Workers' Compensation

I. WHAT IS IT?

By law in the State of Illinois, claims for workers' compensation benefits are handled by the State of Illinois Industrial Commission. The law provides a system of benefits to employees who have job related injuries or diseases. The law contains time limits for reporting an injury or disease to the employer and for filing documents with the Industrial Commission. If the injury is not reported in time, or if the claim is not filed in time, the employee may lose the case.

II. TYPES OF INJURIES AND DISEASES COVERED

Coverage here is extended and paid for accidental injuries that are caused, in whole or in part, by the employee's work. This would also include injuries brought on by repetitive use of a hand or other body part as well as strokes and heart attacks caused by work.

III. BENEFITS THAT ARE PROVIDED

There are essentially three types of benefits that are provided, namely:

A. Medical Care Benefits - As a result of a covered injury, the employee is entitled to receive to 100% payment for all necessary medical charges necessitated by the injury or disease. In addition, the employee may also be entitled, where necessary, to receive physical or vocational rehabilitation.

B. Temporary Total Disability Benefits - If an employee, as a result of the injury or disease loses time from work because a physician keeps him off work in order to recover from his injury or disease, the employee is entitled to receive weekly payments until he or she is able to return to work. These weekly payments are know as temporary total disability benefits (TTD), and represent 66 2/3% of an employee's average weekly wage. However, no compensation is payable for the first three working days, unless the lost time continues for 14 or more calendar days from the date of the injury.

C. Permanent Disability, Disfigurement and Death Benefits - An injury to an employee which results in permanent disability, disfigurement or death leads to additional benefits that are provided under the Act. The specific amount recovered and allowed is based on many factors including but not limited to the occupation, inability to engage in certain kinds of work, pain, stiffness, limitation of motion with a body part and the like. Compensation for a partial loss of use is calculated by multiplying the percentage of loss by the number of weeks listed in the statute. For this reason, with a serious injury case, an individual would be well advised to have legal representation. Anyone involved in a hearing or an attempt to negotiate an out of court settlement must have a thorough knowledge of workers' compensation law and the rules of evidence. Also, bear in mind that workers' compensation insurance companies are typically represented by competent attorneys who will not only try to minimize the dollar amount of compensation the injured employee will receive but also may contest the medical expenses incurred as being either unreasonable or unrelated to the accident.

IV. JOB INJURIES AND YOUR STATUS AS AN EMPLOYEE

Choose an attorney that not only concentrates his practice in the field of workers' compensation, but also employment law.

It is important to understand that an injured employee's pursuit of benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act presents different issues from other problems that arise from an injured workers' status as an employee. As a result of being injured on the job or suffering from some disease, other issues may arise that fall under the umbrella of the Americans with Disabilities Act or Family and Medical Leave Act. An employee may suffer discrimination along with discharge and termination. In Illinois it is against the law for the employer to harass, discharge, refuse to rehire or in any way discriminate against an employee for e xercising his or her rights under the Workers' Compensation or Occupational Diseases Act. If this happens, such conduct can give ris e to a right to the injured employee to file a separate suit for damages in the circuit court. In almost every workers' compensation case, these issues and questions overlap. For these reasons, an injured worker is well advised to retain the services of an attorney who not only concentrates his practice in the field of workers' compensation but also employment law.

V. THIRD PARTY CASES

Depending upon the facts, occasionally an injured worker, in addition to his workers' compensation benefits, may have other substantial rights allowing him to recover money damages from a party other than the employer, often referred to as a "third party". Examples of this would be if the injury arose because of an explosion or manufacturer of a dangerous or defective product. It may also arise if the injured worker gets hurt due to the negligent operation of a motor vehicle by a third party. Obviously, to determine whether such a "third party" case exists, thorough investigation of the facts are needed.