For decades the expert Workers Compensation attorneys at The Law Offices of Marc J. Shuman & Associates, LTD. have been helping people in Joliet and Will County, Illinois get the compensation they deserve after a work-related injury or illness.
Like many Midwestern cities, manufacturing has historically been an important industry in Joliet, helping shape the town and its residents. Today, Joliet’s medical center and hospital are leading employers for residents of Joliet and the greater Chicago area.
While somewhat surprising to many, work-related injuries and illnesses among healthcare employees are a leading cause of lost time at work. In fact, it’s more hazardous to work in a hospital/medical center than in construction or manufacturing according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  The hazards of healthcare workplaces naturally lead to more workers’ compensation claims. Let’s explore workers’ comp in more detail.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a system of benefits that protect employees who become injured or ill on the job. Workers’ comp typically provides:
- Medical care costs required to treat/cure injury or illness
- Vocational/rehabilitation costs (for approved vocational rehab programs)
- Temporary total disability benefits (TTD) while the employee is out of work and recovering from injury/illness
- Temporary partial disability (TPD) while the employee is recovering but still able to work light duty for less compensation
- Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits in cases where the employee sustains a permanent injury but is still able to work
- Permanent total disability (PTD) in cases where the employee is permanently disabled from their injury/illness and unable to work
- Death benefits for surviving family members in cases where the employee passed away as a result of their injuries/illness
Employers are responsible for the cost of workers’ compensation benefits. For this reason, many employers purchase workers’ comp insurance, in which the insurance company pays on behalf of the employer. Some employers request approval to self-insure (pay their own claims), a riskier option, but one that saves the employer money on premiums.
What If My Employer Denies My Claim?
There are several reasons an employer might deny a workers’ comp claim. Cost and employer bias are two of the most common. Employers who use workers’ compensation insurance (rather than self-insuring) must pay premiums to an insurance company. Consequently, the more workers’ comp files an employer claims, the greater the monthly insurance premiums.
Employer bias may also lead a company to conclude that an injury isn’t serious enough to warrant a workers’ comp claim. The employer may also claim the injury or illness didn’t happen at work or during the scope of employment, or may outright refuse to acknowledge that the employee has suffered an injury or illness at all.
Some Important Facts About Workers Compensation Law In Illinois
Illinois worker’s compensation law requires all employers with a single employee or more to carry workers’ compensation insurance. The only type of business that is exempt is a solar proprietorship. While many small business owners may not like paying for workers’ compensation insurance, the fact is that it exists to protect both employers and employees.
It protects employees by guaranteeing that any injuries that they suffer while working will receive appropriate medical care at no cost to them. It also protects employees by providing them with a financial safety net. Especially, if they become injured and unable to work due to a workplace accident.
Workers’ compensation insurance also protects employers by having insurance that will cover the medical bills if an employee is injured.
Workers Compensation Law Facts In Illinois You Should Be Aware Of
- Worker’s compensation is a combination of medical and disability insurance. Employees injured while on the job receive financial compensation in the form of lost wages. They also receive medical bill coverage and money for any permanent disability that they suffer.
- It’s illegal in the state of Illinois for any employer to retaliate against an employee for filing a worker’s compensation claim. This stipulates that the law is in place to prevent employers from intimidating employees. Especially, for filing a worker’s compensation claim or reporting an on the job injury.
- If an employee works for a company in Illinois, and they have to work out of state as part of their job, they will still have cover under Illinois worker’s compensation laws.
- If you work as an independent contractor in the state of Illinois, you will not be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. A common example of an independent contractor is someone who makes deliveries for a large company. Or, someone who works with a rideshare company.
More Important Facts
- If you sustain an injury on the job, workers’ compensation insurance will provide you with any long-term care that you may need. For example, if a fall causes you to injure your back, the responsibility of the insurance company doesn’t end after physical therapy. It doesn’t even end when you quit your job. You have the right to any future treatment that you may need due to this injury.
- Hiring a worker’s compensation lawyer can help to protect your rights. Especially, in the event that an employer retaliates against you, denies your claim, or disagrees with your medical diagnosis and refuses to pay for treatment that a worker requires.
- If your injury allows you to work on a limited basis, you can return to work on light duties. You can do this while receiving workers’ compensation insurance. This will help protect your income.
- Payments that an employee receives from workers’ compensation are normally tax-free.
- If an injury occurs that prevents an employee from returning to their regular job, they may receive training. This will help them find a new job more suitable to their current physical abilities.
- Days missed while on a worker’s compensation claim cannot be counted as vacation or sick days.
- Every year there are more than 400,000 workers compensation claims filed in Illinois.
What Are Workers Compensation Claims And What Do They Cover?
Workers’ compensation claims are applications for compensation after an injury at work. The benefits include compensation for medical treatment, disability payments, permanent disability settlement, vocational rehabilitation, or survivor benefits to dependents after the death of a worker.
