Workers' compensation is set up to protect and compensate employees in the event of a work injury. However, you can't always rely on an insurance company to properly take care of the needs you'll have after an injury. That's why it's crucial to contact us as soon as you can. An experienced Illinois workers' compensation lawyer can help you through the process, from filing a claim to finalizing a settlement.
How are workers' compensation claims paid?
In most instances, a settlement is often reached between the injured party and their employer's insurance company. A final settlement of your claim will generally end your employer's legal responsibility for your injuries. Therefore, it is important that you know the full extent of your injuries and medical treatment before agreeing to final settlement. This process takes time and the negotiation process can seem to drag on endlessly but, in the end, will result in a better outcome than simply accepting the first low-ball settlement offered. In Illinois, workers' compensation is overseen by a statewide commission, the IWCC (Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission). They arbitrate the claims and appeals process and oversee settlements between employers and employees. Typically, benefits are paid weekly if you are unable to work due to your injuries. After reaching maximum medical improvement or returning to work, your final injury settlement or award will generally be paid as a lump sum.
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What to do after an injury at work
When you suffer an injury, your first instinct is probably to panic, and understandably so. A work-related injury, whether minor or debilitating, comes as a painful surprise. But in order to protect your health and your legal rights, you need to take action:
Report your injury: Tell your employer immediately that you were injured. While verbal reports are valid, we recommend making your notification in writing. This way, you have a solid record of your report that makes it hard to be deemed invalid or insufficient notification. Make sure to adhere to your employer's procedure pertaining to work injuries, and to report the incident to management or to your immediate supervisor - not a coworker.
It's important to make sure that that, when notifying your employer of your injury, you provide as much detail as possible. Mention how you were injured, what you were doing at the time, what symptoms you're currently experiencing, and anything else you deem relevant to the event. This level of accuracy and detail must also be applied to an accident report form, if your employer asks you to complete one. This form will serve as another piece of documented evidence of your injury, and will prove useful if your claim is disputed for any reason.
Seek medical attention: Too many people ignore their work injuries under the premise of feeling "fine." Since the effects of certain injuries, like internal bleeding or brain injury, can take days to become apparent, this mistake could potentially be life-threatening. Seeking medical attention also means your injury and its effects will be documented, which can help you in your claim process. Be sure to inform the provider who sees you that you were injured on the job.
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Filing your claim
At this point, legal counsel is extremely important in order to fully understand the process that you'll be going through. You don't want to brave it alone.
Illinois has a no-fault workers' compensation system. You have 45 days from the date of your injury to notify your employer of your injury. In terms of filing, you have three years from the date of the injury. In the event of injuries relating to such things as asbestos or radiation exposure, you have 25 years to file from the date of exposure. Contact us to help you through what's often a tedious and confusing process.
The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission is the organization that oversees all claims made in Illinois. Usually, your employer's insurer will file a claim for you after you've reported your injury, but you're encouraged to confirm whether or not it has been received with your local claims office. You also have the option of filling out an Application for Adjustment of Claim (an application for benefits) online through the Illinois WCC.
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Compensation you're entitled to
If you've been injured at work, you're eligible for benefits. Injuries can prove to be life-altering, and change even the minutest details about your life. Workers' compensation is a program designed to help keep you on your feet.
- Temporary disability: If your injury requires you needing time off from work, you can receive temporary disability benefits. These benefits generally last until you are cleared to return to work by your doctor, but can stop for a number of reasons. This is 2/3 of your average weekly wage.
- Permanent disability benefits: 60% of your average weekly wage for up to 500 weeks, depending on your injury.
- Permanent disfigurement: 60% of your average weekly wage for up to 162 weeks.
- Reimbursement for medical bills, vocational rehabilitation, and survivors benefits if an accident results in fatality.
To ensure that your workers' compensation is truly covering all that it should, you should have an attorney on your side. Insurance companies don't always play fair, or offer substantial compensation for your injuries and suffering. If you have questions about workers' compensation, you don't have to look very far for the answers; contact our firm as soon as possible to help ensure that you get the compensation you deserve after your injury.
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Appeals for denied claims
In the event that your claim is denied, you can appeal the decision. The reasons for denial will likely be described to you via notification from the insurance company, but that isn't a guarantee. There are several common reasons for your claim to be denied:
- The report wasn't filed on time: Illinois law dictates that the injured party reports the incident within a time limit. After that, their employer must notify the state and worker's compensation insurer with the same amount of urgency.
- Your employer disputed the claim: This situation is why documentation of medical visits, the accident, and any forms filled out is so important. Your employer could attempt to deny that the accident even happened at work, or that the symptoms of your suffering are related to it. You'll need to gather evidence to support your claim, and you'll need an attorney to assist you. We can evaluate your case at no charge to you, and help you receive the compensation you deserve.
- Your injuries may not be deemed severe enough to warrant a valid worker's compensation claim. However, you know how you feel, and you're entitled to file an appeal.
To appeal, you'll need to go through several processes. At this stage, you absolutely need an attorney on your side:
- File an Application for Adjustment of Claim form within three years of your injury along with a statement that you've given your employer a copy as well. You can mail or drop this off to a commission office whenever is most convenient for you.
- Request a hearing with an arbitrator of the Workers' Compensation Commission (WCC) of Illinois. You'll receive a case number and arbitrator, and your case will be reviewed every two months. Each time, you may request a trial or say you are still in the negotiation process for your settlement.
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Negotiating your settlement
Many claims, large and small, are settled with a lump sum agreed upon between an injured employee and their employer. It is often in both partiers' interest to do so. For instance, if your injury results in a disability that requires long term maintenance and care, you may have to negotiate a settlement that satisfies both parties.
Without proper knowledge of the legal process involved and the value of your claim, you may not take note of important and key factors that can help you fight against disputed claims and low-balled sums. We can aid you in understanding your rights and the compensation for your pain that you deserve. You've suffered enough, let us help represent you in settlement negotiations. All you should need to focus on is your recovery.
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