Illinois Lawyer Referrals and Legal Guidance
Frequently Asked Questions about Illinois Workers' Compensation Cases
The following are common questions that we are asked by people who have an Illinois workers’ compensation claim.
If I fire my attorney and hire a new one, will I have to give them each 20%?
Claims for attorneys’ fees against any workers’ compensation benefits granted cannot exceed 20%. Should the injured worker have been represented by more than one attorney, the Commission will hold a hearing to determine how that 20% fee is to be divided between the attorneys.
What is a petition for immediate hearing?
If an injured worker has unpaid medical bills or has not received benefits for time lost at work, he may file a petition for immediate hearing. A petition for immediate hearing, also called a 19(b) hearing, will result in an arbitrator coming to a final decision on an expedited basis. Employees who are working again and who are only seeking twelve weeks or less of total temporary disability (TTD) are not entitled to an immediate hearing. TTD is available when an injured worker is under medical care, not having reached the level of health necessary to return to work. Employers may also seek a petition for an immediate hearing in certain situations.
I work in Joliet, but got hurt in Indiana. Can I still file my case in Illinois?
Yes. Illinois worker’s compensation law covers workers who are hired in Illinois but are injured while working for their employers in other states. Also covered are employees who work primarily in the state of Illinois, even if they were hired or injured outside the state. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t bring a case in Illinois without investigating it first.
If I quit my job will it impact my case?
It depends. If a worker is injured to the extent that he cannot work at all, he is entitled to benefits even if he quits. However, if a worker is capable of doing less strenuous tasks and the employer accommodates him with such lighter work, an employee quitting will usually excuse the employer from paying benefits. If the worker has no permanent restrictions, quitting will have no practical impact on a workers' compensation claim in most cases. You should never quit though without talking to an attorney first.
What is vocational rehabilitation?
While the term “vocational rehabilitation” seems to imply that an injured worker would be entitled to a job retraining program, this is not always the case. In Illinois, vocational rehabilitation usually involves the worker being assisted in a search for another job. There are very specific and complicated criteria which must be met before an employer in Illinois would be required to provide formal retraining and/or schooling to an injured worker.
Can I sue for pain and suffering?
No. Worker’s compensation is meant to cover medical expenses, lost wages, and damage to a worker’s body but not pain and suffering. That said, workers’ compensation does compensate you in a similar way. Also, if you were hurt due to the negligence of someone else, you can bring a lawsuit and ask for pain and suffering then.
What happens at a status hearing?
Every case gets assigned to an Arbitrator who holds a status hearing on the case every 90 days (prior to January 2012, status hearings were every 60 days). A status hearing is an opportunity for either party to request a hearing date. If neither party takes this opportunity at the status hearing, the case will continue for at least another three months, until the next status hearing. The process then repeats itself. When a case has been ongoing for more than three years, the arbitrator will either force the case to hearing, obtain information from the parties as to why the case should be continued or dismiss the case.
If my condition is pre-existing can I still file a case?
Yes. Just because a condition is pre-existing does not mean that an injured worker cannot receive compensation. As long as the worker can show that his job made the condition worse than it would have been if he had not been doing the job, the worker can recover. The worker, however, cannot recover for the normal effects of aging that everyone ultimately experiences.
I have two jobs, type at both of them and have carpal tunnel. How do I know which employer to file the claim against?
An injured worker should file a claim against both employers to best protect his right to compensation. Later, medical evidence will be reviewed by an arbitrator, who will eventually determine which of the employers are liable for the injury.
If I want to make sure that my future medical bills are paid for what should I do?
A worker protects his right to have future medical bills paid for by filing a claim.
What is a statute of limitations?
A statute of limitations is the amount of time an injured worker has to file for worker’s compensation. If an injured worker fails to meet this deadline, he typically will not be able to seek or obtain compensation. In Illinois, injured workers who have received no compensation have three years from the date of the accident to file with the Commission. If compensation has been given, a worker has two years from the date of the last payment of benefits to file a claim for further compensation.
I have two jobs and can’t work either because of my injury. Do I get paid for being off both of them or just one?
If the employer responsible for worker’s compensation benefits knew of the injured worker’s other job prior to the injury, wages from the other job will be “considered as if earned from the employer liable for compensation” when determining benefits to be paid.
How long do I have to inform my employer that I got hurt on the job?
In Illinois, a worker should inform the employer of the accidental injury as soon as possible. However, the employee must notify his employee within 45 days of the date of the accident.
I don’t like my doctor. Can I see a new one?
Yes. An injured worker can choose up to two medical providers to treat him for his injury. Those two choices also entitle the worker to treat with any doctor in the chain of referrals from the original two doctors. For injuries after September 1, 2011, if the employer has a preferred provider network for workers’ compensation, the employee has to choose from the network. If the employee opts out, they only have one remaining provider choice.
My co-worker had the same injury as me, but he got offered $10,000.00 more than me to settle. Why is that?
The Illinois worker’s compensation system gives benefits based on a certain percentage of the worker’s weekly wage. If two co-workers suffer the same injury at the same time and one worker is offered more money, it is likely that worker was receiving a higher wage. Additionally, each worker’s claim is unique.
How long does an appeal take?
An arbitrator will make the original ruling in a worker’s compensation case. While there are no hard and fast rules, the Arbitrator’s Decision is usually rendered between 60 and 120 days of the hearing being completed. Should a party be dissatisfied with the result, the party appeals the decision to the Commission within thirty days of receiving it.
The matter will be briefed by both parties, which usually takes at least 90 days. After briefing, an oral argument date usually follows within 120 to 180 days.
The parties will make arguments before the Commission. Within sixty days of those arguments, the Commission will decide whether to allow the arbitrator’s decision to stand.
However, the Commission’s decision may then be appealed to the circuit court, and to the appellate court and possibly the Supreme Court after that. Once the matter is appealed to the Circuit Court (a very small percentage of cases are appealed to this level), it usually takes about nine months at each appellate level to get a decision.
What is the best advice you can give me as an injured worker?
Always tell the truth to your doctor and employer and never try to embellish your situation. We’ve seen many people screw up their case by doing something that they think will help the claim instead of just being straight forward and honest about what is going on with them.
Is it legal for my employer to conduct surveillance on me?
Yes and it happens all of the time in big injury claims which is even more reason to follow our advice about being honest.
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