If you have sustained a fatal permanent injury, or your benefits have been denied, you may need the assistance of a skilled worker’s compensation lawyer in Madison County. It is important to remember that companies, and the companies that insure them, are usually represented by highly compensated and knowledgeable lawyers who will aim to substantially decrease the total amount you are awarded, or even try to defeat the allegation. What’s more, Illinois has a statute of limitations, or time period, within which you must report a medical injury to a company and the amount of time in which to file a claim. If you do not tell someone within that time period about an injury you incurred on the job or you don’t file the claim on time, you risk losing your ability to seek compensation.
Statute of Limitations for Worker’s Compensation in Madison County
Under Illinois worker’s compensation law, there are two time periods that must be considered for filing a claim. Firstly, the period you have to give notice to your employer that you were hurt and that the injury was a result of your employment. While you should aim to tell your employer right away, you have just 45 days after the date you became injured due to a work-related activity in which to report your injury.
The second time frame is the statute of limitations period in which to file your claim with the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission. This is either three years from the date of the injury or two years from the last payment of compensation from your employer.
When it comes to the three-year time period that runs from the date of the injury (including the 45-day notice time frame), it is worth noting that it can sometimes be complicated trying to determine the exact date of the injury. This is particularly the case where the injury is not a once-off occurrence, but instead a repetitive trauma. In such situations, the date of the injury will be the time in which a reasonable person would have become aware of the relationship between the employment conditions and the injury.
As for calculating the two-year limitation period which runs from the last compensation payment, there can be a few downfalls. Firstly, we need to determine what constitutes compensation. It may include wages that are not part of the salary but rather related to disability or injury, benefits from employer group insurance, or even worker’s compensation benefits. It is important to pay close attention to statements that your employer or insurance provider make about the nature of the compensation.
Who Does Worker’s Compensation Law Cover?
In Madison County, Glen Carbon, Collinsville, Maryville, and Granite City, any employee that works for an employer who has three or more workers, will be protected by the Worker’s Compensation Act. Nearly all employees in Illinois are covered under the Act, including those workers who are family members, part-time employees, minors, and corporate officers.
There are some classes of employees who are covered under federal laws, though, and not by the Act. For example, employees of the federal government, including members of the armed forces and postal workers, are instead covered by federal laws.
What Injuries Does the Law Cover?
“Injury,” according to worker’s compensation law, is defined as any physical or mental harm that results from a workplace accident or disease. Injuries typically covered include:
- Accidental injuries – including traumatic mental or physical harm that occurs unexpectedly and suddenly due to an employment-related activity.
- Physical harm – including stiffness, bruises, crushing injuries, burns, strains, fractures, cuts, sprains, loss or paralysis, hernias, amputation, sudden loss of vision, disfigurement, and sudden loss of hearing.
- Occupational disease – this is chronic mental or physical harm that results from exposure over a period of time to a workplace activity, condition, or substance. Such diseases include deterioration of a bodily function or loss of hearing. Common occupational diseases include lead poisoning, silicosis, skin infections, tuberculosis, and respiratory diseases.
- Mental harm – this includes hysteria, traumatic neurosis, and nervous disorders. If the injury is emotional stress or mental harm, the employee will have to show that the harm resulted from a situation of greater stress that the day-to-day mental tensions and stress that most employees endure.
Giving Your Employer Notice of the Injury
When you suffer a work-related disease or injury, your immediate intention must be to take care of the condition through the correct first aid measures or seek medical attention. To establish a worker’s compensation claim, you need to account the damage and necessity for medical attention to your employer. Even a small injury must be reported as there is always the risk of it developing into something more serious.
If you fail to report the injury within the time period mentioned earlier, you may cause your employer to suspect that your accident occurred at home, or didn’t even happen. You can give notice either in writing or verbally. In the notice, include the following details:
- The type of illness of injury
- The time it happened
- The date it happened
- The part of the body involved
- Circumstances surrounding the appearance of disease or injury
- Your need for medical attention
There Is Also a Twelve-Year Statute of Limitations
If you stop receiving weekly compensation for a permanent or temporary disability after an accidental workplace injury, you can reopen the claim any time within 12 years from the date of your last compensation payment. This period, however, does not apply when a compromise agreement is made and approved or a final award issued after a hearing.
In fact, a final award renders the claim closed after the time permitted for appeal, unless the award is set aside on an appeal. A compromise agreement closes the claim. If medical treatment is required beyond the 12-year time frame and a final award or compensation has not been agreed to, employees are entitled to file an application for a hearing to keep their claim open until the hearing is held and a final order is issued.