Contrary to the common misconception that the State pays workers’ compensation claims, payment for claims is actually handled by private insurance companies. Consequently, employers have to take out workers’ compensation insurance. This is to cover workers who may receive injuries on the job.
Workers’ Compensation covers:
Injuries at the workplace may happen even if you don’t work in a high-risk work environment. Some injuries can occur due to simple things like a slippery bathroom floor. You reserve the right to pursue benefits for time lost and medical bills due to workplace injuries no matter your work environment. Therefore, report all injuries that you sustain to your employer immediately. Plus, you should ensure that you obtain medical help.
2. Occupational Disease
Regulations protect employees from work-related injuries that occur over time due to exposure to workplace hazards that are unique to a given industry or occupation. Such medical conditions or injuries may occur upon a worker’s exposure to dangerous compounds or chemicals. If you have developed a condition or can no longer work due to an occupational disease, you can pursue a Worker’s Compensation Claim.
3. Toxic Exposure
Long-term exposure to specific toxins or chemicals such as inhalation of asbestos or breathing cotton fibers in the workplace may lead to occupational cancer, lung disease, and other incapacitating illness.
You can make workers’ compensation claims for injuries resulting from wearing of tendons, muscles, and ligaments. Especially, if these injuries are due to repetitive tasks and motions. The resulting injuries may be excruciating and disabling and could include painful inflammation and carpal tunnel syndrome.
5. Third-Party Liability
If your injury was instigated by a third party, including a contractor or a subcontractor performing a job at your workplace, you can place a Worker’s Compensation Claim to cover your enormous lost wages or medical expenses.
How To File A Workers Compensation Claim
If you have been injured on the job, you may be wondering how to file a worker’s compensation claim in order to recoup some of the money you spent on medical bills or lost while taking time off work. You are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits as long as you were clocked in at work when you were injured and you were following the best practices outlined in your employee handbook.
Here is a guide on how to file a worker’s compensation claim.
Get Medical Care
Get medical care as soon as possible after the injury occurs. Even if you do not think you need to see a doctor, pay a visit all the same. It’s often necessary to provide a professional diagnosis when you file your benefits claim.
Inform Your Employer
You should also inform your employer that you were injured on the job. In most cases, your employer will be the one to complete your workers’ compensation claim form. Work closely with him or her to make sure that all paperwork is submitted in a timely manner.
Contact Your Workers Compensation Office
In the unlikely case that your employer refuses to cooperate and file a claim, contact your local Workers Compensation Office. Each state has a separate office, so check local listings to find yours.
File a Separate Claim
Not every state requires that the worker file a separate claim, but many do. Your employer should provide you with the form you need to fill out to file your claim. If they do not, consult your local Workers Compensation Office for a copy.
The form requires basic information on the nature of your job and the extent of your injury. In most cases, you should receive an adequate amount of benefits after you file your claim. However, in some instances, you and your employer may disagree about how much you are owed.
In cases like these, a workers’ compensation attorney can be a great help in maximizing your benefits.
What Is The Workers Compensation 90 Day Rule?
The worker’s compensation 90-day rule is a rule that states that an injured employee must go to a physician of their employer’s choice for the first 90 days after their injury if they want their worker’s compensation insurance to pay for their care.
Going to another doctor won’t jeopardize your claim. However, you should know that choosing to see a doctor of your choice will likely mean that you will have to pay out of pocket for that doctor’s services. Workers’ compensation won’t pay for you to see your own doctor for the first 90 days.
Most insurance companies won’t pay if they find out that you are seeing a doctor for a work-related injury. This basically means that as long as your employer follows the rules on their end, you’ll need to do the same. Especially if you want your medical care to be paid for.
What rules does your employer have to follow if they expect you to see a doctor of their choice?
1. Your employer must post in a conspicuous area, a panel of physicians that you’re able to see should you suffer an injury.
2. Your employer must have you sign a paper stating that you know you must see one of their chosen physicians when you start on the job. You must also sign another copy of this after your injury occurs.
After 90 Days You Can See Any Doctor To Treat Your Work Injuries
While you have to see an employer chosen physician for the first 90 days after your injury, you’re free to choose your own doctor following this period. However, the doctor you see must be a licensed healthcare professional. You’re not required to have your doctor approved by your employer or their insurance agency.
If You Aren’t Certain About Your Rights, Talk To A Workers Compensation Lawyer
In a perfect world, you’d never be injured in the first place at work. In that same world, if you did sustain an injury your employer would do everything in their power to help you to get the care and compensation you deserve.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world where many employers will look out for their interests before those of their employees.
Therefore, if your employer is making it difficult to seek treatment and process a worker’s compensation claim, then speak with an experienced lawyer to get the help and guidance that you need.
Are Workers Compensation Benefits Taxable In Illinois?
Are worker’s compensation benefits taxable in Illinois? No, they are not. Workers’ compensation benefits, including any settlement that you receive do to a workplace injury, are tax exempt. Why is that?
