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About Your Workers’ Compensation Rights In Illinois

Last updated on May 31, 2024

If you were injured on the job in Illinois, as in other states, you likely qualify to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is a system under the law that allows workers to receive compensation for injuries at work without filing lawsuits.

Workers who are susceptible to injury may be nurses, nursing home workers, auto workers, construction workers and others who may be union workers. However, workers’ compensation is available to all kinds of workers, including office workers, educators and hospitality workers, such as hotel employees, waiters, cooks and other food service workers.

No matter what your occupation is, if you are covered by workers’ compensation, you should be able to get medical care almost immediately after an on-the-job injury through workers’ compensation benefits. Then, if you are unable to work for several weeks or months because of your injuries, you may also qualify for temporary or permanent disability compensation and other types, as follows:

  • Temporary total disability (TTD) if you are unable to work for a while after being injured
  • Temporary partial disability (TPD) if you are available for light-duty work while recovering
  • Vocational rehabilitation and maintenance benefits, if applicable
  • Permanent partial disability (PPD) if an employee can return to work but has a permanent disability or disfigurement
  • Permanent total disability (PTD) if you are no longer able to work because of your injuries
  • Death benefits for surviving spouses or minor children after a work-related fatality

Workers’ compensation is not necessarily the only source of compensation you have access to after a workplace injury. You may have private insurance. In addition, if a person or company that is not your employer was negligent and therefore responsible for your accident, you may be able to bring a third-party liability claim, which would be a separate personal injury case.

For the most expedient and effective coordination of efforts to get your injuries and losses paid for after a workplace injury, turn to experienced workers’ compensation lawyers. At Marker & Crannell, we are proud to represent our fellow Naperville area neighbors and clients in other nearby communities who have been injured while engaged in occupational activities.

Why does Workers Compensation Exist in Illinois?

The Illinois worker’s compensation Act was established in 1917 to enable injured workers a way to access three main benefits when they are hurt on the job:

  1. Payment of lost time from work when a doctor has you off or restricted.
  2. Payment for all medical benefits that are related to your injury.
  3. Payment of a settlement for the permanency of your injury.

Before 1917, injured workers had to file personal injury lawsuits against their employers and prove negligence to recover compensation for their injuries. All too often, employees were unsuccessful and the State recognized employees and their families needed help. When the State of Illinois enacted the workers’ compensation act in 1917, it created a no-fault system, meaning employees no longer had to prove negligence against their employers. Rather, when an employee is now hurt on the job, they are automatically entitled to the three benefits mentioned above.

Shortly after the Act was passed in 1917, every employer in the State was required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance in order to pay its claims – or risk going bankrupt paying claims themselves. Over the years, the insurance industry has fought to limit the benefits to injured employees. The Act has been amended many times and over the years, injured employees have seen their rights being taken away even further. Make no mistake- it is the multi-million dollar insurance industry fighting most workers compensation cases. It is the insurance companies that pay the time off benefits, the medical bills and ultimately the settlements. Their job of course, is to pay as little as possible and create obstacles for every injured employee to jump through.

The workers’ compensation act is very specific in its requirements and allowances. Failure to meet the requirements may result in an employees’ claim being denied. From the onset there are requirements on reporting the accident to your employer and then, which physicians you may choose. The entire landscape is full of landmines that can destroy one’s ability to get the medical care and financial benefits they deserve.

At Marker & Crannell, our attorneys will shoulder the financial burden and the stress of pursuing work accident benefits so you can concentrate on healing. We will help you find the right doctors, get compensation your entitled to while your off work, and even file an initial claim with the proper insurance company if your employer is refusing to do so. When disputes arise, our lawyers are familiar with all aspects of the system – we know the insurance adjusters, the Arbitrators (judges) and attorneys representing the employers. Our reputation is built on decades of experience.

Our life’s work is to help you in your time of need. Call us for a free consultation now. We are here for you – the hard-working people of Illinois.

