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Personal Injury Lawyer Insights: 5 Key Facts About Workers' Compensation

Shay + Associates Law Firm personal injury lawyer in Springfield and Decatur, Illinois

Have you been harmed in some way while doing your job? If the harm caused you to suffer injury, disability, or disease, you may be eligible to make a claim to recover your medical costs and loss of wages. Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance is designed to provide this compensation when you meet the requirements.

A few myths float around about workers’ compensation, and some of those myths may cause workers to hesitate before filing a claim for benefits. Here are five facts about workers’ compensation insurance to help you understand the system.

Workers’ Compensation Is Not a Handout

Many eligible workers mistakenly think that workers’ compensation insurance is a government giveaway. They’ve been led to believe that only lazy or greedy people take advantage of the coverage.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Workers’ compensation insurance is coverage carried by — and paid for by — employers. The coverage is intended to protect workers after they suffer job-related injuries and illnesses. The government doesn’t pay your claim, and other people’s taxes aren’t used to pay your claim.

Workers’ compensation works like your automobile and health insurance policies. If you have an accident in your vehicle, you don’t hesitate to call your insurance agent to make a claim. If you have to go to the doctor, you feel comfortable filing a claim with your health insurance carrier. You should feel just as comfortable filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Workers’ Compensation Is an Ancient Tradition

The idea of workers’ compensation is over 4,000 years old. The ancient Sumerians had a law spelling out how much workers should receive for injuries in specific areas of the body. Other ancient societies had laws similar to our workers’ compensation laws today.

Flash forward to the United States in the 20th century. The state of Wisconsin has the distinction of passing our nation’s first workers’ compensation law. Way back in 1911, Wisconsin made it mandatory for employers to compensate their workers for lost wages and medical expenses. By 1948, all U.S. states had some form of worker coverage.

Workers’ Compensation Isn’t for Everyone

In Illinois, most full- and part-time workers are covered by their employers’ workers’ compensation programs. However, some notable exceptions exist. Many agricultural jobs and domestic-worker positions are not covered.

If you work for the federal government, you aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation insurance. Instead, you must file claims for injury or illness to the Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation. This program covers civilian employees of the U.S. for all injuries and illnesses caused on the job.

Civilian employees of the military are sometimes covered by workers’ compensation, but most are covered by the federal employees’ program. Enlisted military members who are injured on the battlefield or disabled as the result of employment in the military must make their claims to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

There are some exceptions for military members who have military-related injuries. For example, military veterans and civilian workers who develop post-traumatic stress disorder are sometimes eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits.

Most public employees are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, including most of the City of Chicago’s civilian workforce. However, Chicago police officers are not eligible for workers’ compensation. Real estate agents, brokers, and salespersons who receive commission as their only compensation are not covered either.

Workers’ Compensation Doesn’t Cover Private Contractors

Sometimes, workers believe they’re employees, but they’re considered private contractors instead. To determine if you’re an employee or private contractor, an Attorney will ultimately decide based on whether the employer controls your work. Other questions you will be asked include:

  • Do you choose the tasks you perform?

  • Do you determine your work schedule?

  • Do you own and maintain your own equipment?

  • Do you pay your own taxes?

  • Do you work for multiple companies or individuals?

If you answered yes to all of the above questions, you’re probably a private contractor and not covered by workers’ compensation law. Even if you can’t file a workers’ compensation claim for private-contract work, you may be able to sue a third party — like the owner of the property where you were harmed or another individual whose negligence caused your injury.

Workers’ Compensation Claimants Are Protected

Workers’ compensation statutes in Illinois prohibit your employer from discriminating against you after you file a claim. Your employer can face sanctions and fines if you can prove that your claim is being neglected or you’re being targeted or denied work as a result of your workers’ compensation claim.

If your employer loans you out to another employer but pays your wages, your employer’s insurance policy still covers you. You’re also covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation program if you were hired in Illinois but work in another state.

Now that you know a bit more about workers’ compensation, call a personal injury lawyer at Shay & Associates to find out if you should file a claim for lost wages and medical compensation. If you’re facing any type of workplace-related impairment, disability, or disease, our office will review the known facts and advise you on your best course of action.

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