Most Illinois workers’ compensation cases involve someone getting hurt on their job and bringing a claim against the insurance company for their employer. If you type a lot and get carpal tunnel or pop your back when lifting a box, there is no other case to be made other than workers comp.
In some cases though, you get hurt at work but it’s due to the negligence of someone who does not work for your employer. The most common example is a car accident while driving, but we have also been involved with many construction accidents where scaffolds are not properly prepared or floors break or walls collapse as well as many other scenarios. In office settings it’s not uncommon for someone to slip on a wet floor that was mopped by an outside cleaning service that didn’t put up a sign.
When this happens you have both a workers compensation claim as well as a “third party claim” which is lawyer talk that means the right to sue someone else for negligence. In that situation, the most important issue is your health and it’s great that you can pursue a work comp case because they will pay for 100% of your medical care with no out of pocket expenses or co-pays. And you get to choose your doctor and get prompt treatment. Workers comp will also pay you for your time off work.
Just like in any other work injury claim in Illinois, you will be entitled to a settlement, but if your injury is really serious, it’s likely that you will get more money from suing the 3rd party. For example, in a recent case, a construction worker had his right leg amputated due to the negligence of some other contractors. The work comp case would have probably been worth $400,000-$600,000, but the third party case netted him seven million.
The unique thing about these cases is an Illinois law that says the work comp insurance company has a right to recover up to 75% of what it has paid if you make a third party recovery. So if they paid $200,000.00 in bills and lost time, they could get up to $150,000.00 of that back. This is called a lien.
There are a few important things to note:
1. The law is they can get up to 75% back, but that’s negotiable. Your attorney’s job is to make sure the most money possible ends up in your pocket.
2. Often an insurance company will waive their lien in agreement for you to settle the work comp case for $1. They do this to close the case which ends their liability. Workers’ comp insurance carriers love nothing more than a closed case even if they could potentially get more money back.
3. You should never settle the work comp case for $1 or agree to a lien payment until you know for sure what is going to happen on the 3rd party case.
4. Sometimes you’ll hire one firm for the PI case and one for the job injury case. Sometimes you’ll have one firm that handles both. The right decision depends on how you were injured. Some personal injury lawyers don’t know how to handle complex trucking accidents or how to analyze major injury cases. Some can only handle slip and falls or car accidents. We can help you figure out who is the best for both cases. You want to make sure that your attorneys aren’t working to get the biggest fee for themselves at the expense of what you get.
5. In 3rd party cases, medical providers can put a lien on that case for their unpaid bills, but there are no liens allowed against a work comp case. So if anyone tells you otherwise they are wrong.
Bottom line is that these are not typical cases and if your injury is serious you need someone who really knows what they are doing to look out for you. If you have questions or want our recommendation about what you should do, call us for free any time or fill out our contact form and we will call you.