Keeping A Record of the Injury
Where worker’s compensation claims are concerned, complications can arise. This is why it is important that you keep a written record right from the beginning. If your case goes to a hearing, it is important that your testimony is consistent with all your earlier accounts of the accident. Information that you should document includes:
- The date of the injury or the first indication of the occupational illness (the benefit levels are based on the date of the injury, so it is vital to document)
- The cause of the accident, for example sprain, strain, or overexertion
- The nature of the disease or injury
- Which part of the body was affected
- The type of action that was happening at the time, such as carrying or lifting
- The source of the injury, for example a flammable substance or machinery
- The weight of the object that caused the injury
- Any physical symptoms, such as rash or loss of motion
- How long the symptoms lasted and if/when they recurred
- The names of witnesses of may have seen the accident or to whom the injured employee spoke right after the accident
- The doctors visited and the dates of each visit
- All amounts spend on medical treatment, examinations, transportation, and medication
- All time lost from work due to the injury
- A written record of a statement made to the employer
- Copies of any final agreements or final receipt for worker’s compensation
Temporary and Permanent Disability Benefits
Besides doctor’s expenses, hospital fees, and medical costs, the law also provides for payment of weekly benefits for both permanent and temporary disability. However, in an effort to eliminate smaller claims for temporary disability, the law institutes a three-day waiting period for all disabilities that last seven days or less. However, if you are unable to work at any time after that seventh day of injury, compensation will be paid for the entire period. The payment for lost time includes all days of the disability up to that date. In an injury leads to both permanent and temporary disability, you will not have to endure a waiting period and your temporary benefits will begin from the first day.
There are several different types of temporary and permanent disability that are used to determine compensation.
- Temporary Total Disability
Most worker’s compensation cases in Madison County involve lost time for a temporary total disability (TTD). This is the period immediately after the injury, during which treatment and healing take place, before determining whether or not there is a permanent disability. TTD compensation is paid out when you cannot work and experience a total loss of wages or when you are still recovering and can do some sort of work. The benefits are paid until your condition stabilizes and amount to two-thirds of your average weekly wage.
- Temporary Partial Disability
These benefits are paid out when you work at a job that pays less than your previous position or are working less hours due to the temporary effects of a workplace disease or accident. The benefits are paid when you are offered a work-hour or wage reduction due to the disabling effects of your injury during your healing period. The amount of benefits will vary as it will be a percentage of wages lost at the time of the injury.
- Permanent Partial Disability
This healing period is considered to last until you are as well as can be expected as determined by medical evidence. If, during that time, you have limitations that are expected to remain unchanged, you may be entitled to permanent disability benefits. There are two ways in which permanent partial disability is determined: the number of weeks paid according to a schedule of losses (for example, 250 weeks for the loss of a foot at the ankle or 120 weeks for the loss of a thumb), and nonscheduled injuries paid as a percentage of 1,000 weeks – for example, an internal injury to the head requires a medical estimate to determine the amount of permanent loss. That amount is then taken as a percentage of 1,000 weeks.
- Permanent Total Disability
In the instance of a serious injury that prevents you from partaking in gainful employment, the law states that weekly benefits must be paid for life. According to the law, a permanent total injury includes the loss of both arms, or both legs, or both eyes, or an arm and a leg.
Worker’s Compensation Payments for Special Circumstances
There are separate worker’s compensation benefits for disfigurement, non-disabling exposures, and deafness.
If you are permanently disfigured and it leads to probable or potential wage loss, you may be entitled to compensation that does not exceed your overage annual earnings. In this case, your age, training, experience, earnings, and education are taken into consideration to determine the sum that will be awarded.
- Non-disabling Exposure
If you work with hazardous or toxic materials or in such conditions that cause physical changes that aren’t disabling but may become so with more exposure, you may be entitled to benefits if you leave your job. However, you will have to show that you lost wages by leaving the job and that it was inadvisable to continue working there.
The Increase or Decrease of Worker’s Compensation
There are some provisions in the law for decreasing or increasing weekly benefits. For example, the “Safe Place” Statute imposes an absolute duty on employers to do everything that is deemed reasonably necessary to create a safe workplace and to protect the safety, health, and life of their staff. If employers fail to meet such standards, the amount of worker’s compensation benefits they are required to pay may be increased.
If an injury occurs as a result of the employer’s violation of the statute, or because of the employer’s failure to enforce safety compliances, a 15% increase in compensation must be paid to the employee. When an employee makes a claim of such violations, he or she should report incidents to the Worker’s Compensation Division. The division will then carry out its own investigation.
If an employee neglects to use a safety device or follow reasonable safety rules, the compensation could be decreased by 15%. Safety devices must be provided and properly looked after and the use thereof should be enforced by the employer, otherwise compensation won’t be reduced. Similarly, the safety rules need to be enforced and the employee have adequate notice of such riles before compensation can be reduced.
It’s in Your Favor to Return to Work Early
After you have incurred an injury at your workplace, you are usually required to wait before returning to work. You may feel reluctant to start working again for fear of re-injury or anguish. However, it is to your advantage to return to work as soon as you can after you are injured, since returning to a suitable job will help you recover better from your injuries. What’s more, there are financial benefits to returning early. For example, if you return to work at a lower pay rate, the benefits for temporary partial disability is still payable, but not taxable. So, you can gain by returning to work sooner.
While opinions tend to differ on when you should be able to return to work, if you don’t feel up to it but your doctor has advised you to return to work, try to make an attempt to do so. That way, you will be in a stronger position to gain additional benefits if your return is at least attempted instead of refused.
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in Madison County can help you with the process of filing a claim and, if required, having a hearing to seek fair compensation.