Workers’ Compensation – The Definitive Guide

Injured at work? Worried about paying your bills? Confused by workers’ comp? Don’t stress. We’re here to provide the information and guidance you need to recover and get back to work. While you’re recovering, you shouldn’t have to worry about fighting for workers’ comp benefits like lost wages and payment of medical bills. That’s our job, and we love doing it.

Let’s start with the accident. The minute you are injured at work you are immediately entitled to workers’ comp benefits and compensation. It doesn’t matter if you were at fault, it doesn’t matter how long you have worked for the company, and it doesn’t matter if you have a previous similar injury.

So what rights do you have? First, workers’ comp will pay all of your medical bills. You pay nothing. You also get to choose your own doctor. Second, if you are unable to work because of your injury, you are entitled to lost wages compensation equal to 2/3 of what you were making before you were hurt. And it’s tax free. Finally, at the end of your case when your done with medical treatment, you get a cash settlement.

Sounds simple, but in reality workers’ compensation laws are complicated and confusing, and tend to favor employers more than workers. That’s where we come in. One of the best parts of our job is explaining the process to our clients and carefully guiding them through it. The insurance companies who are supposed to pay your benefits are usually more concerned about saving money than making sure you get the best medical care and maximum disability pay. Our workers’ compensation lawyers will deal with the insurance companies for you, and make sure you are treated fairly and get full compensation.

Don’t let the fear of getting fired stand in the way of getting the benefits you deserve. Termination or harassment of an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim is illegal in Illinois. Companies typically aren’t foolish enough to fire a worker for filing a comp case, especially when the worker has a lawyer.

If you have been injured on the job, we want to help you claim the benefits you deserve. This guide will walk you through much of what you need to know. However, there is no substitute for personalized legal advice, and we encourage you to contact us for a free and confidential consultation.

I Just Got Hurt at Work, What Should I Do?

  1. Seek Medical Attention. The first thing you need to do is see a doctor. Even if you don’t need to go to the emergency room, you should still make an appointment to see a doctor of your choice. It can take days or even weeks before you realize the extent of your injury. Don’t feel like you have to work through the pain. It’s very important that your medical records document how your injury happened at work, so be sure to explain to your doctor the details of the accident.
  2. Notify Your Employer. To be entitled to workers’ comp benefits, you must notify your employer about your injury. In Illinois, you have 45 days from the date of the accident to give notice. One way to do this is by filling out an accident report at work.
  3. Speak with an Attorney. Workers’ compensation, like most areas of law, is complicated and loaded with fine print. Without the assistance of an attorney, its almost impossible for a lay person to meet all of the technical requirements and obtain maximum compensation. Our attorneys will make sure you make smart decisions, avoid costly mistakes, and collect full benefits.

FAQs: Workers’ Comp Basics

What Is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that provides medical care and financial assistance to workers injured on the job. Under Illinois law, all employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees. Eligible workers get coverage for things like medical bills, lost wages, job retraining and permanent disability.

Am I Entitled to Workers’ Comp Benefits?

If you got hurt on the job, you are most likely covered under Illinois workers’ compensation laws. It doesn’t matter where you work, what job you were doing, or how big the company is. Even if you were hurt in another state, if you were hired in Illinois or if your company is based in Illinois, you can still file a claim here.

What If the Accident Was My Fault?

Illinois workers’ compensation law is a no-fault system. This means that you are entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits even if you were at fault for your injury. There are some exceptions (for example, if you were intoxicated), but they only apply in a small number of cases.

Will I Get Paid While I Am Off Work?

When you are off work because of your injury, you are entitled to lost wages benefits called temporary total disability (“TTD”) compensation. If you doctor has you on work restrictions which your employer cannot accommodate, your TTD compensation will be 2/3 of your average weekly wage for the 52 weeks before the injury. Sounds easy, but calculating the exact amount is complicated. Issues arise when factoring in overtime, holiday pay, bonuses, and time off. To make sure you get full TTD compensation for your lost wages, it’s best to have an experienced workers’ comp lawyer doing the math.

FAQs: Getting Medical Attention

What Kind of Injuries Are Covered Under Workers’ Comp?

Workers’ compensation covers all work-related injuries, including back, shoulder, hand, elbow, head, knee and foot injuries. Workers’ comp also covers hearing loss, lung injuries, cancer, hernias, vision loss, and occupational diseases, including mesothelioma from asbestos exposure. Injures from repetitive stress, including carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel, are also covered. In general, it doesn’t matter what kind of injury you have, if it happened at work, you are entitled to benefits.

Will Workers Comp Pay My Medical Bills?