When Should I Hire an Attorney for my Workers Compensation Case?

Although there is not one definitive moment a person should hire an attorney, there usually becomes a reason at some point in the case. From a legal perspective, there is never a bad time to have a lawyer on your side, and for that reason alone, we recommend hiring an attorney as soon as possible after a work injury. However, some common moments when most consider hiring an attorney are as follows:

  1. Questionable Employer Actions: If you are notifying your employer of an injury and they are not opening a claim with their insurance company, not providing you with their workers’ compensation insurance information or otherwise just telling you “you are fine” or “they will take care of your medical bills”. These are all signals that the employer’s motivation is to save money by not filing a claim with their insurance. These delays can have a serious impact on your case -especially if you are waiting on the employer before seeing a doctor. If this happens to you, it is imperative that you hire an attorney to help you open a claim through the employers workers compensation insurance and find a quality physician that understands workers compensation complexities.
  2. Misguided Medical Advise: When the company doctor does not take you off work completely and your employer is requiring you do work that seems too hard to do. The law allows an employer to ask you to go to their company doctor. You are NOT required to (you can go to your own doctor from the onset) but employers typically don’t share that you have a choice of your own doctor. However, most employees follow directions without knowing better and go to the company doctor. What they don’t’ realize is the company’s doctors rarely, if ever, take a person completely off work. Rather, they place them on light duty. This is because they work with the employer/insurance carrier to save money in having to pay workers compensation benefits while your off work. The travesty here is that many injuries require rest and/or time off and returning to work too early, even light duty, could make your condition much worse. Even more concerning, if the company doctor says you can return to work full duty too early, the insurance company will fight you later if and when you try and get your own doctor who says otherwise. Many folks hire a work injury attorney in these scenarios when their care is dragging, they are still required to work light duty and they seem stuck in quicksand with their medical progress. This is when you need to hire an attorney to help you get to the right doctor who understands the complexities of the workers’ compensation system and can provide you with the care you need.
  3. Independent Medical Evaluations: When you receive any notice that the insurance carrier is setting you up for an IME (independent medical evaluation). The law allows an insurance carrier to require that you attend a visit with a doctor of their choice. When an insurance carrier does this however, they are choosing a doctor they work with and asking for opinions from that doctor that help them in the case. It’s usually a sign that they are about to fight your case or cut off your benefits. You need to reach out to an attorney ASAP.
  4. Claim Denial: When you receive any letter, email or other notice that your claim is officially denied, you need to consult with an attorney ASAP. Just because the insurance carrier says the case is denied, does not mean so. Many times the basis for their denial is not valid and can be fought by an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
  5. No Settlement: When you have finished your medical treatment and have returned to work OR if you have finished your treatment and have a permanent restriction but cannot return to your job. In both cases, you are entitled to a settlement for your injuries OR for the loss in wages moving forward if you cannot return to work. The insurance carriers will rarely tell you of your rights to a settlement or make an offer, and even if they do; the offers are usually woefully low or inappropriate (even if they tell you you’ll save money on attorney’s fees). Our studies have shown that people who hire attorneys obtain 10% more on average in their settlements even after paying attorneys fees. Frankly, settling your case without an attorney is simply leaving money on the table.

Timeline Of A Workers’ Compensation Case In 8 Steps

The average non-disputed case is paid an closed within 8 months while the average disputed case is not concluded/paid for three years. Here is a general timeline:

