Your attorney should take the time to explain the process and timeline of a typical Illinois workers’ compensation claim. While no two claims are exactly the same, there are deadlines and rules that apply in most cases. Typically, workers’ compensation cases settle without going to trial. But that’s not to say you and your attorney shouldn’t be thinking about trial and preparing for that potential outcome.

After you file your claim, your case will be assigned to a hearing location and an arbitrator who will act as the judge, overseeing the progress of your case and hearing any disputes that are brought before him or her. Your case will be scheduled for a routine status hearing every three months. At this hearing your attorney and a representative of the insurance company will appear before the arbitrator, at the hearing site, and give any relevant updates. At this hearing, either side can formally request a trial. Or, more typically, the parties agree to continue the case for another three months.

The status hearings can go on like this for three years before an arbitrator has to push for a resolution of the case. In the meantime, your attorney and the insurance company will be in charge of moving things along. A big factor in how quickly a case gets resolved is your health. A claim cannot – and should not – end until you are recovered. The legal term is “maximum medical improvement,” and it means you’re as recovered as you are going to get. Once this happens, it makes sense to end the claim.

As we mentioned, most cases end in settlement, with the insurance company paying the injured worker a lump sum for any permanent injury they have suffered. In exchange, the injured worker agrees to give up any future medical coverage for that injury. If an agreement cannot be reached, then you can go to trial and the arbitrator can decide. If there is ever a dispute during your treatment and recovery, you can request an immediate hearing. Your attorney should not hesitate to request one of these if your benefits have been denied or stopped. 

Whether it’s trial or settlement, it’s impossible to predict how long it will take to get to that final step in your claim. A lot depends on your injury and recovery. It can take a couple of years. But what’s certain is that your attorney should be willing to take your case to trial if it’s in your best interest, and he or she should pursue your case aggressively. Workers’ compensation attorneys typically handle a high volume of cases, but that does not make it ok for them to drag their feet on any one of them. You should expect to be kept informed along the way.