One of the most common questions we get is from people who want to know if they can sue their employer for being negligent and them getting injured as a result? With very few exceptions the answer is no and that’s actually a really good thing.
Illinois law outlaws employees suing employers for being negligent. In exchange for giving up that right, the workers’ compensation system in Illinois is a no fault law. In plain English that means that you don’t have to prove that your employer screwed up in order to make a claim for work comp benefits.
This is a good thing because it’s a much lower standard to win a case and get them to pay for the medical treatment that you need. For example, if you walk in to the grocery store as a customer and slip on some water that is by the front door which has been dragged in from the shoes of customers outside, you wouldn’t have a lawsuit because Illinois law bars that type of claim. But if you are at the same grocery store as an employee and fall on water it would be a work comp case.
Another example would be if you drove for work and got in to a car accident which was your fault. That would still be a workers’ compensation case if you were injured as long as you weren’t doing something reckless like driving drunk.
While you can’t sue for negligence, the reality is that work comp does give you most of the things you’d get in a lawsuit except for a claim of pain and suffering. The reality is though that in almost every situation this works out better for the employee as money comes in right away and you don’t have to deal with a civil court process which could take years and can be very costly.
A recent caller to my office was the inspiration for this post as she wanted to sue her employer for exposing her to tuberculosis (TB) while working as a nurse. She was upset because she wanted to know who would pay for the medical care she needed. The answer is that she’ll get that through workers’ compensation. She wanted them to be punished and she does have the right to report them to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and they might do an investigation, but that’s really it.
She wasn’t happy, but the straight truth is that she and every other Illinois worker is better served by the law as it is. If you have questions about this or want to talk to someone about a possible case, fill out the form to the right or call us at (312) 346-5578 any time.