There is a very important Illinois workers’ compensation law that says you have to notify your employer about a work accident within 45 days of when you knew or should have known that you were injured on the job. If you don’t, you lose your rights to get work comp benefits.
In other words, if you get hurt on January 1 and don’t tell anyone about your injury until March, you will have waited to long and create an absolute defense to your case. You could have had a great case otherwise, but will not get any compensation.
How notice has to take place isn’t set in stone. If your boss witnesses you get hurt, that can be enough. If you tell them verbally, that can be enough. The best way of course is to do it in writing via email or certified letter because that prevents them from disputing at a later date that you didn’t tell them. And a shockingly large number of employers will lie about notice. And the most airtight way to do it is to file an Application For Adjustment Of Claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission within the 45-day period and have it served on the employer. That is the process for officially starting the case.
A recent caller had a question that I thought was about these notice issues, but it was more notice-adjacent. His question was:
I was hurt at work. Do I have to tell my boss if I’m going to the hospital?
I thought he was asking if he had to tell his boss about getting hurt at work. In this case, he had told his boss about getting hurt right away and asked to leave for the day. What he wanted to know is if he has to discuss his medical care with his boss.
The short answer is that he absolutely doesn’t have to say he’s going to the ER or any other doctor. Just go. Get treated. Find out what’s wrong. Nothing is more important than your health and safety.
Longer term, the employer will find out that you went to the doctor if you are bringing a work comp claim. That’s because their insurance company has a right to access medical records related to your injury. They are allowed this so they can make a determination if your injury is in fact work-related and if they should pay (note, they don’t have the final say).
I believe this worker was most worried about his employer finding out about other health problems that he has had. A good lawyer can restrict access to sensitive medical records by making sure you don’t agree to a generalized release of your medical records. Insurance companies love to go on fishing expeditions to see if they can find something that might aid their case. We can’t prevent them from seeing records related to a similar injury, but if you have a background with mental health issues, cancer, pregnancy, etc. and your work injury doesn’t relate to that in any way, we can stop them.
If you do go to the doctor/ER and they take you off work, you will then have to share that off-work slip with your employer. Otherwise, you won’t get paid for your time off of work. But first things first. Get treated. Find out what is wrong with you. And make decisions from there.
And of course, if you want free, confidential guidance about your injury, you can contact us any time to speak with a lawyer.