Generally speaking, under Illinois workers compensation law, you can not sue your employer for negligence. In exchange for that, you don’t have to prove negligence if you were hurt on the job. This benefits almost every injured worker out there.
Also under Illinois law is that it’s a felony for an employer not to carry workers compensation insurance. That doesn’t mean that some don’t break the law. They do. But if they get caught it could mean serious consequences. And of those consequences could be that the injured worker has a right to sue them.
To do so, you’d still file a workers’ compensation case and then file what is called a Section 4(d) petition. In plain English, if you can prove that the employer knowingly failed to provide work comp coverage, the employer can lose the protections of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and be sued in civil court.
In a recent case, a truck driver hurt his leg when it was struck by a pallet weighing over 400 pounds. He filed for work comp benefits with the State even though he became aware that his employer had no work comp insurance. He also filed a 4(d) petition contending that they knowingly failed to provide insurance that would have covered his injuries. This was a third-party company making deliveries for Amazon and it’s a bit shocking that Amazon doesn’t require proof of work comp for their vendors.
He won his petition because there was no evidence that the employer just made an accident in not having coverage. If someone from the employer was negligent, he can now bring a regular personal injury lawsuit. The bad news with that is that it won’t immediately pay for his medical care or time off work. The good news is that in the end, that case could be worth much more money to him.
It’s still better to have workers comp in most cases. The main reason is the immediacy of getting help. On top of that, many companies that don’t have insurance are a bit fly by night and often just shut down and open up under another name or leave town. The bottom line is that it’s definitely something you should investigate if your employer doesn’t carry work comp insurance, but it’s not always an option or a good one for a variety of reasons. But no matter what, you can call us for free any time at 312-346-5578 to discuss if you have a case.