Yes. If you get hurt at work, workers’ compensation will pay all of your medical bills, including for prescriptions and physical therapy. You don’t have to pay deductibles or co-pays. When you first make an appointment to see a doctor, be sure to explain that you were hurt at work so the bills are sent to your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company.

Can I Choose My Own Doctor?

Yes. Under Illinois law, you have the right to choose your own doctor. Sometimes your employer will recommend a doctor to you. But a lot of the company doctors are only interested in rushing you back to work and don’t provide the medical attention you need. You are much better off choosing your own doctor whose only interest is providing you with the medical care you need to heal properly.

What If I Have a Similar Pre-Existing Injury?

A prior injury doesn’t bar you from workers’ comp benefits. Nonetheless, insurance companies often try to deny claims based on a pre-existing injury to the same part of the body (especially in back cases). It’s going to be a fight, but the law is on your side: If you were working without medical restrictions and you suffered an injury, you are entitled to workers’ comp benefits.

FAQs: Your Injury and Your Job

Is a Workers’ Comp Claim a Lawsuit Against My Employer?

No. Hiring a lawyer to help with your workers’ compensation claim does not mean you are suing your employer. Injured workers cannot sue their employer. When you file a workers’ compensation claim, you are filing a claim for benefits from workers’ compensation insurance. When we take legal action, it’s not against your employer – it’s against your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company.

Can I Get Fired for Making a Workers’ Comp Claim?

Under Illinois law, it is illegal to fire a worker for making a workers’ compensation claim. In reality, employers are terrified of the consequences of terminating an employee that is collecting workers’ comp benefits. Your boss knows that immediately after you get fired, the company is going to be served with a lawsuit demanding millions in damages.

What If I Won’t Be Able to Do My Job Again?

The answer depends on your situation. If you are totally disabled and unable to perform any job, then you qualify for lost wages compensation and payment of medical bills for life. In many cases, you won’t be able to do your old job anymore, but there are less physically demanding jobs that you can do. If so, you are entitled to 2/3 of the difference in wages. In some situations, you may qualify for vocational rehabilitation and training so you can start a career in a new field.

FAQs: The Claim Process

How Soon Will My Workers’ Comp Benefits Start?

Your eligibility for workers’ comp benefits starts when you are injured. So if you go to the hospital, workers’ comp must pay the bill. If your doctor puts you on work restrictions and you cannot work, you are entitled to lost wages compensation starting on the fourth day you miss work.

Is There a Time Limit on Making a Workers’ Comp Claim?

Yes. There are two deadlines that apply to workers’ compensation claims in Illinois. You must report the accident to your employer within 45 days of the accident (or when you first learned about your injury), and you must file your formal claim within three years.

How Long Will My Case Take?

It depends. The biggest factor is your medical condition. Most cases end soon after the injured worker is done with medical treatment and released by their doctor. Depending on the severity of your injury, this could be a few months or several years.

Will I Have to Go to Court?

No. A workers’ comp claim is different than a lawsuit. Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that provides injured workers with disability pay and medical benefits. If a dispute arises, it is brought before an arbitrator at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. In workers’ comp, there are no courts, no judges, and no juries. Disputes are resolved through a more informal process called arbitration. And in over 95% of cases, the injured worker never has to personally at an arbitration proceeding.

FAQs: Maximizing Your Compensation

How Much Is My Case Worth?

Every case is different. Many factors determine the monetary value of a case. How much are your past medical expenses? Will you need future medical care? What is your occupation? How much were you making before you got hurt? How old were you when you got hurt? Will you be forced to take a lower-paying job because of your injury? These are just some of the questions we will need to answer to determine the value of your case.

Will I Get More Money If I Handle the Case Myself?

No. Many people think that they can save money and get more at the end if they don’t have a lawyer. In reality, the opposite is true. Without a lawyer, you won’t know your legal options and how much your case is worth. The insurance company will offer pennies on the dollar to get a quick settlement. Most people without a lawyer will think the offer is fair and take it.

Can I Sue Somebody Other than My Employer?

Yes. If you get hurt at work, you cannot sue your employer, but you can file a lawsuit against anyone else responsible for you injury. For example, if you were injured in a car accident, you may have a case against the driver of the other car. Or if you were hurt because of a defective machine at work, you can bring a lawsuit against the designer of the machine, or the company that installed it. These kinds of lawsuits are called third-party claims, and can be filed if another party was negligent.

FAQs: Hiring an Attorney

Do I Need a Lawyer to Help with My Workers’ Comp Claim?