Worker’s compensation is a benefit to help you when you’re experiencing hardship. Another reason that worker’s compensation is not taxed is due to the fact that you’re already losing income because you’re not working.
Worker’s compensation benefits payout 66% or 2/3 of your normal weekly pay . If this reduced wage was subject to income tax, then it would place you under an even greater financial hardship.
Money Paid For Medical Bills Is Not Taxable Either
If you suffer a workplace injury that requires extended medical care, the cost for that care can be very high. The good news is that all of your medical bills related to your workplace injury will be paid for through your workers’ compensation claim.
The other good news is that the money that you receive toward your medical bills doesn’t count as income for you. This is important because for tax purposes anything you receive as compensation for work is usually taxable, including bonuses.
Non-work related income is taxable as well. For example, if you win money gambling, the winnings are income and are taxable. So, it’s normal for people who have medical bills paid for through worker’s compensation to worry that this might be considered income, which could be taxed.
Fortunately, there’s no need to worry since your medical bills your worker’s compensation claim pays are not any form of income.
Are Workers Compensation Benefits Taxable When You Receive A Settlement?
If you suffer a significant injury at work that will require ongoing medical care, it’s common for your employer to offer you a one-time settlement. This means that he or she won’t have to be responsible for continuing payments to you and continuing medical expenses.
A worker’s compensation settlement will take into account your projected future lost earnings and projected future medical bills. Additionally, it will consider the extent of any permanent disability that you incurred as a result of your workplace accident. When you receive this settlement you’ll receive the full amount that you are due. This is because worker’s compensation settlements are never taxed.
Workers Compensation Payments Are There To Afford You Financial Stability While You Recover From Your Injuries
The primary reason that workers compensation insurance exists is to ensure that any worker injured on the job will have access to the medical care that they need. Without worker’s compensation, workers employed by a business that closes wouldn’t have any means of paying for their treatment.
The secondary reason that workers compensation exists is to provide injured workers with a financial safety net. Few people can go for an extended period of time without working. So, if you sustain an injury on the job, worker’s compensation will provide you approximately 2/3 or your normal pay.
By not taxing your benefits it allows workers to receive a closer amount of income to what they would normally take home when they are working.
How Does The FMLA Interact With Workers’ Compensation?
Through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), you are given the ideal chance to balance your job and family responsibilities. The FMLA entitles you to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in a year.
The main criteria for granting unpaid leave are:
- You have a serious health condition
- To care for your immediate family member who has a serious health condition.
The FMLA describes serious health conditions on a wider base than disability. It also includes:
- Physical or mental medical conditions
For these conditions to be covered by the Family and Medical Law Act, they have to be significantly severe and show evidence that they require multiple treatments combined with intermittent absences. General medical checkups and cosmetic surgeries are not catered for by this Act. The 12-week leave is unpaid. However, many employers find it beneficial to you, the worker, to take the FMLA leave concurrently with your normal paid leave.
During FMLA leave, you must continue your employee health insurance benefits. Additionally, you are entitled to be reinstated to your former or equivalent position upon the completion of your leave. In some cases, your employer may reinstate you in a demoted position and you have a right to dispute that decision.
If you are facing such a scenario, contact a workers’ compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of Marc. J Shuman & Associates, LTD.
If you have worked in the same place for at least 12 months, you are eligible to take the FMLA leave. To qualify you must also have worked for more than 1,250 hours over the 12 months. If you are denied, seek legal assistance from a workers’ compensation lawyer to fight for your rights.
In some instances, you are eligible for the FMLA leave. Thus, if you get an on-the-job injury that is a “serious health condition,” you should consider your workers’ compensation leave as an FMLA leave too.
The Family and Medical Law Act statute does not differentiate between non-work and work-related injuries. Therefore, a serious on-the-job injury that needs you to take leave for inpatient care will be covered by FMLA.
You cannot retroactively designate the time you spend on workers’ compensation leave against your FMLA entitlement. If that scenario happens, a workers’ compensation lawyer is an ideal choice for legal assistance.
When Should You Hire A Workers Compensation Attorney
While you can handle simple workers’ comp claims without an attorney, more complicated cases are best handled by an experienced lawyer. If any of the following describe your situation, contact our Joliet workers compensation attorneys right away:
- Your employer denied your claim
- You don’t receive your benefits in a timely manner
- In the case where you have a preexisting medical condition
- Your injuries/illness prevents you from returning to work or from working altogether
- If your employer retaliates against you for filing a workers’ comp claim
- You receive SSD benefits (Social Security could receive a large part of your benefits if your workers’ comp claim isn’t organized properly)
The skilled attorneys at The Law Offices of Marc J. Shuman & Associates, LTD. have an intimate understanding of workers’ compensation laws in Illinois and will work tirelessly to get you the workers comp benefits to which you and your family are entitled.