  • Step 1: Accident – 33,250 work injury cases were filed in IL in 2022.
  • Step 2: Notice to Employer – should be done as soon as possible. Law requires 45 days.
  • Step 3: Medical Treatment – employee should seek it immediately. Longer the gap, the worse it will look. The average injury takes 4 to 6 months to treat.
  • Step 4: Off Work – if while going through medical treatment, doctor takes you off work, we will seek TTD payments for you. (2/3 of your average weekly wage). The average timeframe an employee is off work for a case is 3 months.
  • Step 5: Return to Work/Release from Medical Care
  • Step 6: Ordering of all Medical Records – attorney will order full set of medical records and bills to ensure all bills are paid and understand all the treatment your doctors provided. Typically, it takes 2 months to get all of these records.
  • Step 7: Settlement Negotiations or Trial – after reviewing records, the attorney will value your case – advise what he/she thinks is the value a Judge would award. We will begin settlement negotiations. The average case takes about 2 to 3 months to settle after all medical records are received. If no response or the case is disputed, we will motion for a Trial.
  • Step 8: Trial – 1,392 cases went to trial in IL in 2022, which is a little over 4% of all cases. In workers compensation a trial is initially held with an Arbitrator. If the employee wins, 58% of cases are appealed to the next level, the Commission, where a panel of three commissioner’s can make their own determination. This appeal process to the Commission typically takes about one year to complete. From there, only 19% of cases are appealed to the next level, the county Circuit Court. Those appeals typically take about a nine months. From there, only a small percentage get appealed to the Illinois Appellate Court. Those appeals take typically a year. The last level of appeal can be made to the Illinois Supreme Court, but those are very rare.

Reach Out To A Workers’ Compensation Attorney In Aurora After An Accidental Injury On The Job

Depending on the circumstances, if possible, you should report your accidental injury to your supervisor or human resources (HR) department. Your employer’s worker’s compensation insurer may then tell you where to go to receive medical care. If you have already gone to another doctor, be sure to keep your receipts and, as soon as possible, coordinate the rest of your care with the workers’ comp insurer or your HR officials.

Besides reporting your accident, you should demonstrate a good-faith effort to get better after an accident on the job. This means you should keep your doctors’ appointments, participate in physical therapy as recommended and otherwise do your part to get well. Keep all medical receipts and keep track of where your medical records are housed.

If all goes well, you should have access to all available and legally mandated workers’ compensation benefits, Unfortunately, sometimes employers or workers’ compensation lawyers take steps to block employees from getting all benefits they are eligible for. For example, your work comp-appointed doctor may say you are ready to go back to work before you are ready. Or the insurer may stop paying TTD or TPD before you feel able to work again.

By working with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer, you can be reassured that your rights are being monitored. You will have an advocate ready to take up your cause at any point.

What If Your Union Pledges To Watch Out For You?

Union workers sometimes have the mistaken notion that their unions will back them up after they have suffered injuries on the job. While unions do provide useful services, they are not trial-ready and do not have the legal training and experience that makes for a successful advocate in case of a dispute with the employer or their workers’ comp insurer.

At Marker & Crannell, we welcome the opportunity to represent clients from the beginning of their workers’ compensation eligibility and for as long as necessary to ensure that they receive all due workers’ comp benefits. We are knowledgeable and skilled in communications with all important people and organizations with relevant roles to play in injured employees’ recoveries, including:

  • Medical care providers
  • Employers and their HR representatives
  • Workers’ comp employers
  • Unions that advise their members

To learn about the simplified, comprehensive guidance we will provide, schedule an initial consultation regarding your injuries, such as those discussed below.

Common Workers’ Compensation Injuries

If You Have Spine Injuries (Neck, Upper Back, Low Back)

The spine is made up of three regions – the upper back, often called the neck (cervical), the upper back (thoracic), and the lower back (lumbar). Each of these is made of up discs between the bony aspects of the spine. The discs, or the areas between the bony spine, act as shock absorbers for the body as we walk and move and perform activities.

Nerves from the human body run into the spaces near the discs, into the spine and ultimately send and receive signals to/from the brain and various parts of the body. The nerves from the cervical spine run from the spine out and down the arms and into the fingers. The nerves from the lumbar spine run out and down the legs and into the feet and toes. Nerves from the thoracic spine run out and to the midsection of the body and many of our organs.

