Chicago Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
For more than 45 years, the Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys at Donald W. Fohrman & Associates, LTD. have been helping injured workers throughout Illinois obtain benefits to help pay for medical expenses, supplement lost wages, and gain new work skills when returning to their pre-accident position is not an option. With offices in Cook, DuPage, and Lake counties, our work injury law firm serves injured employees throughout northeastern Illinois.
If you were injured in a work-related accident or your loved one lost his or her life on the job, call the workers’ compensation lawyers at Donald W. Fohrman & Associates for a free consultation. 312-661-0450.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
The workers’ compensation system provides defined benefits to workers for work-related injuries and illnesses without regard to fault.
The system also provides benefits to surviving family members when their loved one is killed on the job. In exchange for these benefits, workers are prohibited from suing their employers directly when workplace accidents occur, except under rare circumstances.
The Evolution of Workers’ Compensation in the United States
The Illinois workers’ compensation system began as part of the “Grand Bargain” that developed in the early 20th century. Before its enactment, injured workers and employers alike were dissatisfied with the tort system as a means for compensating victims of workplace accidents, often asserting that the process was unfair on both sides.
To recover compensation for medical bills and lost wages, victims were required to demonstrate that their employers were negligent and that negligence caused the injuries in question.
Unfortunately, most injured workers were unsuccessful in their claims and they were forced to bear the financial burdens that accompanied their injuries on their own.
On the rare occasion that the employer was proved to be negligent, the company was held directly liable for damages. If injuries were severe or a workers’ death occurred because of the work-related accident, a single claim could drive a company into bankruptcy.
Adoption of the “Grand Bargain”
In the early 1900’s, the “Grand Bargain” was adopted, and workers’ compensation as we know it began. Under the agreement, most Illinois employers are required to maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover the serious injuries and deaths incurred by their employees regardless of who contributed to the accident. The insurance is intended to provide victims and their families with a surefire means to recover compensation for medical bills and a portion of the worker’s lost wages.
The workers’ comp system was designed to be straightforward. It is not uncommon, however, for employers and insurance companies in Illinois to undervalue work injury claims, create obstacles for injured workers that discourage them from pursuing compensation, or deny workers’ compensation claims altogether. As a result, work injury lawyers are often necessary to ensure workers and their families have access to quality medical care, vocational rehabilitation, and the income they need to survive while they recover.
Benefits Available for Injured Workers in Illinois
A wide range of benefits may be available to injured workers in Illinois.
If you were injured on the job or contracted an occupational illness and you are unable to return to work, you are entitled to 66 2/3 % of your average weekly earnings. This amount is to be paid to you until you are able to return to work or you reach maximum medical improvement. If you are able to return to work part-time, or in a position that pays less than your pre-accident wages, you may still be eligible to receive a wage differential that is equal to ⅔ of the difference between your prior weekly wage and your current wage.
All necessary medical care, medications, medical equipment, and in-home nursing care that is connected to your work-related accident is covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.
No deductibles, co-pays, or out-of-pocket costs are required as long as the medical expense is deemed necessary and reasonable.
If your work-related accident or exposure has injured you so severely that you will not be able to return to your previous line of work, the workers’ compensation system ensures that you are provided with appropriate training, education, job counseling, or other assistance to enable you to obtain employment in another occupation. If you are approved for vocational rehabilitation benefits, you may also be eligible for maintenance payments to help you survive financially while you are enrolled in an approved program.
If your loved one was killed in a work-related accident in Illinois, and you are a qualifying family member, you may be eligible to receive death benefits to help compensate you for your loss. If you qualify, you will receive ⅔ of the deceased person’s average weekly wage – up to a maximum of $500,000 or for a duration of up to 25 years, whichever amount is greater. You may also be entitled to an additional $8,000 if you incurred the cost of your loved one’s burial.
Injured Illinois employees who are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits may also be offered a lump sum settlement to compensate them for their injuries. Employers and their insurers often encourage claimants to accept lump sum settlements instead of ongoing payments because a one-time settlement will usually terminate any further payment obligations. Our workers’ compensation attorneys can help determine whether a lump sum settlement offer is right for you.
Depending on the severity and permanency of your work-related injuries or occupational illness, you may be entitled to the following types of disability benefits through the workers’ compensation system.
- Permanent Total Disability Benefits:
If your work-related injury leaves you with a severe permanent impairment after you reach maximum medical improvement, you will likely qualify for PTD benefits. To qualify, your injury must have left you unable to perform any type of work or without the use of both hands, feet, arms, legs, eyes, or any two of the above. If it is determined that you qualify for PTD benefits, you will receive payments for the duration of your lifetime.
