Chicago Workers’ Compensation Lawyers
Injured on the job in Chicago? Our workers’ compensation lawyers are leaders in the industry, and we can help you recover for your losses. In addition to benefits that are designed to replace a portion of your wages, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, disability payments, and vocational rehabilitation. If you are a surviving family member of someone who was killed at work, our work injury attorneys can help you obtain death benefits to cover funeral costs and to help compensate your family for the long-term consequences of your loved one’s death.
If you were injured or your loved one was killed on the job in Chicago, you deserve to receive fair treatment. Our work injury attorneys are here to help make sure that happens during this difficult time. Call us today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. 312-600-0000.
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Workers’ Compensation Benefits Available for Injured Workers
A variety of types of benefits are available to Chicago workers who were injured on the job. Depending on the severity of your work-related injuries, these benefits may cover everything from a portion of your lost wages and medical bills to permanent disability or vocational rehabilitation. Even if your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance is paying on your claim, the company may not be providing you with all of the benefits you are entitled to receive. Some of the benefits available to injured workers in Illinois include:
If you are unable to work for more than three days because of your work-related injury, you are entitled to receive a portion of your lost earnings while you recover. In Illinois, you may be entitled to receive up to 66-⅔ % of your weekly wages. If your injuries allow you to work, but you must take a lower-paying job or work fewer hours, you may be entitled to receive a wage differential equal to ⅔ of the difference between the average weekly wage you would have received had your accident not happened and your current earnings.
Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, your employer is required to pay for all of your reasonable and necessary medical expenses associated with your workplace injury. This includes medications, equipment, physical or mental rehabilitation, surgery, hospital care, and more. No deductible or co-insurance is required.
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Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits
If your workplace accident has caused you to be unable to perform your pre-injury job duties, you may be entitled to receive vocational rehabilitation benefits. These benefits may include education, training, job counseling, or other assistance to help you continue to be part of the workforce. If you receive vocational rehabilitation benefits, you may also be entitled to maintenance benefits while you are enrolled in an approved program.
Permanent Total Disability Benefits
After you have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI), your doctor will determine if your work-related injury has left you with a permanent impairment, and if so, to what extent. If it is determined that you are unable to perform any type of work, or that you lost the use of both of your hands, arms, feet, legs, eyes, or any two of the above, you will be considered to be permanently and totally disabled. Permanent Total Disability Benefits (PTD) are payable for the rest of your life.
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
If your work-related accident caused a permanent injury to some part of your body and you are found to be unable to perform some of the activities you could perform before your accident, you may be entitled to Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits. In Illinois, this may include scheduled loss-of-use awards, unscheduled awards, wage differential benefits, or disfigurement benefits.
- Scheduled Loss-of-Use Awards: Illinois uses a schedule to determine the amount of benefits workers with listed injuries are entitled to receive. If you’ve lost the use of a listed body part, you may be entitled to receive an award equal to 60% of your pre-accident average weekly wages, multiplied by the number of weeks shown in the schedule.
- Unscheduled Awards: If your work-related accident caused a permanent disability that is not listed on the schedule, your award will be determined based on your disability rating (which corresponds to a percentage of 500 weeks) multiplied by 60% of your pre-accident average weekly wages.
- Wage Differential Benefits: If you are still able to work, but your injury has caused you to earn less than your pre-accident earnings, you may be entitled to receive up to ⅔ of the difference between your pre-injury wages and your current earnings. Wage differential benefits will continue for five years or until you reach age 67 – whichever occurs later.
- Disfigurement Benefits: You may be entitled to receive up to 60% of your pre-accident wages for up to 162 weeks if your accident resulted in a serious permanent disfigurement that is readily apparent to the public.
If you are a qualifying family member of a worker who was killed on the job in Illinois, you may be entitled to receive death benefits. These benefits may include payment of ⅔ of your deceased loved one’s average weekly wage up to a maximum of $500,000 or 25 years, whichever amount is greater. An additional $8,000 in burial benefits is awarded to the person who incurred the cost of your loved one’s burial.
Protecting the rights of injured people since 1940.
What Is Workers’ Compensation in Illinois?
The first workers’ compensation law in Illinois was enacted in 1912. The law was meant to provide injured workers and surviving family members of those who were killed on the job with a surefire means to obtain compensation for the financial impact caused by workplace accidents or exposures. In return, employers who carry the insurance are granted immunity from personal injury lawsuits – even if the employer’s negligence contributed to the injury. The no-fault system also protects the injured employee, granting him or her the right to receive benefits even if the victim’s actions caused the accident.
