Understanding The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Process
An employee who suffers a work-related injury should seek medical care promptly and inform their employer about the injury. The Illinois Workers Compensation Act requires employers to purchase insurance that covers work-related injuries and occupational diseases no matter who is at fault. The workers’ comp process is designed to provide a safety net for workers if they are injured at work or aggravate a pre-existing condition while performing work duties. Injured workers may be able to recover:
- Total reimbursement for all medical costs related to the injury
- A portion of your salary if you miss more than three consecutive days
- Costs for retraining if your injuries prevent you from performing your job
- Compensation for permanent injuries
- Compensation to survivors if a work injury results in death
When You Have To Fight For What’s Right
Unfortunately, the process to recover benefits does not always seem worker-friendly. In addition, employers want to minimize the amount they pay in workers’ comp benefits in order to keep their insurance costs low. It is not uncommon for an employer to deny a claim, dispute the amount of a claim or state that a worker is able to return to work before that worker feels fully recuperated. When this occurs, a worker can contest the decision before a workers’ compensation judge.
Injured workers often ask how to determine when hiring a lawyer is necessary. Here are some situations when hiring a lawyer is probably a smart idea:
- When medical benefits or other parts of your claim are denied
- If your injury is serious enough to keep you out of work for an extended period
- If you have a permanent injury and believe you will qualify for permanent partial disability
- If you are unable to perform the duties of your job as a result of your injury
- When there is a pre-existing condition that complicates the claims process
- If your employer has retaliated in some manner as a result of you filing a workers’ comp claim
- If you feel there is reason to file a third-party negligence claim
Understanding Pre-Existing Conditions
One common reason employers deny a claim is that an injury stems from a pre-existing condition and is not related to your work. It is possible, albeit more challenging, to recover benefits when a work-related injury exacerbates a pre-existing condition. In order to collect workers’ comp benefits when a pre-existing condition exists, it is necessary to show the connection between your work and the escalation of the pre-existing condition. It may result from a single incident, or it may result from a repetitive task.
Choice Of Doctors
Receiving medical care from a doctor you trust is important to successfully recover workers’ compensation benefits. Your employer may have a preferred provider network (PPN) and stipulate that you select a doctor from that network to treat you. Under Illinois law, you are allowed to opt out of that network and select your own doctor. You are allowed up to two selections regarding the doctor who treats you. If you opt out of your employer’s PPN, that is considered one selection, so you are left with one more.
A doctor who is in your employer’s PPN may not have your best interests in mind when treating you. This is another instance when consulting with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney is a smart decision.
Returning To Work
It is natural to want to get back to work quickly following a work-related injury, especially to begin collecting full paychecks again. However, it is important to make sure you are fully recovered before returning to work. Starting to work too early poses a risk of re-injury or suffering a related injury. If it is discovered you ignored your doctor’s orders and returned to work earlier than recommended, you may lose your benefits.
Your employer may state you are ready to return to work before you are able to perform the duties of your job. An employer may curtail some job duties or ask you to perform a different job while you recuperate. If there is a wage difference for the job you are performing while you recuperate, you can collect a percentage of the difference through a workers’ comp claim.
If a work injury prevents a person from ever returning to his or her former job, the employer may offer a different job. You are entitled to vocational training.
Workers’ compensation is designed to provide compensation to injured workers regardless of fault. As such, a person who is injured at work can only pursue a personal injury lawsuit if it can be shown the injury resulted from the negligent actions of someone other than your employer or a coworker. Examples of when a third-party lawsuit may be possible include injuries caused by an independent contractor, a defective product or negligence on the part of a maintenance company.
Ready To Advocate For You
At Hannigan & Botha, Ltd., our knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorneys are ready to protect your interests and maximize the amount you recover following a work-related injury. We represent clients in Lake County and throughout Greater Chicago from our office in Mundelein. Call 847-388-0874 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.