Workers Compensation FAQs
What is workers compensation?
Do I have to prove my employer was negligent?
What do I need to prove to get workers comp benefits?
How do I file a workers compensation claim?
How much information do I have to give my employer about my accident?
What do I do if my employer denies my workers comp claim?
What happens at a workers comp trial?
What if I don’t like the arbitrator’s decision?
Is there a time limit for filing for workers comp?
What benefits are available through workers comp?
How do my medical bills get paid under workers comp?
Can I choose my own doctor when I get workers comp medical benefits?
Can I get fired for filing a workers comp claim?
What happens if my employer retaliates against me for filing a workers comp claim?
What happens if I can’t do my job any more after my accident?
What if someone else caused my accident? Can I sue them?
Do I need a lawyer to file a workers comp claim?
How long does it take to resolve a workers comp claim?
My spouse died on the job. Can I get workers comp benefits?
Workers compensation is a system designed to make sure workers who are injured on the job get medical care and compensation for disability without having to sue their employers.
Workers compensation is a no-fault system, meaning you do not have to prove your employer was negligent in order to receive benefits. Because it is a no-fault system, it also prevents you from suing your employer even if your employer was negligent.
In essence, you simply need to prove that you were an employee at the time of your injury and that you were injured in the course of your job. The latter part breaks down into a couple of elements: 1) that your injury had a direct causal link to some job-related risk and 2) your injury happened while you were working, at a location you were required to be at because of your job, and under circumstances required by your job.
Initially, you report your injury to your employer and make a claim directly to your employer or your employer’s workers compensation insurance company. If your claim is accepted, your employer or the insurance company should start paying your medical bills or other benefits immediately.
You have to give your employer or your employer’s insurance company enough information that they can make a reasonable decision whether to accept your claim. You may need to give them medical records that document your injuries and treatments. If you’re concerned about protecting your privacy, a workers compensation attorney can help you with the claims process and ensure that your employer or the insurance company only get the information that is relevant to your claim.
If your employer or your employer’s workers comp insurance company denies your claim, you can file a claim with the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission. When you file a claim with the IWCC, an arbitrator is assigned to your claim. The arbitrator will have periodic status conferences with you and your employer, and it is your responsibility to make sure your case moves forward by requesting a trial when you have reached the point of maximum medical improvement, or in other words when you have healed as much as you’re going to. Your employer also can make the request for a trial when the case is ready. If no one requests a trial within three years, the arbitrator may dismiss the claim unless there’s a compelling reason to keep it open.
You and your employer will present evidence and testimony to support your arguments. In your case, you would present evidence that supports your claim. Your employer would present evidence why your claim should be denied. The arbitrator hears the testimony and reviews the evidence and issues a decision. The arbitrator has up to 60 days to decide the case.
You can appeal the decision to an IWCC commissioner. Further appeals after that can be made in a Circuit Court.
There are two relevant time limits, known as statutes of limitations, in the Illinois Workers Compensation Act. A claim must be filed within:
- Three years after you were injured or your injury was discovered
- Two years after the last payment of benefits to you
It’s best to file your claim as soon as is possible to prevent letting the deadline pass. If you miss the deadline, you won’t be able to receive benefits.
The workers compensation provides several types of benefits depending upon the extent of your injuries and the impact of your injuries on your ability to work. Benefits include:
- Medical care for your injuries
- Temporary total or partial disability payments
- Permanent total or partial disability payments
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Death benefits for surviving family members of people killed on the job
Your employers or your employers workers compensation insurance company pay your bills directly. You typically should not have co-pays for office visits related to your workers comp medical care, and your medical providers are not allowed to try to collect from you while your workers comp claim is pending.
Usually, you can choose a doctor from a list of providers who participate in your employer’s workers comp network. If your employer doesn’t have a network, you can choose any doctor. In either scenario, you have to notify your employer with the name and contact information of the doctor who treats you for your work-related injuries.
The Workers Compensation Act prohibits your employer from firing you or discriminating against you for filing a workers compensation claim. However, Illinois is an employment at-will state and your employer can fire you for other legitimate reasons like being late to work or making a mistake on the job.
If you believe that your employer took action against you because you filed a workers comp claim, you may be able to sue your employer. An experienced workers compensation attorney can help you determine whether you might have a claim for retaliation.
If you can’t do your specific job, you may be able to work light duty and get partial disability payments if you earn less doing light duty than you did before your accident. If you can work at all, you may be able to get total disability payments. You also may be able to get vocational rehabilitation benefits that cover retraining you for a new job.
If your injuries were caused by a third-party, such as another driver injuring you in a car crash while you’re driving for work, you may be able to sue the third party for negligence in addition to collecting workers compensation benefits. An experienced personal injury attorney can discuss with you whether you might have a claim for third-party negligence and what your options are for compensation.
A lawyer can be a very useful ally when you pursue a workers compensation claim. A lawyer can negotiate with your employer to make sure you get a fair settlement, or help you proceed with a claim through IWCC if your employer denies your workers comp claim. A lawyer also can evaluate whether you might have a claim for negligence against someone other than your employer so that you get all of the compensation you deserve for your injuries.
The length of time it will take to resolve your claim will depend upon a number of factors including the severity of your injuries, how long it takes you to fully recover or to reach maximum medical improvement, and whether your employer disputes your claim. Sometimes you’ll start to receive benefits immediately and other times it can take years. Having a skilled workers compensation attorney by your side improves your chances of getting your claim resolved faster than if you try to go it alone.
The workers compensation system in Illinois provides burial benefits and survivor benefits for the families of workers who were killed in the course of their employment. Survivor benefits pay the worker’s dependents a portion of the average weekly wage the worker earned in the year preceding his or her death. Benefits are paid first to a surviving spouse or children under 18. If there is no spouse, dependent parents may be able to collect death benefits. If there are no dependent parents, any other person who was at least 50 percent dependent on the worker may be able to claim survivor benefits.