When you file a claim for workers’ compensation, it’s similar to filling a claim with your health insurance. It’s not a lawsuit, and in fact, Illinois law says that you can’t sue your employer for an injury. You have to file a claim in order to get compensation, which is typically paid by your employer’s insurance carrier. Here are some benefits available under this system.
1. Medical. We all know that health care costs can add up quickly. When you’re hurt, you don’t want to worry about what you can afford — you want to focus on getting better. In Illinois, your medical bills should be completely covered after a work-related injury. You shouldn’t have any out-of-pocket expenses, not even a co-pay. The times when this isn’t true is when you decide to undergo alternative treatment or something that isn’t considered reasonable. Also, if it’s not considered related to your injury, it might not be covered. That said, don’t take the insurance company’s word for it. They often try to deny treatment that is reasonable and an experienced lawyer can work to get it approved.
2. Lost wages. If your injury causes you to miss work, whether it’s a week or six months, then your benefits should include payment for part of your lost wages. The law in Illinois says that you should receive 2/3 of your “average weekly wage.” This average is based on your wages over the past year. It can be a straightforward calculation if your wages are straightforward. However, if you work on commission, tips or if your pay is inconsistent, then you might need help (from an attorney, not the insurer) figuring out the correct amount. There is a short waiting period, as well. You aren’t eligible for payments until you miss at least three days of work. This benefit kicks in on the fourth day. If you end up missing more than seven days, however, you will be paid retroactively for those first three.
3. Permanency. At the end of your claim, you might receive a settlement (or lump sum after trial if settlement doesn’t work) to compensate you for the fact that your injury is permanent or the likelihood that you may have medical expenses in the future. After settlement, you no longer get benefits through workers’ compensation. So a settlement essentially pays you to agree to close your claim. Don’t settle until you are fully recovered. And be aware that the insurance company will try and settle for less than your case is worth.
4. Job training. If your injury left you unable to continue in your current line of work, you can ask the insurance company to pay for retraining. This should hopefully allow you to get back into the workforce in a new position. The availability of this benefit depends on how your injury affects you, what job you held at the time you were injured and what jobs you are able to do going forward. As with many types of benefits, the insurance company isn’t likely to offer this out of the goodness of their hearts. Make sure to go after what you want.
5. Death benefits. If lost your spouse because of a work injury, there are benefits available to you. These are called death benefits, and they are payable to the spouse, minor children and/or other dependents of the worker. Some amount of death benefits should be available in every case where a death is caused by and related to the worker’s job duties. Funeral expenses and any related medical bills should be covered. In addition, you should receive an amount that is meant to compensate you for your loss. In our experience, this can be up to $500,000 or more. The workers’ compensation system isn’t perfect, but in Illinois it’s pretty good. In many cases, what you get is a good alternative to a traditional court case, which can take a long time and end up costing more.