Workers Comp Lawyers
When an employee is injured on the job, Illinois workers' compensation law protects that employee through medical coverage and financial payments during the duration of their injury. Workers' comp laws are intended to protect both the employee and the employer. The state requires employers to pay for workers' comp insurance, and in return they get the benefit that they will not be sued by the injured employee. The employee gets the benefit of being covered in the case of an injury, so that they will not have to pay the cost of medical care, and will receive payments in place of being able to work.
When workers' comp works as it is supposed to, all parties see a benefit. However, as with any government program, there can be serious problems that make an on-the-job injury a painful and expensive nightmare for the employee. Dealing with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (IWCC) can be a confusing process, and many people give up after being denied a workers' comp claim. Instead, if you or someone you know is injured on the job, you should contact an experienced Illinois workers' compensation lawyer to make sure your rights are protected, and you get the justice you deserve.
Injured on the Job
Injuries that occur on the job, injuries caused by the employee's work, injuries that are the result of repetitive workplace movements, or injuries that are made worse by work conditions are all generally covered under workers' compensation law.
Workers' compensation is generally a “no fault” protection. For example, if an employee saw a box that should be lifted by two people, but lifted it alone, sustaining a back injury, it is not generally a bar to compensation that the employee did not have a second person help them lift the box.
Additionally, if your employer was at fault for the injury, in most cases workers' compensation law will prevent you from suing your employer, unless the injury was caused intentionally. For example, if an employer did not fix a broken step on a stairway, and an employee fell, sustaining a neck injury, the employee will usually not be able to sue their employer for negligence. Instead, workers' compensation will cover the employee.
Workplace injuries can range from minor inconveniences to total disability injuries. The common types of workplace injuries covered by workers' comp varies greatly by job or profession. Some typical workers' compensation injuries include overexertion through lifting a heavy object, pushing, pulling or carrying something that causes a back injury, neck injury, herniated disc, hernia, or other injury.
Another common source of workplace injuries include slipping and falling, which can cause a head injury, broken bones, or a back, neck or wrist injury. Being struck by an object, roadside injury, having a limb caught in a machine and repetitive motion injuries are also common for workers.
Repetitive motion injuries or repetitive stress injuries are caused by repeated motions. This is a very common source of workplace injury, since so many jobs require repetitive activity, such as factory work, cleaning, manual labor, typing or textile work. Repetitive motion injuries usually involve tendinitis or bursitis, which is inflammation of the tendon, or the area between the tendon and the bone, respectively. The inflammation results in pain, decreased range of motion, and the inability to carry on normal daily activity.
Types of Workers' Comp Benefits
The types of benefits from a workers' compensation claim will depend on the injury. Workers' comp covers the medical care required to treat the injury or pain that was the result of the workplace injury. Benefits can be temporary or permanent.
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits will provide medical care and financial payments for the time the employee is not working. This generally amounts to benefits for 2/3rds of an employee's average weekly wage payments. Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits will cover the employee if they are working a lighter duty job for less money while they are recovering. Temporary benefits are paid until the employee returns to work.
Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits cover an employee who can work, but had a permanent disability or disfiguring injury. This includes the complete or partial loss of a part of the body, or loss of use of a part of the body. Permanent Total Disability (PTD) provides benefits to an employee who is no longer able to work. This includes the complete loss of use of two body parts including hands, feet, arms, legs or eyes. It also includes a complete disability that permanently prevents an employee from any reasonably stable employment. Permanent disability is not determined by the IWCC until after the employee has reached their maximum medical improvement (MMI).
Workers' compensation may also include maintenance benefits for an employee who is enrolled in an approved vocational rehab program. If a workplace injury results in death, surviving family members may receive death benefits.
The employer has to pay the costs of all medical care that is reasonably necessary to treat the workplace injury. This may include pre-hospital emergency care, emergency room treatment, doctors appointments, surgery, physical or occupational therapy, medications, and hospital care.
Reporting an Injury
Some employees may be hesitant to report a workplace injury. They may worry that the injury resulted as a consequence of the employee not doing things by the book. They may also be concerned that an employer will fire them for reporting an injury. However, the law protects an employee who files a workers' compensation claim from being discriminated against by the employer for filing the claim.
After an employee reports an injury to their employer, the employer notifies their workers' compensation insurance carrier. If the employee is not able to work for more than 3 days as a result of the injury, the employer is to begin temporary total disability (TTD) payments, or the employer must give a notice of what information they will need, or an explanation of why benefits are being denied. If the employer refuses to pay benefits, the employee can file a claim with the IWCC.
Some common reasons why an employer may dispute a workers' comp claim may have to do with when the accident occurred, whether there was an employee/employer relationship between the parties, or the medical condition was not related to the job or workplace.
The employer also has the right to request an independent medical examination for the employee. Even if a doctor or medical professional has diagnosed the injury, the employer may not believe the diagnosis, or want a second opinion as to the veracity of the disability claim. If the employee does not attend the examination, they may temporarily lose their disability payments.
Some people try and take advantage of the workers' compensation program, to receive medical coverage and money by claiming they are unable to work. However, many innocent people are also caught up in the government or insurance company's zealous hunt for insurance fraud. Some chronic and disabling injuries can be hard to see, but may cause crippling pain or loss of function for the sufferer. This leads to denial of benefits or coverage for honest people who were seriously injured on the job, and are unable to work.
If an employer believes that the employee is able to return to work after they have been determined to be permanently disabled, they may petition the IWCC to stop benefits. The problem is that disability is often based on a medical diagnosis, and insurance investigators and employers usually do not have the qualifications to determine whether someone is unable to return to work.
In some cases, an employee's doctor may determine they are unable to work, due to a workplace injury. They doctor may then prescribe some light exercises or physical activity to help the employee cope with their disability. An insurance investigator, or investigator with the state may see the employee engaging in the prescribed activity, and make a determination that the employee is attempting to defraud the system, even though they have no medical basis for their opinion.
As soon as you suspect the employer or insurance company is investigating your claim, if they ask for a statement on your injury, or if they ask you to sign certain documents, you should contact your lawyer. The insurance companies or employer may be trying to collect evidence to use against you in order to deny your medical coverage and workers' compensation benefits.
If investigators claim an individual is fraudulently claiming workers' compensation benefits, the state may try and take away financial benefits, stop medical coverage, and seek restitution for the value of the benefits. Additionally, prosecutors may charge the injured employee with workers' compensation fraud. Workers' compensation fraud can be charged as a Class I felony, with penalties including a $25,000 fine, and jail time up to 15 years.
Illinois Workers' Comp Lawyers
If you received an injury while working, if your job made your physical condition worse, or if repetitive job actions are leading to pain, you may have a workers' compensation claim. However, if the state denied your claim, you should consider speaking to experienced workers' compensation lawyers to make sure you are justly compensated. Illinois workers' compensation law is there to protect you, and you shouldn't have to pay the price if you were injured on the job.
Our attorneys have successfully handled numerous workers' compensation cases for our clients in Peoria and throughout the state of Illinois. If you are have been injured on the job, have been denied coverage, or are under investigation for workers' compensation fraud, contact Benassi & Benassi, your experienced Illinois workers' comp lawyers.