until that time, your attorney will work with the insurance company to try and reach an agreement on settlement.
If there is ever an “emergency” in your claim, such as a refusal to pay benefits, or a sudden stop to your benefits, your attorney can request what’s called a 19(b) hearing, which is an expedited process. This will take place at the hearing site, with you and your attorney present.
Most claims settle. But that can’t happen until the worker is at “maximum medical improvement,” which means their treatment and recovery is complete. It doesn’t mean they are 100%, but rather that they are as good as they’re going to get. At this point, it makes sense for the two sides to settle. If an agreement can’t be reached, your attorney can go to trial to argue for fair compensation. There are pros and cons to settling a claim, so never make that call without the advice of a solid worker’ compensation attorney.