Back injuries are some of the most common work activities. The severity of these injuries ranges from simple sprain/strains to bulging discs, herniated discs and fractures of the vertebrae of the spine. When a disc is bulged, it is generally flatter and more squished than a healthy disc (think of pushing down on a tennis ball).

When a disc is herniated, this means that the disc has a protrusion or a more narrow disfigurement (think of a peninsula coming out of the tennis ball). If a disc has an annular fissure, it means that the outer layer of the disc has cracked or been torn open. If a disc has an extrusion or “disc material,” it means that the jelly from inside the disc is leaking out. The jelly from inside the disc is caustic to nerves and painful as it is released into the body.

When a disc is bulging or herniated, it can affect the nerve that runs near it, cutting off sensation to areas of the arms/legs or hands and feet near where that nerve runs into the spine. Pain down a nerve in the arm or leg is a common symptom of a disc injury called radiculopathy. The main way a doctor will determine the extent of a spine injury is with an MRI of the lumbar, thoracic or cervical spine.

Depending on the severity of the injury, doctors will first try physical therapy to help. If that does not work, they may recommend an injection into the spine. If that does not work, surgery is done to either eradicate the part of the disc that ruptured or remove it altogether. This is called a discectomy.

If the spine is affected in such a way that the disc cannot be fixed and is unstable above or below, a doctor may recommend a fusion, where the bones above and below are fused together with a plate and screws. In the cervical spine, there is a relatively newer procedure used called an artificial disc replacement, were a prosthetic or artificial disc is inserted in place of the old one.

Many times, there are permanent restrictions after spinal surgeries because the range of motion and strength can be limited, which may affect one’s ability to return to one’s job depending on how physical it is. For these reasons, it is important to consult with an attorney who is familiar with these kinds of cases and explain what the law allows for when a person can or cannot get back to work after a spinal injury.


If Your Shoulder Is Injured

The rotator cuff in the shoulder is made up of 4 different muscles/tendons – the infraspinatus, supraspinatus, subscapularis and teres minor. Additionally, the labrum and the bicep tendons attach at various points in the shoulder and can be affected by an acute injury. One or more of these tendons can become injured as the result of force or a load against the arm.

It is important to identify which of these tendons might be injured and the most accurate way of doing so is with an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). X-rays will not show ligament issues. Therefore, it is important to get to a doctor that understands these injuries and the need for an MRI.

Most often, a company clinic will not recommend or approve an MRI until months into your treatment after you have tried physical therapy or other remedies. The reason is that this MRI test is expensive, and their motivation is to help the insurance carrier save money. Further, most company clinic physicians do not specialize in orthopedic shoulder work. You need to consult with an experienced attorney who can advise you of quality orthopedic specialists in your area.

Typical treatment for shoulder injuries starts with physical therapy. If no progress is made there and an MRI shows any issue, a doctor may try an injection. If an injection does not provide relief, surgery could be explored.

The types of surgery vary in these cases depending on which tendons are involved. However, it is common that the biceps tendon is torn at the same time one of the rotator cuff tendons is torn. In that case, a biceps tenodesis will be recommended in addition to the repair of the rotator cuff. That procedure involves re-attaching the biceps tendon to the bone to stabilize it.


If You Have A Knee Injury

Most often, injuries to the knees involve either the ligaments in the inner knee, like the ACL and/or the MCL, or the bones and/or cartilage of the knee, like the meniscus, patella, or tibial plateau. The ligaments have different functions in helping provide stability to the knee joint with different motions. The cartilage and bony components are structural and support the weight of the body and allow the knee to function smoothly. There are two menisci in each knee, medial and lateral meniscus. The smooth cartilage in the meniscus acts as a shock absorber for the knee joint – when a meniscus is torn, it is common to feel catching, popping, or locking in the knee, especially when going up or down stairs. Orthopedic “sports medicine” physicians specialize in knee treatment. An MRI is the best way to identify what part of your knee is injured. Most company clinic physicians do not specialize in orthopedic knee injuries. You need to consult with an experienced attorney who can advise you of quality orthopedic specialists in your area.

