This is a quick reference guide for people injured at work in the State of Illinois.
You need to report your injury as soon as possible to the employer.
As soon as you are injured you need to report the incident to the employer. Some employers have safety officers or employees specifically designated to take reports of injuries. If your employer doesn't have a specific company policy or procedure, then report it to your supervisor or even a coworker.
You need to fill out a First Report of Accident form with your employer.
This report is called ILLINOIS FORM 45: EMPLOYER'S FIRST REPORT OF INJURY. The employer should have these forms available along with a standard procedure for filling them out. Get a copy of this form after it is filled out. If the employer refuses to provide a copy then have your attorney get it. This form should be filled out as soon as possible. If you are severely injured and have lost consciousness or have a broken bone sticking out of your skin than the form can wait until you have been stabilized. Provide a copy of the employer's first report of injury for to your attorney.
You need to get medical treatment as soon as possible.
Get checked by a doctor as soon as possible. Many employers have a nurse or a company clinic they use in these situations. You will have time to choose your own doctor if that becomes necessary. Many of clients are worried that the company clinic is biased and will not treat them fairly, but I still recommend they go there for an initial assessment. While company clinics may have an interest in "downplaying" injuries to keep the employer happy, they are staffed by medical professionals who need to maintain their licenses. While company clinics may "downplay" the severity of injuries, they will not deny an obvious claim that your arm is broken when an x-ray shows it is. Based on my experience in handling thousands of Workers' Compensation cases throughout Illinois, the quality of care at most company clinics is very good.
It is likely you will be drug tested.
A drug test is standard operating procedure for most employers. Don't be offended this is a reasonable safety precaution. Yes, they will use it against you if you test positive for an illegal substance, but refusing to take the test will also be used against you.
You need to get a work status report from the doctor.
Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may be temporarily taken off from work or restricted from some kinds of work. The doctor needs to specify what your work status is in a dated note. That note needs to be time limited. For example, if you inured your right hand in a punch press then the work status note may say, "no use of the right hand until re-evaluation after MRI on October 15, 2015." This note gives clear instruction to the employer that from the date of that note until the re-evaluation that you should not do any work involving the right hand. The employer can then choose to accommodate that restriction (provided your work does not require the use of you right hand) or they will have to pay you Total Temporary Disability ("TTD") benefits under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. All work status notes should be provided to both your employer and your attorney.
You get to choose your own doctor.
You have the right to go to a doctor of your own choosing under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. You may have gone to the company clinic or the hospital emergency room for initial evaluation and treatment, but that does not mean that you have to continue treating there. If you were happy with that treatment and wish to continue with the clinic or hospital you started with, then you are absolutely welcome to do that. If on the other hand, you would like to choose your own doctor to continue your care, you are free to do that. Be advised that you only get to choose two doctors under the Illinois Workers Compensation act. That is not as bad as it sounds because when you choose a doctor you get to see that doctor along with any other doctor they refer you to for treatment.
There are three main benefits provided to an injured employee under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act.
Total Temporary Disability: This is money intended to compensate for time lost from work due to your injuries. Medical Bills: You are entitled to have any medical bills resulting from your work injury paid under The Illinois Workers' compensation Act Permanency: This is the settlement at the end of the case. This is a complicated topic but it is based in large part on the severity of the injury and how much you were making at the time of the accident.
You need to get an attorney as soon as possible.
Illinois Workers' Compensation cases are intricate and they need to be handled by an attorney who is well versed in the practice of Illinois Workers' Compensation law. The sooner you get to a competent professional the better. Most attorneys know very little about Workers' Compensation cases unless it is a major part of their practice. The article was intended to help an injured client take the right steps in the initial stage of an Illinois Workers' Compensation Claim so that problems are not created prior to even seeking representation. Ideally you should contact an attorney within a few days of the injury. That is when the attorney can help you avoid the many pitfalls that await the unrepresented injured worker. If you were injured enough to require medical attention then you have a workers' compensation case. The Workers' Compensation Insurance Company has usually opened a file, assigned a claim number, and reviewed medical records and bills before you have even gotten over the shock of your work injury. The employer has human resources, insurance adjusters, attorneys, and more looking out for the company's interest as soon as the injury is reported. It is their job to look out for the company's interest. It is your job to look out for your own interest and you do that by hiring a competent attorney to help you with this complicated process. I and most Workers' Compensation attorneys in Illinois will charge you 20% contingent fee for the vast majority of cases. You won't pay them unless they collect money for you so you will not pay out-of-pocket.
"Take comfort in the fact that you never had a choice."
This is one of my favorite lines from the movie True Romance and it is right on point here. You did not want to be injured at work. You wanted to complete your work for the day and go home and live your life. Unfortunately, you did get hurt at work and now something has to be done about it. You can't pretend it didn't happen. You now face dealing with medical bills, lost time from work, and maybe even a career-altering injury. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Act (every state has a workers' compensation statute) was enacted for this reason. That is why almost all employers (there are a few exceptions such as federal workers who are subject to a federal law) are required to have workers' compensation insurance. Employers know that this is one of the responsibilities of having employees in the state of Illinois. It has been this way for over one hundred years. The goal is to make you whole and get you back to your life, or in the case of more severe injuries, compensate you for the fact that you are no longer able to do the kind of work that you did before the accident. You are perfectly justified in pursuing your longstanding rights under The Illinois Workers' Compensation Act.
Most mistakes can be fixed.
If you have made mistakes with an Illinois Workers Compensation Case for yourself or your client it may not be too late. These are guidelines that I have developed over years of practice and they represent the ideal situation for starting a claim. Many of my cases come with problems that were created by waiting too long to get an attorney who understands these issues. Most of these problems can be fixed by a competent attorney. Even if your case has been denied and your benefits have been cut off, you should contact an attorney who specializes in Workers Compensation as soon as possible for a consultation.
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