Illinois Workers' Compensation Law Overview
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The Illinois Workers Compensation Act is a "no fault" wage replacement system designed to pay the injured worker both medical benefits and lost wages during his or her period of incapacity from work. "No fault" means that fault is not considered when determining whether or not you have a case, but the employer's liability is limited to benefits specified in the statute. In other words, employees who get hurt on the job cannot sue their employer.
The Illinois Workers' Compensation Act provides compensation for accidental injuries or death suffered in the course of employment, including: payment for medical expenses, payment for lost wages, compensation for the permanent nature of your injury and payment for vocational retraining or re-schooling if it is needed.
Most Illinois workers are covered under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, including workers hired in Illinois but injured while working in another state or those workers who were injured while working in another state and their employer's principle place of business is in Illinois. The only exception to this is if you are an independent contractor and even then you may be eligible for benefits if you are really an independent contractor in name only.
All Illinois work injury claims are handled through the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission. The main office is located at the Thompson Center in downtown Chicago and there are numerous hearing locations throughout the state. The Commission operates the state court system for workers' compensation cases. Workers' compensation claims are not lawsuits so there is no Judge or jury trial. Rather an Arbitrator hears evidence in disputed claims and makes decisions that can be appealed to a three person Commission panel.
For injured workers we typically recommend lawyers that exclusively handle work injury claims. We believe this gives you a better chance of success than if you hire a jack of all trades firm that will take on most cases that come through the door. Illinois workers' compensation laws are constantly changing and the great majority of defense attorneys only handle workers' compensation claims. As an injured worker, you are putting yourself at a disadvantage if your lawyer does not exclusively focus on workers' compensation claims.
In our opinion, in Illinois, workers' compensation attorneys who regularly appear before Illinois Workers' Compensation Arbitrators (the judges) are more successful than other attorneys who only occasionally appear before them. Although this doesn't guarantee a favorable result, we have seen that these "regulars" have developed a rapport with these judges. Simply put, success or failure can hinge on a lawyer's familiarity with the procedures and people of the court.
In workers' compensation cases, attorneys must work on a contingency fee basis. This means that no attorney's fee is charged unless the injured person secures a recovery. If the injured person secures a recovery, the attorney receives a certain percentage of the recovery as his or her fee. In Illinois, the amount that can be charged by your lawyer for your worker's compensation claim is 20% of the injured employee's recovery.
If you have been injured on the job in Illinois, it's important to hire a lawyer who knows the workers' compensation laws and can help you get the benefits that you deserve. If you have any questions about workers' compensation or would like a referral to an experienced Illinois workers' compensation lawyer, please contact us. All calls are free and confidential.