There are a lot of unique things about Illinois workers’ compensation law as compared to other injury cases. Our claims are resolved via Arbitration whereas regular personal injury cases usually go to a jury trial. In a car accident case you have to prove fault, but you don’t have to do that if you are hurt at work. And in personal injury and malpractice cases if you miss the time limit to file you are out of luck. In work comp cases you can sometimes miss the time limit to file and then get more time.
How does that work? It’s not common but it happens.
Generally speaking, you have three years from the date of your accident or two years from the last payment of compensation (typically TTD benefits or payment of medical bills), whichever is later, to file a case.
So if you were hurt on April 10, 2017, you would have had to file your case with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission by April 10, 2020. In the alternative, if a medical bill or TTD payment was made at any time in the last two years, the time limit could be extended. So if you were hurt in April of 2017, but the last payment made to your case was done on October 1, 2018, you’d have until October 1, 2020 to file your case.
So what’s the exception to this rule? A recent caller to my office illustrates it pretty well.
He was hurt in June of 2017 and broke his arm. He didn’t call me until July of 2020 which is unfortunately past the three year timeline. I had him look to see when the last medical bill was paid on his injury and it was also in 2017 so the two year rule doesn’t help him either.
So he’s likely out of luck, but there are two pieces of strategy he can take to revive his claim:
1. I told him to call every medical provider on his case. Often there’s a $50 medical bill out there that never got paid and they never bothered to collect on. If it exists and he can get the insurance company to pay it, he’d start his two year clock all over again. That’s because the last payment of compensation related to his case would be in 2020.
2. He originally contacted me because he was having pain in his arm again. I told him he could contact the insurance company and see if they will authorize a one time medical visit to look at his arm. If they do and pay for it, that too will re-start the two year time window.
Now work comp insurance companies don’t care about your health, they care about making/saving money. So if the adjuster he calls knows what they are doing, they will not pay an old bill and won’t authorize more care. That said, I’ve seen it happen plenty of times because they, like anyone else, make mistakes.
In this case his settlement would likely be around $30,000.00 so it’s worth going for. Had he contacted me one month sooner it wouldn’t be an issue.
The bottom line is that you should never wait to formally file a case because it’s free and it protects you. But if you do wait too long and it seems like you are out of luck, consult with an attorney to see if there is any way you can revive your case or to verify that you really did wait too long.