If you are injured while performing your job duties, you face a number of difficult challenges. In addition to the pain and suffering brought about by your injuries, you may be unable to work, and you may be unsure of what steps to take and how to properly protect your right to workers’ compensation benefits. If you fail to take the proper steps, you may severely harm your ability to recover compensation later. All of these issues make a challenging situation even more difficult.
At Drake & Collopy, P.C., we are here to help guide you through the process and to ensure that you receive full compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Our legal team has over 50 years of combined experience helping injured workers through complex workers’ compensation claims in the Chicago area and the throughout the state of Illinois.
Understanding Workers’ Compensation Law in Illinois
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act was established in 1912 in Illinois. This set of laws was designed to ensure that injured workers and their surviving families (in the case of those killed in an on-the-job accident) had a way to recover compensation for the monetary impact an accident or exposure at work caused.
It was not just beneficial for workers, however. When these benefits were established, it meant that injured workers could no longer file a personal injury lawsuit against the employer, even if the employer’s negligence caused or partially caused the accident or injury. This type of no-fault system also protects injured workers, allowing them to receive benefits even if their own actions caused the accident.
On the downside, workers’ compensation laws and benefits are very complex. If you are not an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, you will likely have no idea as to the amount of the benefits you are entitled to, how to properly handle your case, or what your case is worth for settlement purposes. Insurance companies will often employ medical experts and lawyers to downplay your injuries, minimize their impact, and deny your benefits. For this reason, insurance companies know they can take advantage of injured workers who do not hire an attorney.
Types of Benefits Available to Injured Workers in Chicago
After an on-the-job injury, you are entitled to recover a number of different types of benefits. Based on your situation and the nature and extent of your injuries, the benefits can include everything from lost wages to permanent disability, wage differential if you are unable to return to your job, vocational rehabilitation, and medical treatment by physicians of your own choice.
Even when the workers’ compensation insurance company pays you benefits, it may be substantially underpaying benefits or may not be providing all the benefits you should receive. Here are the different benefits you may be entitled to receive. They include:
- Temporary Total Disability: If you cannot work for three days or more because of the injury, you are entitled to receive temporary disability benefits while you are medically unable to work. In Illinois, you will receive2/3 of the average weekly wage you earned in the 52 weeks prior to the accident. Workers’ compensation carriers frequently miscalculate these benefits or fail to include eligible overtime wages or earnings from a second job.
- Medical bills and expenses: The Workers’ Compensation Act requires your employer pay for all reasonable and necessary medical costs related to your on-the-job accident. This includes (but is not limited to) hospital care, rehabilitation, surgery, equipment, medications, and more. You are entitled to seek medical care from your own physicians (with limitations) and are not required to treat with company doctors or clinics.
- Permanent Partial Disability: Injured workers who are able to return to their jobs are entitled to receive benefits based on the severity, nature, and extent of the injuries. These benefits are based on a percentage loss of use of the particular body part(s) (or the person as a whole) using formulas established in the Workers’ Compensation Act. They are subject to many different factors and are usually the biggest area of disagreement, negotiation, and litigation between the injured worker and the insurance company. These are typically paid on a lump sum basis upon settlement of the case.
- Vocational rehabilitation: If the injury you suffered at work prevents you from performing your job duties, you may be entitled to receive vocational rehabilitation benefits to identify suitable employment opportunities given your physical restrictions. You may also be entitled to receive maintenance benefits during this process after being discharged by your physicians.
- Wage Differential: For more serious injuries with permanent restrictions that prevent you from returning to work but allow you to return to a lower-paying job, you may be entitled to a wage differential that is equivalent to 2/3 of the difference between what you would have made if you were not injured and your new average weekly wage up to the age of 67. They are subject to many different factors and are generally a major source of disagreement, negotiation, and litigation between the injured worker and the insurance company. These are typically paid on a lump sum basis upon settlement of the case.
- Permanent Total Disability: When you reach maximum medical improvement, if the medical and vocational evidence establishes that you cannot perform work of any kind, or if you lost the use of both eyes, legs, feet, arms, or hands, you may be considered permanently and totally disabled. These cases typically involve the most serious injuries. If you are awarded permanent total disability benefits, you are entitled to receive benefits for the rest of your life (or in a lump sum settlement agreement).
- Death benefits: If a member of your family was killed on the job, it may be possible to recover death benefits. The benefits include medical expenses, burial expenses up to $8,000, and up to 2/3 of your deceased loved one’s average weekly wage during the 52 weeks prior to the accident.
Steps to Take After an On-the-Job Injury in Illinois
If you have suffered an accident and injuries while on the job, failing to follow the proper procedures can severely harm your case. It is important to follow the steps below to protect your right to receive full compensation:
- Report your injuries to your manager or employer immediately
- Get medical attention even if you are not sure you need it
- Let your medical providers know about how the injury occurred
- Document your accident and injury as much as possible
- Make sure your employer completes and submits an injury report
- Contact our legal team to discuss your situation
- Be very careful about your public activities and posting via social media. Anything you do in public or post via social media can be used against you to minimize your claim.
How Attorneys are Paid in Chicago Workers’ Compensation Cases
As in personal injury cases, attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases are determined on a contingency basis. The fees are not based on an hourly rate; rather, they based on a percentage of any settlement or award of compensation we obtain for you. Therefore, you never have to pay for our services out-of-pocket. We don’t charge fees on certain types of benefits, like medical expenses or temporary disability compensation that the insurance company hasn’t refused to pay. The contingency fee is generally 20% of any settlement or award, which is substantially lower than in personal injury cases.
Can Employers Retaliate Against Workers for Filing Workers’ Compensation Claims?
It is against the law for an employer to undermine your claim, harass you in any way, or terminate you for seeking workers’ compensation benefits. You have a right to file a workers’ compensation claim without fear of intimidation or retaliation. If your employer subjects you to this type of abusive behavior, you have a legal right to file a lawsuit for employee discrimination and/or wrongful termination.
Our Lawyers Will Fight for Your Workers’ Compensation Benefits
If you have been injured on the job, you have legal rights. At Drake & Collopy, P.C., we have over 50 years of combined experience fighting for the rights of injured workers. Our legal team serves clients in the Chicago area and throughout the state of Illinois. Contact us today to discuss your claim as well as how our team can help you get the compensation you deserve.