Workers’ Compensation FAQs
1. What should I do if I am injured at work?
- First and foremost, the injured worker should notify his or her employer within 45 days of his or her injury: While the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act does require you to provide this notice within 45 days, it does not require the injured worker to give a recorded statement to his or her employer’s insurance company. These recorded statements should only be given with an attorney present.
- Immediately seek medical attention: When someone suffers a work-related injury, it is important to seek medical attention right away. Any delay in seeking treatment will be used by the insurance company in an attempt to defeat your claim. This is especially true with injuries which at first seem minor and then become more serious.
- Give your physician a good history of how you were injured: What the injured worker tells his or her physician, the company doctor or the emergency room personnel when first seeking treatment is critical. Workers’ compensation cases have been won and lost based on what is recorded in the medical records as to how the injury occurred. If you have injured your back by lifting a box, it is important to tell your doctor that you injured your back while lifting a box. If the doctor’s records indicate that you are unclear how you were injured or that you did not suffer an accident, this will severely damage your case.
- Seek legal representation: Once you have been injured at work, your employer will turn the claim over to its workers’ compensation insurance carrier. This insurance carrier has handled thousands and thousands of claims, has expert knowledge of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, and is not on your side. In all likelihood, you do not possess the same expertise. Level the playing field and get an expert of your own.
2. Do I have to pay an attorney to discuss my claim?
Not at The Law Office of David Hunt. I offer free consultations and can come to the hospital or the home of someone who is unable to travel. The fee for workers’ compensation claims is set by law at 20 percent of the benefits obtained on your behalf. However, there is no fee until I win your claim.
3. Can my employer fire me for getting hurt or for hiring an attorney?
No, it can’t. It is illegal for an employer to fire you for exercising your rights under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. This is especially true if you are fortunate enough to belong to a union which offers further job protection.
4. Who chooses my treating doctors for my injury?
Generally, the injured worker has the right to make two separate choices of treating doctors. He or she may see additional doctors through referrals as well.
The employer does have the right to have you examined by its doctor, but it cannot force you to treat with its doctor. The employer’s examination is called an Independent Medical Examination (IME) and it must pay you, in advance, for your travel expenses, meals and lost work time.
5. Can my employer get my medical records?
When you have a work-related injury, your medical condition becomes relevant and must be shared with the other side if you expect it to pay your bills. However, not all your records are relevant, and certain records have very strict confidentiality requirements.
6. Does it matter who caused the accident?
Absolutely not. Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, the employer is strictly liable or responsible for all injuries suffered by its employees while they are performing their job. It is far more important to report an accident has occurred than it is to determine whose fault it was. This is true even if you are a traveling employee and you cause a motor vehicle accident which injures you.
7. What if my spouse is killed at work?
You are entitled to weekly death benefits for the duration of your life. Minor children of a deceased worker may also be entitled to benefits. Funeral expenses are also provided for. Other financially dependent relatives such as parents or siblings may also be entitled to death benefits.
8. How long will it take to settle my workers’ compensation claim?
A workers’ compensation claim must be kept open while you are actively treating for your injury. Once you are at MMI or maximum medical improvement, then your case is ready to move forward toward a settlement or trial award.
9. How long do I have to file a claim?
In general, you have three years from the date of your injury to file a claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. In certain cases, you may have longer than this if your treatment or off-work benefits have extended beyond the normal three-year limit. However, it is unwise to assume that you have more than three years to file a claim. It is also possible to file a claim against an employer whom you no longer work for, under the right circumstances. It is not necessary for you to still be working for your original employer to obtain a settlement or trial award from them.
10. Are my workers’ compensation benefits taxable?
No. Your off-work benefits and your settlement or trial award for your permanent disability are not considered income and therefore are not taxable.
Changes To The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act
In 2011, the Illinois Legislature enacted what amounts to be one of the most sweeping workers’ compensation reformations in history. Some of the many changes involve:
- Limits to injured workers’ choice of medical provider
- Use of the American Medical Association’s impairment ratings to determine permanent partial disability settlement
- Recovery for certain types of injuries limited
- Increasing the burden of proof for employees to establish that injuries arose out and in the course of employment
- Reduction of doctors’ fee schedules
What Does This Mean For You?
The recent changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act increase the challenges that injured workers face. While an injured worker used to have options when it comes to choosing a medical provider. Now, under certain conditions, there is only one choice. There are new limits placed on how much an injured worker can recover and more challenging legal requirements. If you have been hurt, it is more important than ever to hire an experienced attorney who can navigate you through these changes.