- Permanent Partial Disability Benefits:
If, after reaching maximum medical improvement, it is determined that you are no longer able to perform some of the activities you could perform before you were hurt, you will likely be entitled to PPD benefits. Injured workers who are left with partial disabilities in Illinois can receive scheduled loss-of-use awards, unscheduled awards, wage differential benefits, or disfigurement benefits.
Who Is Covered by Workers’ Compensation in Illinois?
Since state and federal laws require most employers in Illinois with one or more employees to provide workers’ comp insurance coverage for their employees, the majority of workers in the state are covered under the state’s workers’ compensation system.
If you were injured while performing work-related duties, you may be entitled to benefits as long as one of the following applies.
Some types of workers are exempt from benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation system. These include:
For those workers, alternative programs may be available.
If you are an injured railroad worker in Illinois, your injuries may be covered under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). When you bring an injured worker claim under FELA, you must prove that your employer’s negligence caused your injury. If your claim is successful, you can recover 100% of your lost wages, medical bills, pain and suffering, vocational rehabilitation, and more.
If you were injured while working on the waterways of Illinois, you are covered under the Jones Act. Like with FELA, you must demonstrate that your employer’s negligence caused your injury for your claim to be successful. Workers who are covered under the Jone Act are entitled to past and future economic losses as well as compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, and more. Additionally, you may be entitled to receive a daily allowance while you recover.
I decided to switch attorneys. I am glad that I did. It would take weeks for me to get a phone call from my old attorney. Nothing was more frustrating for me with my old attorney than not being able to get a simple question answered or not getting a response from them when my check was late. Don & Adam, as well as the office staff, responded to my calls right away.
Police Officers and Firefighters
While police officers, firefighters, and other first responders who work for the City of Chicago are not covered under the state’s workers’ compensation system, those who are employed in other municipalities in Illinois are covered by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Public Employees Disability Act (PEDA). Under PEDA, financial compensation and additional benefits are provided to firefighters and police officers who are injured in the line of duty and unable to perform the functions of their jobs. Eligible workers are entitled to the following in addition to workers’ compensation benefits:
If you were injured in the line of duty and your injury caused you to become disabled, you are entitled to receive your full salary for up to 52 weeks after your accident occurred. These payments are provided tax-free.
If you sustained a disabling injury in the line of duty, you are entitled to time away from work while you recover. During this time, you will not lose any accrued sick leave, vacation, paid time off, service credits, or compensatory time.
If you have not fully recovered and regained the ability to return to work when PEDA benefits expire, you may be entitled to line-of-duty disability benefits under the Illinois Pension Code. Eligible employees may be entitled to up to 75% of their pre-accident salary.
If your work-related injuries cause you to be off work for more than 52 weeks and your PEDA benefits expire, you may be entitled to regular workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits will provide you with 66% of your average gross weekly wage.
Special Considerations Exist for Some Chicago Workers
While workplace injury benefits are available for injured Ford Motor Company workers in Chicago, the company is self-insured. Since Ford administers and funds its own workers’ compensation insurance, employees who file work injury claims often face unique challenges.
- Work injury claims at Ford Motor Company are handled “in-house” which places workers at a significant disadvantage.
- Injured employees are forced to be evaluated first by a Ford plant physician, who often prioritizes Ford’s financial interests instead of worker well-being.
- Workers are encouraged to apply for Unicare benefits instead of filing a workers’ compensation claim.
United Airlines Flight Attendants who are injured anywhere in the world are entitled to benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Unfortunately, injured employees who work for United are forced to navigate a complicated web of benefits that they are entitled to under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation system and their own union contract. Workers must deal with United’s human resources department, United’s claim adjusting company, United’s Medical Management firms when they file work injury claims.
Injured CTA workers who report work injuries are often handed unfair treatment. CTA adjusters frequently categorize injured employees as “in the Sick Book” instead of “Injured on Duty” (IOD), try to minimize or delay benefits payouts, or withhold lost wages benefits completely.
Unlike Chicago city police and firefighters, Illinois police and firefighters that work outside of the city of Chicago are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Under the Public Employee Disability Act, they are entitled to 100% of their pay if they sustain a work-related injury.
Frequently Asked Questions About Workers’ Compensation in Illinois
In most cases, injured workers in Illinois are entitled to obtain a second opinion if they do not agree with the physician the insurance company provides. If you are unhappy with the care you have received from the insurance company’s doctor, your workers’ compensation attorney can help you gain access to a physician who specializes in treating your condition.
Not all workplace injuries are covered by workers’ compensation insurance. If you intentionally injured yourself, you were impaired by drugs or alcohol when you became injured, your injury happened while you were committing a crime, or you were hurt while violating your company’s policies, your injuries may not be covered.
Injuries that happen while a worker is traveling for business are usually covered under workers’ comp as long as the employee was acting in the course of his or her work duties when the accident happened.