A huge mistake any lawyer can make, not just work comp attorneys in Chicago like me, is to think that legal issues that are common sense to you are known by non-lawyers.  Some attorneys don’t have the patience to explain how things work to clients which is a huge mistake.  This thought crossed my mind when a recent caller asked:

How do Illinois workers compensation lawsuits work?

The caller was essentially asking what happens if you are injured at work and bring a claim. Here are some things you need to know:

  1. It’s not a lawsuit.  It’s a claim for benefits.  There will be no jury and you don’t have to prove negligence. You just have to prove you were injured while performing your job duties in a manner that relates to your job somehow. In other words, if your job is to lift boxes and you hurt your back, that’s a case. If you lift a box to throw at a co-worker because they root for a football team you don’t like, that back injury wouldn’t be a case.
  2. The first step is one of two things. Either report the injury to your employer or get medical treatment.
  3. If you get treatment first, you then need to report it to the employer. On the other hand, if you report the injury first, go to the doctor ASAP.
  4. When you go to the doctor, just tell the truth. Don’t embellish anything. You get to choose your doctor in almost every Illinois work comp case.
  5. Under Illinois law, you have to report a work related injury within 45 days of it happening. We highly recommend you do it sooner than then to avoid any defenses. Notice of an accident can be done verbally or in writing.  You should document who you told, what you said and when. In writing via email is the safest way to provide notice.
  6. You can expect that an insurance adjuster will contact you. They might ask for a recorded statement which you should refuse.
  7. If you get a lawyer, we will handle all of the communication with the insurance company and protect you.
  8. If you are authorized off work by your doctor due to the injury, you are entitled to receive 2/3 of your pay, tax free.
  9. All reasonable and related medical bills must be paid.
  10. If your claim is denied without good reason or if the insurance company is messing around, you can go to arbitration and get an order that forces them to pay.
  11. When you are all better you will be entitled to a settlement. If their settlement offer isn’t a good one or if you are worried about future medical care, you can go to arbitration and get an award of payment that way.
  12. Lawyers who handle work comp cases in Illinois cost nothing up front.  We work for free until we get you a settlement.  Our fee is 20% of whatever we recover for you.

That is the nuts and bolts of how things if you are injured while working in Illinois. Of course every case is different and there are things that happen in some cases that don’t happen in others.  If you have any questions or just want to talk to an experienced lawyer for free, contact us any time.