Under Illinois law, injured workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault for the accident, but it is important that they take certain steps to protect their legal rights. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help victims of workplace accidents obtain the full and fair recovery to which they are entitled under workers’ compensation laws and any other applicable legal theories.
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What to Do After a Workplace Accident
When a workplace accident occurs, victims should:
- Obtain medical attention as soon as possible. Injured employees should retain all medical records and medical bills. Generally, the worker may choose the treating medical provider. If the employer has established a “Preferred Provider Program” (PPP), the employee may select any two providers within in the program. First aid and emergency medical care are not considered to be one of the employee’s two choices. If the employer does not have a PPP, then the employee may pick any two medical providers.
- Promptly notify the supervisor of the accident and the resulting injuries. Under Illinois law, victims must notify the employer within 45 days of the date of the accident to receive workers’ compensation benefits, but it is highly recommended that they notify their employer as soon as possible.
- Return to work as soon as they are able to do so. A workers’ compensation claim can be filed up to two years after the injury occurred. Even if the victim has returned to work, he or she may still be able to pursue a workers’ compensation claim for any previously lost wages.
- File an Application for Adjustment of Claim form with the Illinois Industrial Commission within three (3) years of the date of the accident or within two (2) years from the last payment of weekly workers’ compensation benefits, whichever is later.
- Consult with a knowledgeable Illinois workplace accident attorney. Skilled workers’ compensation attorneys have considerable knowledge and experience handling legal claims that may arise out of a workplace accident, including workers’ compensation benefits and any third-party causes of action that might apply. A worker’s compensation lawyer can guide victims through the maze of legal obligations to preserve their legal rights and will advocate on the victim’s behalf to obtain full recovery, including pursuing any third-party causes of action.
Legal Options After a Workplace Accident
Workers’ compensation benefits are paid by the employer’s insurance company, but it is the employee’s obligation to file a claim for worker’s compensation benefits. In exchange for workers’ compensation benefits, employees injured in workplace accidents are barred from suing their employers for compensation for their injuries. Injured employees may, however, be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party who shares responsibility for the accident.
Types of Third-Party Causes of Action
Some common situations in which a third party might share responsibility for a workplace accident include:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents – When a delivery driver or an employee who is driving a vehicle for work purposes is injured in an accident caused by someone else, the worker may have a personal injury case.
- Construction Worker Accidents – If a worker is injured on a construction site because of the negligence of a subcontractor or worker from a different company, he can sue the negligent party.
- Slip & Fall Accidents – Workers who are injured in a fall while visiting someone else’s property for a work-related reason may be able to hold the property owner liable.
- Defective Products – When workers are injured as a result of defective machinery or a defective product used in connection with job responsibilities, a product liability claim can be brought against the manufacturer of the defective product.
- Toxic tort – Workers who are injured on the job as a result of exposure to a toxic substance, such as asbestos, pesticides or lead-based paint, may be able to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the toxic substance.
Successful Third-Party Claims
Workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for any on-the-job injury regardless of fault. To bring a successful third party claim, however, they must prove that another party’s negligence was to blame for the accident. The third party does not have to be solely responsible. It is enough to prove that the defendant’s negligence contributed in part to the accident.
In a personal injury claim, workers can recover damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress and even punitive damages in some circumstances. It’s important to choose a knowledgeable and experienced workers’ compensation and personal injury attorney who will explore all avenues of compensation for an injury.