Your Rights Under Workers' Compensation

A previous blog entry discussed what to do in the event of a work-related accident or otherwise injured while working. This post will provide a more in-depth analysis of your basic rights under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act.

Keep in mind that the law is changing rapidly, with many changes contained in Public Act 97-18, signed by Governor Quinn June 28, 2011. All changes mandated by that law either took effect immediately or by September 1, 2011, so by the time you read this, that is now the law of the State of Illinois. Even with these changes, however, most of your basic rights remain virtually the same.

If you get hurt at work doing your intended job, generally you are covered by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, which covers injuries "arising out of" or "in the course of" your employment.

When you think of workers' compensation, you often think of injuries that happen in a factory or at a worksite. While this perception is often correct, workers' comp also includes outside sales calls, office injuries, and repetitive trauma injuries, like carpal tunnel syndrome. In short, just because you don't perform "blue collar" labor does not by any means exclude you from the rights and benefits of the Workers' Compensation Act.

Workers' compensation in Illinois covers three main areas--lost time, medical benefits, and permanency.

  • Number one--Lost time, also known as Temporary Total Disability, and abbreviated as TTD. This kicks in after your third consecutive day off work following an injury, and is paid at 2/3 of your average weekly wage (AWW) for the 52 weeks preceding the injury.
  • Number 2--Medical treatment. You are entitled to see your own doctor even though many employers encourage you to use their own preferred company doctors. While it used to be that you were entitled to see two doctors or other medical providers of your own choice plus any referrals from those two streams of choices, the new law could impact this number in specific circumstances. With this ever-evolving landscape, you should always work with a lawyer experienced in this area of the law, the earlier the better.
  • Number 3-Permanancy settlement to compensate you for the severity of your injury. This is generally known as Permanent Partial Disability (PPD), although it can also include other modes of compensation in cases of life-changing or extremely serious injuries. Generally, any settlement or award of an arbitrator is based upon your average weekly rate of pay, the part of your body injured, and the severity of the injury. A sprained thumb is worth far less than a back requiring surgery, much as a knee reconstruction of an iron worker will likely be more valuable than that of a person who works at a desk. Basically, everything is dependent upon the impact of this injury upon the worker and his or her ability to perform his or her job.
  • Under the new law, the severity must be based, in part, upon the American Medical Association Standards for Impairment.
  • In some cases, involving serious injuries, benefits may include job retraining, wage differential (the difference between your "old" job wages and the "new" job you were "forced into" due to your injuries, or Permanent Total Disability (PTD). Whether any of these applies is something an experienced practitioner can determine after a thorough review of the facts of the case.

Workers' compensation is there for your benefit. Make sure you know your rights. Call a lawyer immediately--this area is tough enough to navigate, especially with the new law. Don't let your rights be controlled by someone who does not have your best interests in mind!

Categories: General