According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 4 million workplace injuries in the United States each year. More than 2 million people injured at work require ongoing treatment for injuries sustained on the job. According to the most recent data available from the Illinois Department of Public Health, there were more than 5,000 work related injuries in Illinois in 2010, with 206 of these injuries reported as fatal. Smaller companies report fewer workplace injuries than larger companies, but any workplace injury should be taken seriously.
What to Do When Injured on the Job
When seeking treatment for work-related injuries, it is important to get documentation of a worker’s injuries in case they have trouble receiving compensation through the employer. If an employee is injured at work, they may be eligible for workers’ compensation, but there are steps that must be taken to ensure that the employee is either eligible for workers’ comp or have a case if the employer or worker’s compensation carrier denies a claim.
- Report the injury – In Illinois, an employee has 45 days to report an injury to their employer. There are only a few exceptions permitted under state law depending on circumstances. An employee can see any doctor of their choice, but it’s recommended that they report the injury sooner rather than later.
- Seek treatment for injuries – Regardless of how serious an injury is, an employee should obtain documentation such as photos, doctor’s reports, and ER reports. This should include any recommendations for future treatment such as therapy or rehabilitation. While it’s not required by Illinois law, it is best to get documentation from anybody who treated an injured employee. This includes nurses and EMT workers.
- File a claim – In Illinois, a injured employee usually has up to two years to file a claim. In some cases, they may get three or more years to file. Aside from workers’ compensation, Illinois law allows a person to file for Social Security Disability, Medicare, Medicaid, and state and local unemployment programs.
- Attend the workers’ compensation hearing – Workers’ comp hearings take place at various locations throughout the state. A hearing will address issues such as lost wages, settlements, the extent of injuries, required treatments or ongoing medical care, partial or total disability, and rehabilitation.
- Note: Hearings tend to be informal, but the rules of evidence still apply. A local attorney may be very helpful at this stage, and it should be noted that employers and insurers typically will be represented by an attorney.
- File an appeal – Illinois law grants the losing party 30 days to appeal an unfavorable decision. An appeal of a decision is made to the Illinois Industrial Commission. If the decision is still unfavorable, an attorney experienced in workers’ comp claims may be able to help with additional legal steps.
Once an employee seeks treatment for injuries sustained on the job, they should start the process of applying for workers’ compensation. If they wait too long, even if it’s within the time limits established by Illinois law, the employer could try to use such delays against the injured employee.