Workers in Illinois who sustain injuries during the course of employment are entitled to workers’ compensation under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act. Due to the potentially large sums associated with compensating lost wages and medical costs, employers and their insurers have powerful incentives to avoid paying claims, where possible. The outcome of a workers’ compensation case can have a major impact on the physical, financial and emotional well-being of an injured employee. For this reason, there are four things that should not be forgotten in the process of filing a workers’ compensation application:
(article continues below infographic)
- Notify the employer
- Seek medical treatment
- File the claim
- Use an attorney
In order to preserve eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits, the Act generally requires injured employees to notify their employers within 45 days of a work-related injury. Exceptions to this deadline include an occupational illness such as a respiratory disease resulting from exposure to radiation or asbestos. Based on the nature of the injury, the ability to identify the date of an injury ranges in difficulty. Some injuries with more delayed effects are less identifiable at their origin. In these cases, it’s important to notify the employer as soon as possible after the effects of the injury begin to manifest.
In the interest of both the injured employee’s health and the viability of his workers’ compensation application, seeking medical treatment for the workplace-related injury as soon as is practical is paramount. The rationale behind the importance of punctually seeking treatment is based on the perceived credibility of the injury as a consequence of employment. To illustrate, if an employee sustained a work injury during the summer, but did not seek medical treatment until the following spring, there may be speculation that the medical treatment sought during the spring was a consequence of an injury sustained long after the alleged summer workplace-related injury.
Similar to employee notification, the Act outlines specific timetables for filing claims for workers’ compensation benefits in Illinois. This claim is called an Application for Adjustment of Claim, which generally must be filed within three years of the date of the injury. Exceptions to this timetable are in place for certain respiratory diseases, including workers who were employed in certain fields, such as EMTs and Fire Fighters.
Finally, in order to ensure the highest probability of a successful outcome to a case, injured employees may wish to seek the help of a workers’ compensation attorney during the application and possible dispute process.