Chicago Workers' Compensation Lawyer | Chicago Workers' Compensation Law Firm
Workers’ compensation laws were some of the first social legislation laws in the country. In Illinois, the first law was passed in 1911, going into effect on May 1, 1912. However, it was not until 1948 that every state in the United States had passed workers’ compensation legislation.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is the official agency designated with presiding over all workers’ compensation claims. According to the State of Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission Fiscal Year 2016 Annual Report, “claims are first heard by Arbitrators, whose decisions may be appealed to Commissioners. Cases may proceed on to the Circuit Court, Illinois Appellate Court, and if leave is granted, the Illinois Supreme Court.” However, like most personal injury lawsuits, most workers’ compensation claims are settled prior to the initial arbitration.
Job-Related Injuries and Deaths Statistics
Federal and state regulations aim to reduce the number of injuries and deaths at job sites and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “routinely investigates and penalizes negligent employers”, but those repercussions have not prevented more injuries and deaths from occurring. Apparently, the problem is even getting worse. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that 887 workers died in falls in 2017 – “the most since the agency started tracking job-related fatalities nearly three decades ago,” according to Fair Warning.
Regulating industries have attempted to educate both companies and employees on safety through a public awareness campaign, but those efforts seem to have made little difference. The major problem? Large companies adhere to safety standards and even go as far as sending their employees to safety classes, but the gap is with small companies who primarily work in residential construction. The Center for Construction Research and Training says fatal falls more than doubled in residential construction between 2011 and 2015.
“Contractors with very few employees don’t have sophisticated safety and health programs,” said Chris Cain, the center’s executive director.
From 2011 to 2015, less than one-third of construction workers were employed by firms with 10 or fewer employees. But this group accounted for over 60 percent of fall deaths in construction, according to the center.
How Common Are Workers’ Compensation Claims?
“Each year, approximately 200,000 work-related accidents occur.” The statistics do not lie – work-related accidents are unfortunately common, and in turn, workers’ compensation claims are also common. Of those 200,000 accidents, 40,000-45,000 thousand were filed with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission in 2016. In Chicago alone, 17,495 claims were filed, not including the surrounding suburbs such as Joliet or Geneva.
Many think work-related accidents only occur in construction. But, in reality, there are many industries that, if an employee is injured, can fall under the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Of course, construction is one of those industries, but there are also factories, railroads, trucking, and even organizations that employ union workers.
How Do I Know if I Have a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
This is a difficult question to answer as each individual case is different, but if you have any damages as a result of the accident, you may qualify for a workers’ compensation lawsuit. You may be wondering, “What are damages?”
According to The People’s Law Dictionary, damages are “the amount of money in which a plaintiff (the person suing) may be awarded in a lawsuit.” So, to put it plainly, damages can include a multitude of things.
Has your job-related injury resulted in any of the following?
- Lost earnings or wages
- Unexpected medical expenses
- Inability to perform work duties
- Loss of quality of life
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you likely have a workers’ compensation lawsuit. The party liable for your job-related injury should be held responsible for your suffering. At this point, it is strongly recommended you contact a workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your options. The legal industry can be difficult to navigate as is the workers’ compensation industry; hiring an experienced, knowledgeable Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you through both processes will be beneficial.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Protect Workers From?
It should come as no surprise that workers’ compensation laws were some of the first social legislation laws in the country. When the industrial revolution was taking hold, workers worried an injury on the job could affect their financial well-being. The laws were designed to protect the worker.
Workers’ compensation laws safeguard:
- Any injuries suffered by an employee while on employer property or at an employer’s event, given that the employee is not inebriated or practicing dangerous and unacceptable behavior.
- Any injuries suffered by an employee because of faulty or broken equipment supplied by the employer.
- Any injuries suffered by an employee due to exposure to a dangerous workplace environment.
- Any affliction to preexisting conditions.
Workers’ Compensation Disability
If you suffer from an injury at work that impedes your ability to complete your daily duties at work, you may qualify for disability. The three primary types of disability are:
- Workers compensation
- State disability benefits
- Social security disability insurance (SSDI).
It is important to familiarize yourself with the differences in the three so that you know which disability you are eligible to receive.
Workers’ Compensation Lawsuits
Certain situations may arise where employers are not immune to legal action brought against them by employees. Common situations where employees take legal action against employers are:
- The employer fails to carry workers’ compensation insurance
- An employer that does not carry required workers’ compensation coverage does not meet their end of the workers’ compensation bargain and therefore gives up their immunity from a lawsuit.
