Our first Worker’s Compensation Tip of the Week for truck drivers is to take a 10,000 foot view of the worker’s compensation system in Illinois. In weeks to come, we will take a closer look at different issues and pitfalls, but just like when you play baseball or some other sport, the basic is the place to get started.
Worker’s compensation is an issue of state law, and the Tips you will be receiving relate to Illinois law. Most states have systems that have some common features, but there are differences in every state.
Worker’s compensation is a no-fault system. It doesn’t matter who is to blame for an accident – as long as you suffered an accidental injury arising out of and in the course of your employment, you are entitled to receive worker’s compensation benefits. Employers are not permitted to discharge an employee for asserting rights under the Worker’s Compensation Act.
For most cases, there are three basic benefits that you receive:
1. When you are unable to work or your employer is unable to provide you with alternative employment consistent with your work restrictions, you are entitled to receive payment of two-thirds (2/3) of your average weekly wage.
2. You are entitled to have your medical expenses paid for care related to the injury you sustained at work. You have the right to choose your own doctors.
3. You are entitled to a payment for permanency that is associated with the injury called Permanent Partial Disability which is based on the parts of your body that were injured and you average weekly wage. When people talk about a worker’s compensation settlement, this is usually what they are talking about.
If you are unable to return to work as a truck driver, there are also job retraining benefits.
Employers are required to have worker’s compensation insurance or have a certificate of self-insurance. Only the largest companies self-insure. When you have a claim, it will be handled by an adjuster whose job is to minimize the cost of the claim for the company which means limiting the amount of benefits that you receive.
Making a claim with the insurance company is not the same as filing a worker’s compensation case. Worker’s compensation cases are heard in an administrative agency called the Worker’s Compensation Commission. A worker’s compensation case is not actually filed until a formal document called an Application for Adjustment of Claim is filed with the Worker’s Compensation Commission. There is no fee for filing the Application for Adjustment of Claim.
There are two deadlines you must meet in order to have a case: the notice deadline and the filing deadlines. If you do not satisfy both deadlines, you are at risk for having your case dismissed.
1. The Notice Deadline – you must give notice to your employer within 45 days of when you learn that you suffered a work-related injury. The notice must be given to a supervisor. It does not need to be in writing – oral notice is acceptable – but it is much more difficult to dispute the giving of notice when it is in writing.
2. The Filing Deadline- you must file the Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Worker’s Compensation Commission by the later of three years after the date of injury or two years after the last receipt of benefits.
Worker’s compensation lawyers generally work on a contingency basis, meaning that they do not get paid unless there is a recovery for you. In general, fees for worker’s compensation cases are capped at 20% of the recovery. Most firms, including ours, front the expenses of working on the case, but must be reimbursed those expenses at the end of the case. That means that there are no up-front costs for hiring a lawyer to help you with your worker’s compensation case.
We are available to answer any questions you have by e-mail or over the phone at 312-263-1080. There is no charge for calling us, and you are not obligated to hire our law firm.
I hope that this was helpful to you. You should feel free to share this tip with anyone who you think could benefit from this information.