There are a few exceptions to the rule, however.
- Intentional misconduct of the employer: If your employer’s intentional acts caused you to sustain injuries while on the job in Illinois, you have the right to bring a civil suit against the employer or accept workers’ compensation benefits. You cannot accept both forms of compensation, however. For an injured worker to avoid the dismissal of a personal injury lawsuit based on exclusive remedy, it must be alleged that the injury sustained was the result of an intentional tort, not an accident.
- Employer’s lack of required insurance: If your employer failed to maintain the workers’ compensation insurance required under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, you have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the employer to recover for your losses.
- Latent injuries: In May of 2019, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act were amended, allowing workers who are diagnosed with work-related latent injuries to sue their employers directly in civil court if the injuries manifest after 25 years.
- Self-inflicted injury or death: If the employee commits an intentional act that causes his or her workplace injury, his or her losses are not compensable.
- Employee’s violation of the law: If an employee is injured while violating the law, those workplace injuries are not compensable.
- Employee Intoxication: No workers’ compensation benefits are payable if the employee was intoxicated (alcohol or drugs) when the injury occurred and the intoxication was the proximate cause of the worker’s injury or death.
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What to Do if You Were Injured on the Job in Chicago
If you sustained accidental injuries that arose out of and in the course of your employment, there are a number of steps you must take to ensure you are appropriately compensated for lost wages and medical bills. If you fail to follow these steps, you could be barred from recovering for your losses.
- Report Your Injuries to Your Employer – Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, you have just 45 days from the time of your accident to notify your employer that you were injured. If you fail to notify your employer within the allotted 45 days, your claim will likely be barred and you will not be able to recover compensation for your losses. While you are permitted to inform your employer orally, our workers’ compensation lawyers recommend that you provide written notice of your injuries. This ensures that you have hard evidence that notification was provided on time.
- Seek Medical Assistance Right Away – It is imperative that you seek medical attention as soon as possible after a workplace injury or exposure. This applies even if you don’t initially believe that you’ve been seriously injured since the severity of some injuries may not be apparent for hours or even days after the accident. The American College of Emergency Physicians asserts that the first 60 minutes after an injury occurs are the most crucial in determining your recovery. Even if your employer has a network of preferred providers for workers’ compensation cases, you have the right to obtain the medical treatment you need right away. If you are severely injured, call an ambulance or go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care clinic.
- Inform Your Medical Team About the Circumstances of Your Injury – It is important to inform your treating physician about the nature and circumstances of your injury. Notifying your medical team that you were injured at work ensures that billing correspondence is sent through the proper channels.
- Document the Injury as Accurately as Possible – It is also important to document your workplace injury as thoroughly as possible. Your co-workers, supervisors, and/or any other witnesses may be able to assist you by taking photos or videos of the scene and any equipment or vehicles that were involved in your accident. Gathering this evidence can help your workers’ compensation lawyer ensure your case is successful.
- Ensure Your Employer Submits the Injury Report – If you were injured on the job in Illinois, your employer is required to submit an injury report to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The report should contain detailed information about your accident and should include your personal information, when and where the accident happened, how you were injured, and what injuries you sustained.
- Contact a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Chicago – Seeking help from a workers’ comp lawyer in Chicago is the best way to ensure that your rights are protected and you are fully compensated for your injuries. Our work injury lawyers offer free consultations to discuss your case, answer any questions you might have, and offer legal advice about how to proceed after your accident.
- Be Discreet – Insurance companies will stop at nothing to avoid paying a work injury claim. They may have investigators review your social media posts, come to your home, or even follow you to places you frequent.
- Know Your Rights – It is illegal for your employer to harass, threaten, or punish you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If your employer withholds a promotion or terminates your employment because you filed a claim, your employer is breaking the law.
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Protecting the Rights of Injured Workers in Chicago
Work-related accidents and illnesses are common throughout the United States, especially in certain industries. To help protect injured workers, Illinois and many other states require employers to participate in the workers’ compensation insurance system. Workers’ comp insurance premiums are paid for by your employer. When a workplace accident happens and a claim is successful, the insurance company pays for the victim’s medical bills and losses – not the employer.
The workers’ compensation system is designed to help compensate injured workers and their families if a workplace accident or exposure causes them to suffer losses. While the system was intended to be straightforward, it doesn’t always work that way.
Over the years, insurance companies have looked for loop-holes in the workers’ compensation system that allow them to minimize payouts, coerce workers into accepting settlements that are significantly less than their losses, or even deny work injury claims completely. Our workers’ compensation attorneys are here to close those gaps.
