Workers’ compensation laws across the country serve the same basic function: ensuring an adequate safety net for workers who are injured, killed or develop an occupational disease in the course of employment. But, while all workers’ compensation schemes have much in common, each state has a distinct framework.
In Illinois, claims based on work-related injury or disease are governed by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act. If you or a loved has been injured in the course of employment, a basic understanding of these laws is essential to ensure you receive the benefits you deserve.
Compared to many other states, Illinois’ workers’ compensation statutes apply to a relatively broad proportion of the workforce. In Illinois, even very small employers are required to provide for workers’ compensation.
Employers must ensure funds are available for workers’ compensation, either by securing coverage through an insurance carrier or by electing to be a “self-insurer,” which involves providing annual proof to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission that guarantees the financial solvency of the employer. Illinois workers’ comp laws do not apply to certain select groups of workers, such as employees of the federal government.
Whether or not a worker is entitled to benefits also depends on the nature of the injury or illness. To qualify, an injury must be job-related. In most cases, this means that an employee was hurt on or near the business premises of the employer in a manner reasonably tied to the performance of the employee’s job, or was a traveling employee.
Furthermore, although any necessary medical treatment for an on the job injury should be paid for by the employer, an injured worker is entitled to a settlement if the injury is severe enough to cause permanent partial disability or permanent disfigurement, or inability to work.
As mentioned, your employer is responsible for the costs of reasonable and necessary medical treatment and care arising out of a job-related injury or illness. This includes any bills for necessary hospitalization, medications or rehabilitative therapy. In Illinois, you may select the doctor from whom you would like to receive treatment. You may select a new doctor one time and can see any medical provider to whom you are referred by the first two doctors at your employer’s expense.
If you want to change doctors a third time, you need to have a referral. There are no limits on the time or money an employer must expend for medical care; this benefit can last for life until the condition is cured or until the death of the worker.
Compensation benefits are a bit more complicated. These benefits involve payment to make up for wages lost due to an inability to work. Compensation benefits can be either temporary or permanent; they continue as long as your work-related injury prevents you from going back to work. For a worker who is rendered completely unable to work, payments are two-thirds of the worker’s normal pay (the two-thirds figure is subject to a statutory minimum and maximum that is adjusted twice annually). For those still able to perform some duties, compensation benefits may be lowered based on what they are able to do, given their medical restrictions.
Additionally, there is a provision in the law providing compensation for permanent dismemberment (the partial or total loss of use of a part of the body) or disfigurement even if the employee is still able to perform his or her regular work duties. The amount of dismemberment compensation is set by law depending on the body part affected and the extent of the damage. Payments for disfiguring injuries that do not affect normal work duties are subject to a statutory maximum time limit in weeks based on the injury (for example, loss of a foot carries a maximum payable time period of 155 to 167 weeks).
If a worker is killed on the job and leaves dependents (children, a spouse, etc. who relied on the employee for financial support), in addition to up to $8,000 toward burial expenses, dependents may be entitled to weekly payments for as long as 25 years or up to $500,000, whichever is greater. But, whether a worker’s survivors receive compensation or not is very fact-specific; each situation should be analyzed in detail, for possible third-party claims.
If an injured employee (or an employee’s surviving dependents) can reach an agreement with the employer, a one-time lump-sum payment can replace the weekly compensation schedule set up by Illinois’ workers’ compensation laws.
If you or a loved one has recently been injured at work, contact one of Strong Law Offices’ experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorneys. Your attorney can help you determine which benefits you may be entitled to, and will take the necessary steps to ensure you begin receiving compensation as soon as possible.