When I started off my legal career over 20 years ago, I worked as an insurance defense attorney. It’s the best training for learning how to handle cases for injured workers because you learn how insurance companies really think. As I’m pro-worker, I hated the job, but I learned a lot that has helped me give good advice.
One thing you learn right away is that when a new accident gets reported, somebody at the insurance company is looking at it as if whoever is making the claim is a scammer and there must be a reason to fight the case. The insurance company workers make money by taking this point of view even when it’s ridiculous.
So instead of looking at the black and white facts of an injury, e.g. Joe was lifting a box and felt a pop in his back, they look for a reason to turn you down.
One issue that comes up a lot is when an injured worker doesn’t file a case until after they lose their job. This, for insurance companies, is a red flag and usually means they won’t accept the case right away.
The reason this happens is the insurance company thinks that if you don’t file a case until after you are fired, you are making it up in order to get back at the company. Now I’m not saying that couldn’t happen or has never happened, but in my experience most workers who don’t file a case before they get let go do it because they think doing so makes them a good employee or they are worried about losing their job if they file a case.
So if you are typing every day and have tremendous wrist pain, but don’t see a doctor or tell anyone about it until you are let go it’s going to raise some eyebrows. If you claim that you hurt your back lifting a box a week before they let you go, the insurance company will believe you are making it up.
None of this means you can’t win your case, but it does mean that it will likely be more of a battle.
The best advice we can give, which ironically can protect your job in some cases, is to report and file a case ASAP and before you get let go. Under Illinois law you are required to report an injury to your employer within 45 days of when you knew or should have known it was work related. Sometimes when you think you are going to get fired but file a case, they end up not firing you for two reasons. First, the insurance company tells them not to because if they do it could make your case worth a lot more money. Second, when you have an attorney, many employers worry that they’ll get sued if they let you go so they end up not doing it.
None of this guarantees anything of course, but these are trends we’ve noticed. In general, if they are going to fire you they will do so and not filing the case just makes things worse for you. The worst case scenario is losing your job and having a major injury that you can’t get medical treatment for and you aren’t getting TTD benefits for your time off work because they don’t believe you really got hurt on the job.
Bonus tip, if you are have any restrictions from your job injury and get let go, the insurance company has to pay you until you have a full duty release.
The bottom line is that while you still can pursue a work comp case after you leave a job, it’s better for you all around if you report it and file while you are still working.