- An employee is wrongfully terminated by their employer
- This includes any breach in an implied or written contract of employment, a breach of an employer’s covenant of fair dealing, or violation of public policy.
- The employer engages in flagrant behavior resulting in injury to an employee
- Even though workers’ compensation laws protect employers from being sued due to most cases of negligence, employers are not protected if their negligent actions are intentional or their conduct is egregious.
- The employer takes retaliatory action against an employee
- Statutory laws protect employees from employer retaliation, including termination, demotion, interference with workers’ compensation, threats, isolation, or unwarranted disciplinary action.
- The employer discriminates against an employee
- Employees and potential employees who face discriminatory because of their nationality, gender, age, personal beliefs, or personal practices can take legal action against an employer or potential employer.
- An employee is injured by a third-party
- Employees who suffer a work-related injury due to the negligence of a third-party, commonly a coworker, can take legal action against their employer.
- An employee is exposed to dangerous conditions or substances
- Federal and state laws protect workers from being exposed to unexpectedly dangerous work conditions. This also includes exposure to dangerous chemicals such as asbestos, benzene, silica, or any substance that is known to cause adverse effects from exposure.
- The employer provides defective products to employees
- If an employer provides any product they know to be defective to an employee.
Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act covers “most employees who are hired, injured, or whose employment is localized in the State of Illinois.” The Act explains the rights of the injured worker. According to the Handbook on Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Disease, by law, injured workers are entitled to:
- Medical expenses that are reasonably required to treat the condition or injury.
- Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits while the injured is off-work and recovering which will account for two-thirds of the employee’s average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $1,440.60.
- Temporary partial disability (TPD) while the injured is working light duty and recovering. TPD is paid when an employee is able to return to light duty or part-time work that pays less than their normal wage. The modified wage is two-thirds of the difference between what you were making prior to the injury and what you are currently making.
- Vocational rehabilitation/maintenance benefit if physical therapy is needed.
- Permanent partial disability (PPD) if the injury is permanent, but the individual can still work. Illinois has four types of permanent partial disability benefits – scheduled losses, unscheduled losses, disfigurement benefits, and wage differential benefits. If you had an amputation or the loss of an eye, the weekly rate is the same as the temporary total disability. But, if your injury falls into one of the other three categories, the maximum payment is $775.18.
- Permanent total disability (PTD) if the injury is permanent and the individual is unable to work. If a doctor determines you are unable to return to your job, you will receive weekly payments at the temporary total disability rate for life.
- Death benefits for surviving family members.
The cap for disability payments is updated every six months and can be found on the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission website.
By law, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. If an injury or death does occur, the employer is responsible for the cost of the workers’ compensation benefits. If an employer fails to obtain insurance or pay for the workers’ compensation benefits for an injured employee, the employer is subject to substantial fines and penalties.
Seeking Medical Attention for Injuries Sustained at Work
Illinois workers’ compensation laws have recently changed. If you were recently injured while on the job, it is important to know your choices, starting with a visit to the emergency room or doctor. Companies have begun recommended doctors to employees injured, which are included in their Preferred Provider Program. If you choose to see a doctor not included in the program or outside of the network, you may be forgoing your right to file a workers’ compensation claim and could be held responsible for any medical bills.
It is our recommendation that you take proactive steps should an injury, or death of a loved one, ever occur. Contact the employer and ask about the Preferred Provider Program. The employer can provide you with a list that you can keep handy should an accident happen.
When Could a Workers’ Compensation Claim Be Denied?
While an injured employee should absolutely file a claim to recover compensation for their suffering, there are specific situations when a workers’ compensation claim will be denied. Those circumstances include:
- Self-inflicted injuries
- Injuries suffered while the worker commits a crime
- Injuries suffered while not on the job
- Injuries suffered when the worker’s actions go against company policy
TorHoerman Law Chicago Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Workers’ compensation claims are very time-extensive, convoluted matters which is why hiring a Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer is in your best interest. At TorHoerman Law, our focus is to help those who have been injured through no fault of their own. We want to help you receive the compensation you deserve.
As your lawyer, we can help and guide you through the legal process. The first and most important thing you should do is seek medical attention. Then, notify your employer of the injury. Once those two things have been done, your lawyer will step in to guide you through the other necessary steps such documenting all evidence, including medical records and bills, reporting to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission if hearings are scheduled, presenting evidence on your behalf, and working to negotiate your claim. If you do not hire an attorney, you will have to do all of those aforementioned steps on your own which can potentially get messy as it is likely your employer will hire a lawyer to work on their behalf, too.
If you have any questions, our Chicago workers compensation lawyers are here to help.
For additional information, see the following pages:
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