Filing a Third-Party Lawsuit After a Work Injury
If a third party contributed to your work-related accident, you may be able to file a third-party personal injury lawsuit to recover additional compensation for your losses. Since personal injury lawsuits enable injured victims to collect benefits that are not available within the workers’ compensation system, your settlement could be substantial.
Examples of third-party liability in work-related injury claims include:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident while performing your work duties and another driver was negligent, you may have a third-party claim.
- Defective Products: If faulty equipment, machinery, or dangerous products contributed to your workplace injuries, the manufacturer can be held liable.
- Toxic Substances: If you were injured by toxic substances, the manufacturer or distributor may be liable for damages.
- Contractors: If another contractor working on your job site caused your injuries, you may be able to recover damages by filing a third-party lawsuit.
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If you’ve been in an accident, our attorneys will help you get the compensation you need and deserve. Call us now for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.
Industries with Special Worker Protection Laws
Some Chicago workers are covered under different worker protection laws. If you are a railroad worker, a Chicago police officer or firefighter, or you perform your work duties on the waterways of Illinois, you may be covered under the following programs instead of the Illinois Workers Compensation System.
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act, commonly referred to as FELA, is designed to cover railroad workers in Illinois. Unlike filing a claim within the no-fault workers’ compensation system, bringing a work injury claim under FELA requires that the injured worker prove that the employer’s negligence caused the employee’s injuries. While the burden of proof exists in a FELA claim, however, the benefits an injured worker is entitled to receive are expanded to include compensation for 100% of lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and more.
The Jones Act
Employees who work on the waterways of Illinois are covered by the Jones Act. Under the Act, employer negligence must be demonstrated for a claim to be successful. Injured workers who can prove employer negligence may be entitled to receive compensation for medical bills, past and future economic losses, pain and suffering, loss of quality of life, and more. Injured workers may also be entitled to a daily allowance while they recover.
City of Chicago Police Officers
While most police officers in Illinois are covered by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, those who are employed in the city of Chicago are not entitled to these benefits. Instead, three other types of benefits are available to City of Chicago police officers who are injured.
- Ordinary Disability Benefits: These benefits are available to those who are injured outside of the line of duty. They are only available if the officer or firefighter is disabled for more than 30 days and not eligible to receive his or her regular salary. Officers are entitled to one year of disability benefits for every four years of service – not to exceed five years. Compensation is equal to 50% of the officer’s pre-injury salary.
- Duty Disability Benefits: Chicago police officers who sustain a disabling injury in the line of duty are eligible to receive Duty Disability Benefits if they are not eligible to receive their regular salary. Generally, these benefits are equal to 75% of the injured officer’s pre-injury salary but exceptions may apply. The benefits can be reduced to 50% of the injured officer’s pre-accident salary in some cases.
- Occupational Disease Benefits: City of Chicago police officers who have at least 10 years of service and suffer a heart attack or other disabling heart condition may be eligible for Occupational Disease Benefits if they are not eligible for Duty Disability Benefits. These officers can receive 65% of their salary.
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What You Should Know About Work Injuries in Illinois
Each year, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases statistical reports revealing the number of work-related fatalities and non-fatal work injuries in Illinois. For 2019, the most recent data available, BLS reported that:
- Illinois saw 158 work-related fatalities in 2019
- Work-related fatalities have ranged from 262 in 1996 to as low as 142 in 2012
- The highest percentage of deaths in 2019 was in the construction industry, where 30 workers lost their lives
- There were 24 workplace deaths in the private transportation and warehousing industry
- 90% of the workers killed in Illinois that year were men
- 58% of the workers who died that year were between the ages of 25 and 54
- There were 104,000 non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses reported in private industry in 2019
Chicago’s Most Dangerous Industries to Work
Although Chicago workers can be seriously injured or killed in almost any occupation, some industries are significantly more dangerous than others. Some of the most dangerous jobs in Chicago include:
- Construction Industry
- Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing & Hunting
- Private Air Transportation
- Nursing and Healthcare
- Ground Transportation
- Government Transit Services
- Warehousing and storage
Occupations with the Most Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses
BLS injury statistics for 2019 revealed that the following occupations had the highest work-related injury rates per 10,000 full-time equivalent workers (FTE).
- Nursing assistants saw about 370 work-related injuries per 10,000 FTE in 2019
- Commercial truck drivers followed closely with 360 incidents per 10,000 FTE
- Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers accounted for approximately 350 injury incidents per 10,000 FTE
While the BLS reported that work injuries were significantly more common than on-the-job illnesses, their survey indicated that the occupations with the highest rates of injuries were also those with the most illnesses – for the most part.
