I was going to write a post on the ten most important things to know when you are hurt on the job in Illinois. I realized though that you really need to think differently at each stage of a case. So I’m doing three posts about what to know at the beginning, middle and end of a case. All of these tips are what I think a lawyer would tell a loved one to do. They also will help you get the best result possible in your case.
Once you are hurt on the job and it’s something more than superficial, the first thing you should do is get medical treatment. It sounds like simple advice, but I can’t tell you how many cases have blown up because an injured worker tried to “tough it out” and not see a doctor for many weeks or months. The longer you wait, the harder it is to prove your condition is related to a job accident. In the very least you give the insurance company a reason to fight your case.
If getting treatment is the first thing you should do, 1A is to report the accident to your employer. Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, you have 45 days to notify your employer that you were injured on the job. Just like with medical care, the sooner you report, the better. So if you are lifting a box and feel a pop in your back, mention it to your supervisor. It can be verbal or written. I prefer a short and sweet email because it prevents words from getting twisted and proves notice. An example would be something like, “Joe, I was lifting crates all morning with Steve. After about an hour into it I lost my balance on one of them. As I went to catch myself, I felt a pop in my back. It’s really stiff and hurting so I’m heading to the ER. Thanks, Mike.”
We see a lot of employers who tell injured workers to lie to the doctor and say that they got hurt at home. DO NOT DO THIS. It’s important to tell the truth and even if your employer promises to pay your out of pocket expenses it’s almost always b.s. and could torch your work comp case and entitlement to payment for time off work and for a settlement.
Assuming you go to the doctor and they order physical therapy or follow up visits, you can expect a call from an insurance adjuster. Our #1 tip in dealing with them is to not agree to a recorded statement. They will ask questions that are designed to trip you up. For example, if you slipped at work and fell, they will try to make you say that you don’t know why you fell. If you do that you could create a defense for them even if the truth isn’t what they got you to imply.
Getting a lawyer prevents them from talking to you and trying to mess with you. It’s of course up to you to decide if you need/want an attorney. The good news is that it costs nothing and a lawyer acts as a security blanket for you. That said, if you think you are going to be fine physically, you might not need one. Just be honest with your doctor, don’t volunteer to much to the insurance adjuster and focus on your health.
Part 2 will discuss what happens in the middle of a case and should be posted in three days. If you have any questions about anything related to Illinois workers’ compensation law, contact us at any time for a free consultation.