Typical treatment for knee injuries begins with physical therapy. If no progress is being made there, a doctor may recommend an injection. If the knee is swollen, a doctor could perform an aspiration or drainage procedure. If the knee still does not respond and an MRI shows surgery is needed, a repair of one or more of the tendons can be performed, such as a meniscectomy, ACL repair, MCL repair or sometimes even a total knee replacement.

Many times, people can develop arthritis in their knees not related to their work injuries – this is essentially the wearing down of the cartilage in the joint of the knee. The degree of wearing is graded by a doctor from Grade 1 to Grade 4. Once all of the cartilage is gone, the knee is bone on bone and cannot move and typically, a total knee replacement is required.

A work injury can accelerate the arthritic process, especially when there is a tear in one of the tendons, which compromises the integrity of the entire knee. Therefore, one must consult with an attorney to discuss these medical conditions to determine whether their injuries were aggravated by a work activity or not.

If You Suffered Injuries To The Nerves In Your Arms

Cubital tunnel injuries are injuries to the nerve at the elbow, while carpal tunnel injuries occur at the wrist. These injuries can be caused by actual direct trauma or repetitive trauma – where one does forceful and repetitive tasks over time that wear down these nerves.

If you are having pain down your arm, various tests can be performed to determine where the nerve is damaged, the most common of which is an EMG/NCV test. This test will determine if the nerves down your arm are being compromised in common areas such as the neck, elbow or hand. If at the neck, this can be a spinal injury in the cervical spine, pinching the nerve that enters it. If at the elbow, the cubital tunnel could be the problem – pinching the nerve as it goes through.

If at the wrist, the carpal tunnel could be pinching the nerve. In any of these scenarios, an orthopedic specialist is needed and a company clinic physician does not have that level of specialty and, therefore, typically will not order this test until months later. You should consult with an experienced attorney who can advise you of quality orthopedic specialists in your area.

Common treatment for these nerve injuries includes initial therapy and medications to ease the nerve pain. If that does not work, surgery can be performed on the affected area, which could include a carpal tunnel release, a cubital tunnel release, an ulnar nerve transposition, or a medial epicondyle release.

All of these treatments are an attempt to allow the nerve to be free of restriction and get feeling back in the affected area and extremity. Many times after these surgeries, one can be left with residual nerve pain and even permanent strength issues. Therefore, it is important to speak to an attorney who can explain what the law allows for when a person can or cannot get back to work after a nerve injury.

If You Have Injuries To The Hands Or Fingers

Common worker injuries to the hands and fingers include Trigger Finger, TCFL injuries, CMC (Carpometacarpal) joint thumb injuries, and Guyan’s Canal injuries. The hand is a complex structure, and it can sometimes be difficult to understand where pain is stemming from. If you are suffering from an injury to your hand or fingers you can reach out to our workers compensation lawyers for information about compensation that might be available. 


If You Have Foot Injuries

Injuries to the feet include fractures, ATFL (anterior talofibular ligament) sprains or tears, and Achilles tendon injuries. Pain and limitations in the feet can impact walking and getting around in a way that impacts many work environments. If you are concerned about the impact on your work and your future compensation, reach out to our attorneys to learn about what your rights are. 

Get A Free Consultation With A Workers’ Compensation Attorney In Naperville

At Marker & Crannell, a work injury attorney will evaluate your case, explain how we can help and start right away representing you as needed to maximize all available benefits for you after a workplace accident.

To get your name on our booking calendar, please call us at 630-912-6009 or send an email inquiry to schedule a consultation. We will come to your home, hospital or workplace as is necessary. If you would like to skip our initial intake process, please consider the option of completing this form prior to our meeting.