Common Work-Related Injuries in Chicago
While some workers’ comp claims include minor injuries like sprains, strains, and simple fractures, others are more serious, permanently altering the lives of victims and their families. Some of the more common workplace injuries our law firm sees include:
- Repetitive Stress Injuries – When Chicago workers are required to perform repetitive tasks for an extended period of time, they risk suffering repetitive stress injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome, for example, is a common repetitive stress injury among office workers. Likewise, laborers who stalk shelves of heavy boxes or other items may suffer from chronic back pain.
- Occupational Illnesses – Many occupational illnesses arise from toxic chemicals, loud noise, and other hazards in Chicago workplaces. As a result, many workers acquire hearing loss, serious skin conditions, respiratory diseases, and even chemical poisoning. When an employee’s preexisting condition is worsened by conditions in the workplace, that person may qualify for workers’ compensation as well.
- Physical Injuries – A wide range of physical injuries can occur in the workplace. While minor injuries like cuts and bruises generally heal on their own, serious injuries from falls, electrocutions, explosions and fires, equipment malfunctions, and even assaults can be deadly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, falls are the most common cause of fatality accidents on the job.
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Workers’ Compensation FAQs
Most workers are eligible for workers’ compensation coverage, but every state excludes some workers. Exclusions often include:
- business owners
- independent contractors
- casual workers
- domestic employees in private homes
- farm workers
- maritime workers
- railroad employees
- unpaid volunteers
Check the workers’ compensation law of your state to see whether these exclusions affect you.
Federal government employees are also excluded from state workers’ compensation coverage, but they receive workers’ compensation benefits under a separate federal law.
In addition, some states do not require workers’ compensation coverage of employers having fewer than a designated number of employees — three to five, depending on the state. So, if you work for one of these employers, you may be excluded from the state program.
Usually an injured worker will alert his/her employer of their injury and the employer will assist or direct the employee to emergency medical treatment and prepare the appropriate paperwork for the claim. If the employer does not start the claim, the employee can file a form called application for adjustment of claim with the Illinois Worker Commission, which will start the claim.
The law is clear that a person cannot be retaliated against while pursuing a workers’ compensation claim. If an employer fires or discharges an employee under these circumstances, they are subject to additional legal action. In my experience, the system works; retaliation is rare and an employee shouldn’t be concerned about losing their job because they file a workers’ compensation claim.
Every State has their own Workers’ Compensation laws that define how an injured worker receives benefits when hurt on the job. In Illinois the three basic benefits that you will receive are:
- The right to receive medical care and treatment;
- The right to receive loss time benefits;
- The right to receive money to compensate for permanent injures when you can’t permanently return to work; you may also have the right to vocational retraining and loss of income damages.
Workers’ compensation covers most, but not all, on-the-job injuries. The workers’ compensation system is designed to provide benefits to injured workers, even if an injury is caused by the employer’s or employee’s carelessness. But there are some limits. Generally, injuries that happen because an employee is intoxicated or using illegal drugs are not covered by workers’ compensation. Coverage may also be denied in situations involving:
- self-inflicted injuries (including those caused by a person who starts a fight)
- injuries suffered while a worker was committing a serious crime
- injuries suffered while an employee was not on the job, and
- injuries suffered when an employee’s conduct violated company policy.
Your injury need not be caused by an accident — such as a fall from a ladder — to be covered by workers’ compensation. Many workers receive compensation for injuries that are caused by overuse or misuse over a long period of time — for example, repetitive stress injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or back problems. You may also be compensated for some illnesses and diseases that are the gradual result of work conditions — for example, heart conditions, lung disease, and stress-related digestive problems.
Yes. If you are injured because of some reckless or intentional action on the part of your employer, you can bypass the workers’ compensation system and sue your employer in court for a full range of damages, including punitive damages, pain and suffering and mental anguish.
In my opinion, every injured worker requires legal assistance for a work related injury, especially because the new workers’ compensation laws are difficult for an injured employee to navigate on their own. Remember, a lawyer is paid only when they recover money which an injured worker cannot receive on their own. There is no risk in seeking assistance for work related injuries so the majority of injured employees hire an attorney. Disclaimer: The content contained in this column is for informational use only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should not rely upon the information discussed in this column for an analysis of your legal issue. If you have a legal question, please call the Ankin Law Office for a confidential telephone consultation; toll-free: (844) 600-0000 Local: (312) 481-6405. Please feel free to visit our website at: ankinlaw.com.
