Report as soon as possible - but know your rights. Under Illinois law, you have up to 45 days to report a work injury that happens at a well-defined date and time. For example, if you break a bone or cut yourself at work, you have 45 days from the date of the accident to report it. If your injury happened over a period of time, perhaps because of toxic exposure or repetitive motion, you have 45 days from the day you become aware the of the work-related cause to report to your employer. Some employers may have policies that give you less than 45 days, but the law says that you get 45 days. They can't deny you workers' compensation on that basis.
With all that being said, we do recommend that you report your injury as soon as possible - just because you can wait up to 45 days doesn't mean you should. The sooner you report your injury, the harder it will be for your employer to dispute it later.
Report to your supervisor or manager, not just a coworker. Obviously, if you need to tell a coworker you're hurt for one reason or another, you should do so. You may need your colleague to cover your job duties or go get help for you. Coworkers may also be witnesses in the event that your injury is disputed. Telling a coworker doesn't count as reporting your injury for the purposes of workers' compensation, though. You need to report the injury directly to your manager, HR or a similar authority figure at your company. Follow your employer's protocol for reporting an injury and keep a copy of any reports that are filled out for your own records.
Report the injury in writing, not verbally. If you make a verbal report only, then there is nothing stopping your employer from disputing what you said or when you said it. It's your word against theirs. Reporting in writing creates a record in case something is disputed later. If you have to report verbally, write it down immediately afterward or send an email to your supervisor summarizing what was said in order to create a timestamped written record of your report. (If you use your work email to do this, be sure to BCC your personal email, or forward the message to yourself, so that you have a copy.)
Get medical attention right away. Your employer may have a relationship with a local clinic or other medical provider that does occupational medicine; that should be your first stop if it's open. Depending on the timing - for instance, if you're hurt during a night shift - you may have to go to a hospital emergency room. Either way, it's important to seek medical attention as soon as possible and comply with the doctor's instructions. This is the best option for your health. It also creates a record of your injury that will strengthen your workers' compensation claim.
Get everything in writing, including discharge notes and any other information you are given by your medical provider. It's also important to save receipts for anything you pay out of pocket so that you can get reimbursed later. Remember, you employer is legally responsible for all reasonable and necessary medical expenses to care for a work injury.
Contact Schweickert & Ganassin, LLP. Even if you do everything right when reporting your injury to your employer, you may be in for a rough ride when it comes to getting the workers' compensation benefits you need. The insurance company will look for any excuse they can find to pay you as little as possible, even if that means harming your health or quality of life. We strongly encourage you to contact us and schedule your free consultation with an experienced Illinois workers' compensation attorney.