What Is Workers’ Compensation, and How Does It Work?

What is workers’ compensation insurance, and how does it work? If you sustain an injury or illness as a result of a work-related incident or exposure, workers’ compensation benefits will cover the cost of your medical treatment and a portion of your lost wages. The work injury lawyers at Ankin Law in Chicago can help you determine what kinds of benefits you may be able to recover in a claim. Call us at 312-600-0000.

Group of workers standing inside a warehouse. What is workers' compensation.

What Is Workers’ Compensation in Illinois?

Despite OSHA regulations and increased safety awareness, work injuries and occupational illnesses still occur across the country, including Illinois. According to the National Safety Council (NSC), there were around 4.53 million work-related injuries requiring medical consultation in 2022 alone.

In Illinois, workers who sustain injuries on the job, or develop illnesses as a result of a hazardous work environment, may recover benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. This entails filing a workers’ comp claim and proving the nature of the injury or illness to recover medical costs, lost wages, and other forms of compensation through an employer’s workers’ comp insurance coverage.

Who Is Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?

Most employers in Illinois, including business owners, must carry workers’ compensation insurance to protect employees.

As a result, most employees are able to recover a degree of compensation from employers in the event of a workplace injury or illness. Exceptions include sole proprietors, corporate officers, business partners, and limited liability company members.

How Does the Workers’ Compensation Process Work?

If workers suffer injuries or develop illnesses, and they are work-related, they may file a workers’ compensation claim against their employer’s insurer. The workers’ compensation process in Illinois entails following basic steps, but cases can range in complexity based on the nature of the injury or illness, and other factors involved. Workers’ compensation lawyers may be necessary to resolve work injury claims – especially in more complicated cases.

Seeking Medical Care

The first step in the workers’ comp process is to seek immediate medical attention. As soon as you are aware of your condition, seek treatment. The sooner you receive a medical consultation, the easier it will be to prove that your condition is work-related.

Even if you don’t require immediate medical attention, it’s critical to obtain a medical evaluation after a workplace accident. Some injury symptoms don’t show up right away. Others, like carpal tunnel, develop over time. These are referred to as repetitive stress injuries.

Reporting Your Workplace Injury or Illness

In Illinois, you generally have 45 days from the date you incurred or discovered your injury or illness to notify your employer. Failing to make a report within this window could limit your ability to recover compensation or prevent you from filing a claim entirely.

Receive a Response from the Employer

Once you report your condition to your employer, the employer will issue a response to help you begin the claims process. This response should detail the medical professionals approved under the insurance plan for you to visit for treatment. While you may need to see these professionals to receive an initial diagnosis and treatment, you may also seek a second opinion from an independent medical professional.

The employer typically has 14 days to provide a response, whether it results in an approval or denial of a claim. If your condition causes you to miss three or more days from work, your employer must submit an accident report to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission within 30 days. In addition, the employer should initiate the claim with the insurer.

Check the Progress of Your Claim

Once you’ve notified your employer and the claims process starts, be sure to monitor progress. Your employer should keep you updated on the status of your claim and communicate any steps you need to take to continue seeking compensation.

You can also check the status of your claim online with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

How to Determine Your Benefits

The benefits you’re able to recover will depend on the severity of your injury and the degree of damages sustained. For example, the amount you’re able to recover for a head injury at work will likely be higher than a less serious injury to another part of the body.

A work injury attorney can help you calculate the total benefits you should be able to recover and walk you through the workers’ compensation claim checklist to maximize your chances of full financial recovery.

Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Illinois

There are several types of benefits that workers may be able to recover in workers’ compensation claims in Illinois.

Some of the main benefits in these cases include:

  • Medical Costs: Covered medical expenses can include costs pertaining to immediate medical care along with ongoing care. For instance, you may be able to receive compensation for hospitalization, ambulance rides, medications, treatments, diagnostic procedures, and rehabilitation, among other related costs.
  • Temporary Disability Benefits: You may also be able to recover up to 2/3 of your average weekly wage if you are temporarily unable to work while seeking treatment or recovering.
  • Permanent Disability Benefits: In addition, you could receive compensation for any permanent disabilities you sustain because of your condition. Permanent disability benefits are available to workers who are permanently unable to work entirely or unable to perform within the same capacity as they could before their injury or illness.

Factors That Impact Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Illinois

While many work-related injuries and illnesses may result in a successful workers’ comp claim with insurers and employers, there are some key factors to consider that might affect your claim.

For example, you may be unable to recover compensation if your injury isn’t determined to be work-related. Your injury must have occurred while performing work for your employer for you to qualify for workers’ comp benefits.

If you fail to notify your employer of your injuries within 45 days after the date of your injury or illness, you could be barred from recovering compensation.

Additionally, you may face challenges proving that your injury or illness is work-related if you have a pre-existing condition. However, you could still recover compensation for pre-existing conditions if working conditions aggravated your condition.

Another issue that may impact your claim is the nature of your medical care. You could struggle to recover workers’ comp benefits if you didn’t seek treatment from a professional that your employer approved based on his or her insurance coverage.

An injury may be difficult to recover compensation for if an employer can prove that it was the result of roughhousing or other incidents that fall outside the employer’s responsibility. An example of this would be getting into a fight with a coworker over personal matters.

What a Workers’ Comp Lawyer May Do for You

If you suffered injuries on the job, or you contracted an occupational illness, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney may be able to assist you in streamlining your claim and recovering the full amount of compensation due to you.

Workers’ comp lawyers in Illinois help clients with:

  • Preparing documents and meeting deadlines
  • Communicating with the insurer and the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission
  • Collecting and organizing evidence
  • Calculating the total amount of compensation clients are eligible to recover, including all medical costs and disability benefits

If you suffered workplace injuries, and you have questions or concerns about your workers’ compensation claim, or you need to file an appeal, the workers’ compensation lawyers at Ankin Law in Chicago can help. Our lawyers have over 100 years of combined experience handling construction worker accidents, work-related falls, healthcare worker injuries, factory accidents, and more. We offer free initial consultations to injured employees in Illinois, and we won’t charge you any attorney fees unless we win benefits on your behalf. Contact us online or call 312-600-0000, and let’s get started with your recovery.

Chicago personal injury and workers’ compensation attorney Howard Ankin has a passion for justice and a relentless commitment to defending injured victims throughout the Chicagoland area. With decades of experience achieving justice on behalf of the people of Chicago, Howard has earned a reputation as a proven leader in and out of the courtroom. Respected by peers and clients alike, Howard’s multifaceted approach to the law and empathetic nature have secured him a spot as an influential figure in the Illinois legal system.

Years of Experience: More than 30 years
Illinois Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: Illinois State Bar Association, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois
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