Under Illinois law, the injured employee has the right to receive emergency medical treatment; after that the employer should provide the injured employee with a list of preferred medical providers they can use to seek additional medical treatment. As the injured worker, you have the right to reject the preferred providers list in writing and be treated by a doctor of your choice. The injured employee can then receive all reasonable and necessary treatment from any doctor referred from the first doctor or through their referral chain.
Under Illinois law, anyone who is injured at work has the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. Immigration status does not matter as all workers have the right to pursue workers’ compensation benefits. If an employer hires a worker, the employer can’t benefit after the worker is hurt by saying that the employee was an illegal and shouldn’t receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation is insurance coverage for an employee who has suffered an injury or illness resulting from job-related duties. Coverage includes medical and rehabilitation costs and lost wages for employees injured on the job. The benefits are based on the type and severity of the injury. The law states that the worker must receive these benefits; there is not a choice by the employer or employee as to whether or not the employee should get these benefits.
In most states, it is a violation of the workers’ compensation laws to retaliate against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If this happens, immediately report it to your local workers’ compensation office.
For more information on workers’ compensation benefits, contact your state’s workers’ compensation office. Or, if you live in California and are filing a workers’ compensation claim, refer to California Workers’ Comp: How to Take Charge When You’re Injured on the Job, by attorney Christopher Ball (Nolo).
No. As long as your injury is job-related, it’s covered. For example, you will be covered if you are injured while traveling on business, doing a work-related errand, or even attending a required business-related social function.
The workers’ compensation system provides replacement income, medical expenses, and sometimes, vocational rehabilitation benefits — that is, on-the-job training, schooling, or job placement assistance. The benefits paid through workers’ compensation, however, are almost always relatively modest.
If you become temporarily unable to work, you’ll usually receive two-thirds of your average wage up to a fixed ceiling. But because these payments are tax-free, if you received decent wages prior to your injury, you’ll fare reasonably well in most states. You will be eligible for these wage-loss replacement benefits as soon as you’ve lost a few days of work because of an injury or illness that is covered by workers’ compensation.
If you become permanently unable to do the work you were doing prior to the injury, or unable to do any work at all, you may be eligible to receive long-term or lump-sum benefits. The amount of the payment will depend on the nature and extent of your injuries. If you anticipate a permanent work disability, contact your local workers’ compensation office as soon as possible; these benefits are rather complex and may take a while to process.
Social Security Benefits for the Permanently Disabled
If you’re permanently unable to return to work, you may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits. Social Security Disability will, over the long run, provide more benefits than workers’ compensation — but be forewarned that these benefits are hard to get. They are reserved for seriously injured workers. To qualify, your injury or illness:
- must prevent you from doing any “substantial gainful work,” and
- must be expected to last at least twelve months or to result in death.
If you think you may meet the above requirements, contact your local Social Security office.
State workers’ compensation systems establish technical and often tricky rules in this area. Often, you have the right to ask for another doctor at the insurance company’s expense if you clearly state that you don’t like the one the insurance company provides, although there is sometimes a waiting period before you can get a second doctor. Also, if your injury is serious, you usually have the right to a second opinion. And in some states, after you are treated by an insurance company’s doctor for a certain period (90 days is typical), you may have the automatic right to transfer your treatment to your own doctor or health plan, while the worker’s compensation insurance company continues to pay the bill. Because the insurance company is paying, don’t hesitate to go to a doctor who specializes in your injury or illness — even if the cost is great.
To understand your rights, get a copy of your state’s rules or, if necessary, research your state workers’ compensation laws and regulations in the law library.
In most states, employers are required to purchase insurance for their employees from a workers’ compensation insurance company (also called an insurance carrier). In some states, however, very small companies (with fewer than three or four employees) are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. In some states, larger companies that are clearly financially stable are allowed to act as their own workers’ compensation insurance companies (also called self-insuring).
When a worker is injured, his or her claim is filed with the insurance company or self-insuring employer, which pays medical and disability benefits according to a state-approved formula.
Construction and mining, rubber manufacturing, agriculture, and forestry have the highest workplace cancer risk in Chicago, Illinois. The same risk applies to building demolition, firefighting, brake repair, asbestos milling, and naval service jobs.
The symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease are similar to lung infections like pneumonia. You may experience a headache, fever, shortness of breath, diarrhea, or muscle aches.
When injured on the job as an employee, you will rely on workers’ compensation insurance to cover damages, such as your medical bills. However, the