This requires you to file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer so you can receive money for your medical care costs and any wages you won’t earn because of not being at work.
But does that mean that the person who is responsible for your injuries will get off scot-free? Or will he or she be named as a defendant in a future personal injury lawsuit? And how will that suit affect your workers’ compensation payments?
In the state of Illinois, it is perfectly acceptable for a truck driver to receive workers’ compensation payments while involved in a third-party liability lawsuit against another motorist. Because workers’ compensation is what is known as a “no-fault” system, your employer is required to make these payments whether the accident was your fault or the fault of another driver. These payments will be made to you as they come due. But if the accident was indeed caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, your company will want to obtain damages from the offending party – so it will probably file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Does that mean you as a truck driver can keep getting workers’ compensation payments and then possibly obtain a large monetary judgment later on at the conclusion of a trial or as part of a mutually-agreed settlement?
Yes and no. If your employer chooses to file a third-party lawsuit in connection with an incident in which it is already paying out workers’ compensation, the company will have what is known as a lien against money that is awarded to you as part of the suit. A lien basically gives your company the right to recover any funds that have already been disbursed to you in workers’ compensation payments. Any money left over after the lien has been repaid will go into your pocket (minus legal expenses and related costs).
Here’s an example: suppose a pickup truck swerves into your rig, which causes it to jackknife. As a result, you suffer lower back injuries that render you unable to work for six weeks. Let’s say that you incur $20,000 in medical bills and are paid $1,000 per week for the time missed at work. That means you will have received a total of $26,000 in workers’ compensation payments over a six-week period.
Let’s further suppose that a lawsuit filed against the driver of the pickup truck results in a settlement a year later of $44,000 plus legal costs. Since your employer would have had a lien on the award, $26,000 of that settlement amount would actually be paid to your company to offset workers’ compensation payments it made to you the previous year – and you would receive the remaining $18,000.
However, if the settlement amount was only $23,000, all of the money would go back to your company because it paid out $26,000 to you in workers’ compensation disbursements. You would not be responsible for the remaining $3,000; your employer would simply be unable to collect it.
We know this may seems confusing. If you have any questions about third-party lawsuits and/or workers’ compensation claims as the result of an Illinois truck accident, our qualified Chicago truck accident lawyers would be happy to answer them for you.
You can read more about Illinois truck accidents by downloading a free copy of my book: Rights of Injured Truckers.