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How Long Do Employees Have to File a Workers’ Comp Claim in Illinois?

Written by Ankin Law Office

Understanding how long employees have to file a workers’ comp claim in Illinois can help prevent injured workers from losing their right to compensation. There are two deadlines for filing workers’ compensation claims. One regards the reporting of the injury, while the other is the deadline for filing work-related injury claims.

Illinois gives injured workers up to 45 days from the date of the injury to report the incident to their employers. Injured workers have up to three years from the date of the injury to file workers’ compensation claims for benefits.

If a worker obtains a benefit through workers’ compensation but the condition worsens later on, an adjustment could be made. Workers have up to three years from the date of injury or two years from the date of the last benefits payment, whichever is later, to file new claims.

The new claims must be a direct result of the initial workplace injury. Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers can help ensure workers help abide by the state’s workers’ compensation laws.

Exceptions to the 45-Days Deadline

Work-related injuries or illnesses do not always manifest themselves right away. If the problem arises from continued exposure to working conditions or possibly a repetitive motion injury, then there is no obvious date of the injury.

There is a date of medical diagnosis, however. In such cases, workers would have a 45-day deadline from the date of diagnosis to inform their employers.

Some conditions also are exempt from the 45-days deadline due to the difficulty in detecting them. Those conditions include pneumoconiosis, radiological exposure, and asbestosis. It can take many months or years for exposure to workplace dangers to result in a debilitating illness, such as cancer.

If the worker is suffering from a job-related illness rather than an injury, then the deadline is as soon as possible following the medical diagnosis of the condition. Some conditions, like mesothelioma, could take many years or decades to reveal themselves.

Workers Should Track Their Claims

Workers should pay close attention to the process for handling workers’ compensation claims after filing for benefits. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission will schedule a hearing that the worker and an employer representative must attend. The hearing notice will include the name of an arbitrator who is assigned to the claim and the date of the first status call.

A status call occurs every three months while the claim in effect. The status call provides the involved parties with the current status of the claim and the workers’ condition. There are no notices issued for subsequent status calls, so workers must pay close attention to the claim for any possible changes.

Status calls are not mandatory for the employer or the worker. But they do enable either party to request changes to the claim.

Workers Could Adjust Their Claims

Sometimes, a worker suffers an injury or illness due to work and files an initial claim, but related medical complications make the worker’s condition worsen over time. In such cases, it is possible to adjust workers’ compensation claims.

If a disabling condition worsens, the worker could reopen the case up to 30 months after a workers’ compensation award is made. But cases in which lump-sum settlements are made cannot reopen for any reason.

A worker might suffer a repetitive motion injury and obtain an initial claim. After going through medical procedures and rehabilitation, the worker might resume normal work activities that aggravate the original injury.

In such cases, it would be possible to adjust the claim by reopening it. But the 30-month deadline to do so would apply. After that timeframe, the worker would have to file an entirely new claim for workers’ compensation benefits.

Four Steps for Filing Workers’ Compensation Claims

Many workers suffer injuries that qualify for workers’ compensation coverage in Illinois. When that happens, the state advises a four-step process for filing claims.

  • Get medical treatment.
  • Inform the employer.
  • Learn injured workers’ rights.
  • Abide by the filing deadlines.

When a worker suffers an on-the-job injury or becomes ill due to workplace conditions, the employer must pay all necessary medical costs. Those costs could include prescribed mental, physical, and vocational rehabilitation.

Injured workers can see their own doctors and do not have to obtain medical treatment from employer-paid sources. An employer has the right, however, to have a worker see a doctor of its choice to confirm the injuries or illnesses and their extent are real.

Workers’ Compensation Weekly Pay Is Reduced

When an employee is unable to work for a period of time due to a workplace injury, workers’ compensation pays that worker’s average weekly earnings. But that pay is reduced to only two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly pay.

The reduced pay is in addition to medical costs and ongoing treatments that workers’ compensation generally covers. The pay is reduced to reflect the fact that the worker does not have the same work-related costs, such as equipment, transportation, and lunches, while away from the job.

The benefits from workers’ compensation payments are not taxable as income. Workers do not have to claim workers’ compensation on their state or federal income tax returns.

A worker must notify the employer of the injury or condition that results in time away from work, and present a doctor’s note. The worker also must request weekly workers’ compensation pay while away from work. Once received, the employer has up to 14 days to make the first payment.

When Illinois workers suffer catastrophic injuries that result in permanent disability, they could qualify for lifetime disability benefits. Those benefits are equal to two-thirds of the workers’ average weekly pay.

A worker with a permanent total disability might qualify for social security disability benefits. That raises the question: Is social security disability taxable? As much as half of a social security disability benefit is taxable as income.

COVID-19 Diagnosis Might Trigger a Workers’ Compensation Claim

COVID-19 now is included among work-related illnesses that qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Occupational diseases normally require proof that the worker contracted it while on the job or ran a higher risk of contracting the disease due to work conditions.

But that can be difficult when a global pandemic is underway. Illinois lawmakers in 2020 made it easier for workers to claim workers’ compensation coverage due to COVID-19.

The amended workers’ compensation law eases the burden for proving work conditions caused workers’ to contract COVID-19. Healthcare workers, first-responders, and essential workers at places that employ more than 15 workers do not have to prove that work caused the illness.

Instead, employers would have to prove the illness was not likely to have occurred at the workplace. Meanwhile, affected workers could collect temporary disability benefits for workers’ compensation in Illinois.

Because COVID-19 is highly contagious, it would be impossible for an employer to offer light duties or other work accommodations. Workers who contract COVID-19 could qualify for temporary disability benefits through workers’ compensation.

In some cases, an employer might be able to have a worker do the job remotely. If so, then there would be no need for workers’ compensation benefits other than medical costs. The worker could just do the job from home until healthy enough to return.