According to records kept by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois workers experienced more than 150,000 occupational injuries and diseases in 2012. Many injured employees choose to file a workers’ compensation claim to recover medical expenses and lost wages caused by a workplace accident. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Reform Act has changed the system in significant ways, making it more difficult for workers to collect damages. Learning about these procedural changes can increase the chance of a successful claim.
Changes in the filing process
When injured employees claim workers’ compensation in Illinois, they must go through a series of required steps. The new legislation has altered this process to make it more rigorous and less susceptible to worker fraud. Employees must now do all of the following before making a claim:
- Seek immediate medical treatment for the work-related injury or illness
- Document the precise nature of the injury and the circumstances in which it occurred
- Demonstrate the partial or total extent of the resulting disability (there may be additional restrictions for conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, which can now only be claimed as 30 percent disability under the new Illinois law)
- Inform the employer in writing within 45 days of the intention to file
If the injured worker skips even one of these steps, the claim may be denied.
New responsibilities and restrictions for injured workers
Under the new legislation, an Illinois employer can call for a utilization review to go over the employee’s personal work history in detail and find possible reasons to deny a claim. The new law also decreases the employee’s choice of treatment options. If an employer maintains its own program of preferred providers, the employee may only seek treatment from a single doctor outside the system.
Difficulties in collecting damages
Even after a workers’ compensation claim is proven, it can be difficult to collect the full amount of damages necessary to recover from the financial impact of an injury or illness. Once medical care is completed, the new legislation allows the employer to request an impairment rating for the injured worker. If the disability is not as complete as claimed by the worker, the final settlement may be decreased.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Reform Act remains a controversial piece of legislation. While the reforms are popular among many employers because of reduced costs, some injured employees now find it harder to obtain compensation for a workplace illness or injury. Get in touch with a legal professional to find out more about your rights and responsibilities as an injured worker.