This is probably all new to you, if you’ve just been injured on the job, so here are some things you should know as you look into filing a claim and getting benefits under Illinois workers’ compensation law.
- Your injury has to be related to your job. Not every job injury is covered under workers’ compensation. The law in Illinois says that it has to arise out of and in the course of your employment. This essentially means that it needs to happen while you are working (or doing something related to your work) and it needs to happen because of your work. The second part means that it’s not enough to be at work when you are hurt. Your injury has to be caused by your job duties. The law is fairly worker-friendly, even in cases where you might think you don’t have an eligible injury. Don’t rely on your boss’s advice; talk to an attorney if you want to know for sure.
- Only employees are eligible. Illinois law guarantees benefits to employees who are injured on the job, not every worker. Independent contractors aren’t covered, nor are volunteers. Part-time employees are covered, however. Also, if you are an eligible employee, then you are covered on your first day. If your employer calls you an independent contractor, don’t assume you aren’t eligible. Many times, an employer mislabels employees. What matters is how the law defines independent contractor, and it might not apply to you. Look into this before dismissing the idea of filing a claim for benefits.
- There are two important deadlines. Illinois law requires injured workers to notify their employers within 45 days of the date of injury. The law then gives workers three years from the date of injury to file a claim. If you have received some benefits, the deadline is two years from the last payment of benefits or three years from the date of injury, whichever is later. Don’t wait that long if you can help it; sooner is much better in terms of proving that your injury is related to your job.
- The insurance company has a specific role. Employers carry workers compensation insurance. When an employee is hurt at work, the insurer is the one paying out benefits. The insurance company makes money by paying out less, and it’s important to understand this going in. They might seem helpful, but they are not on your side. If they ask you to give a statement, chances are they will want to try and use it to their benefit and not yours.
- Hiring a lawyer is easier than you think. Do some research, set up an initial consultation and ask questions. You don’t pay anything for a consultation and you don’t pay anything unless your attorney gets you a settlement or gets you a sum for past benefits you are owed. And even then, your attorney’s fee is limited by law. Your regular benefits checks are completely yours. In our experience, hiring an attorney significantly increases the value of your case.
Illinois law prohibits employees from suing their employers for a work injury. The system of workers’ compensation was set up as a compromise. It protects employers from defending lawsuits every time someone is hurt and it helps employees get compensation more quickly than they would through the courts.