Illinois Workers’ Compensation Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if I have been injured at work?

When you are hurt on the job, you should immediately report the accident and your injury to your supervisor, foreman, first aid person, or such other appropriate person designated by your employer. Immediate notice ensures that you receive timely and appropriate medical attention and that your injury is properly recorded and documented. The Illinois workers’ compensation law requires that you give notice to your employer within 45 of the date of the accident. Notice may be given either orally or in writing. In the case of an occupational disease, you must notify your employer as soon as practical after you become aware of the condition.

Should I report an accidental injury even if it is a small one?

Yes. Many very serious medical conditions develop from seemingly minor injuries. It is most important that you report all injuries and accidents no matter how small they may seem to you at the time.

Are all injuries sustained at work compensable under the workers’ compensation law?

No. It is possible for an injury to occur in the course of employment, but not arise out of it. There are exceptions, however. If your employer has denied you benefits because it considers your injury non-compensable, you should consult an attorney.

If I discover later that I sustained injuries of which I was unaware at the time of the accident, what should I do?

You should report these newly discovered injuries to your employer as soon as possible. It is imperative that your report be written and that you retain a copy for your records.

Can my employer fire me because I have filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits?

No. It is unlawful for your employer to terminate you or discriminate against you because you have chosen to pursue your rights under the workers’ compensation law. However, the fact that you have filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits does not protect you from being fired for legitimate reasons, such as poor work performance. If your employer takes or threatens to take any adverse employment action (termination, demotion, suspension, etc.) against you after you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, you should contact an attorney immediately.

Can I choose my own doctor to treat my work-related injury?

Yes. As the employee, you may choose a doctor or hospital to treat your injury at your employer’s expense. Your employer retains the right to have you submit to an independent medical examination for purposes of determining the need for additional medical care.

Is there a limit on the number of doctors that I can select at my employer’s expense?

Yes. Your employer’s responsibility is to pay for all first aid and emergency services, two treating physicians, surgeons, or hospitals of your choice, and any additional healthcare providers to whom they refer you.

Must I accept my employer’s doctor’s opinion as final?

No. If there is a dispute between your selected physician and your employer’s selected physician as to the course of treatment, an arbitrator (a type of judge) appointed by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission will conduct a hearing to determine whether additional medical care is reasonable and necessary.

What happens if I suffer a permanent injury following a previous disability from another accident?

If your previous disability is to a different part of the body, and the resulting combination of disability is substantially greater than what would have resulted from your current accident alone, you may be entitled to additional benefits from the Second Injury Fund (SIF). There are certain minimum thresholds of disability for SIF liability and you should seek legal advice if you think you may be eligible. Note that the previous or pre-existing disability need not have been work-related in order to implicate the SIF.

What happens if I cannot return to the same occupation after an injury and cannot earn as much money?

You may be entitled to receive a wage differential. The wage differential is two-thirds of the difference between the amount that you are able to earn after your injury and the amount that you would be earning in the occupation in which you worked at the time of the accident.

How long after the accident do I have to file my claim?

Generally, you must file your claim within three years from the date of your accident or two years from the date your employer last made a payment on account of your injury, whichever is later. However, you should never wait until the last minute. You should file your claim immediately because it may be difficult to prove your case if you delay.