Technically speaking, no. But do you really want to count on your employer’s insurance company to do what is best for you? An insurance companies’ priority is to protect its bottom line. They don’t care about you or your injury. They do care about saving money. Which means they prefer to deny claims. When you’re recovering from a work injury and worried about paying bills, the last thing you need is hassles with insurance company lawyers trying to deny your benefits. Handling a workers’ compensation claim without a lawyer is like getting on a jumbo jet and asking the pilot if you can drive. Know your limits.

Will My Employer’s Insurance Company Protect My Interests?

Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company is going to pay your benefits.  Does the insurance company like to give away money? What do you think? Like any other big business, insurance companies make the most money when they pay out the least. No matter how nice and friendly the insurance adjuster may sound on the phone, the truth is their interests are the opposite of your interests. The insurance company’s number one priority is to save money – which means giving you less of it.

How Soon Should I Contact a Lawyer?

If you have been injured at work, you should contact a lawyer immediately. If you try to do it yourself, you are probably going to make a mistake that hurts your case or gives up benefits you didn’t even know about. If you hire us, that won’t happen. And the sooner you hire an attorney, the sooner you can start to collect the benefits you deserve.

Is There Any Cost to Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer?

It costs nothing up front to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer. We represent injured workers on a contingency fee basis. This means that our attorneys’ fee is contingent on the outcome of your case. We only get paid if we obtain benefits and financial compensation for you. You will never receive a bill from us. We only get paid when we win. If we don’t win your case, you owe us nothing. All terms are put in writing at the start of your case. There are no hidden fees.

How Can Jackowiak Law Offices Help?

  • Avoid Costly Mistakes. Do you know when you are legally required to return to work? Do you have to accept being transferred to a lower paying job? Are you required to go for an independent medical examination by the insurance company doctor? Far too often, injured workers who have not hired an attorney make costly mistakes that jeopardize their claim for benefits and full compensation.
  • Calculate the Real Value of Your Case. Unless you have experience in workers’ compensation litigation, you will not know the true value of your case. We have the experience and resources necessary to win maximum compensation for our clients. We do it every day.
  • Negotiate with Your Employer’s Insurance Company. Negotiations with insurance company adjusters and lawyers are tough and complicated. To win, you need to know the law and the value of your injury. Our attorneys are experts at this, and will present the strongest possible case on your behalf.
  • Help You Make Informed Decisions. When is it time to settle? When should you accept a determination of maximum medical improvement (MMI)? Should you get a second medical opinion? Should you seek training for a new career? These are crucial decisions, and you need to make them with the help and advice of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.

Top 5 Things to Remember

  1. Workers’ Comp Pays All of Your Medical Bills. All medical bills arising from your work injury, including for doctors, physical therapy, and prescriptions, are paid by workers’ compensation insurance.
  2. You Receive Lost Wages Compensation. If you are hurt on the job and you miss work because your doctor has you on work restrictions, you are entitled to disability pay.
  3. You Get a Cash Settlement at the End of Your Case. In addition to receiving medical and disability benefits during your recovery, you also get a cash settlement when your medical treatment is finished.
  4. It Is Illegal for Your Employer to Fire You. Your employer cannot fire you, demote you or reduce your pay because you filed for workers’ compensation. It’s all illegal under Illinois law.
  5. Its Best to Speak to a Lawyer Immediately. If you have been injured on the job, there is a lot you need to know – even more than we have covered here. Contact us now for a confidential, free consultation with no obligation.

Contact Us 24/7

If you have been hurt at work, now is the time to take action. We want to help. Contact us for a confidential consultation with no obligation. We will answer all of your questions and explain all of your options. If you have a case, there is no charge to hire us. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid a fee if we win your case and obtain benefits for you. All of the terms are discussed up front and put in writing before we begin working on your case. You will never get a bill from us. We only get paid when we win. If we don’t win your case, you owe us nothing.

Our office is in downtown Chicago by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. But if coming downtown to meet is inconvenient for you, that’s no problem. We try to make the process as easy as possible for our clients. To start your case, we can do everything by phone and email. Then if you want to meet in person, we can meet at your home, or a coffee shop close to you. If you are ready to get started, please call our office at 312-795-9595, or contact us by sending a message or email.

Let’s Talk

Ready to get started? Don’t be shy. We love to meet new people. Just send us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. Consultations are free and confidential.

If you need immediate help, call 312-795-9595. No matter how you contact us, the consultation is free. We enjoy talking with potential clients to see if we can help right a wrong.

We are conveniently located in downtown Chicago across the street from City Hall and the Daley Center. Right in the middle of all the Chicago legal action. If you drive, we offer free parking at a garage close to our office. If you are unable to visit our office, let us know and we can come to you.

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