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What You Should Know About Seeking Compensation After a Construction Site AccidentConstruction workers make up only about 6 percent of all U.S. laborers, but they are responsible for about 17 percent of all work-related fatalities, according to federal estimates. If you work in the construction industry, this statistic may not surprise you. Construction jobs may require workers to work in extreme conditions, often using very powerful equipment. Some of the most common construction site fatalities are caused by falling from heights, electrocution, and being struck by an object. If you or a loved one have suffered a severe injury in a construction site accident, a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit may be the best way for you to receive full compensation.

Federal and State Laws Require a Certain Degree of Safety

Although construction work is dangerous, there are many steps that employers can take to keep workers as safe as possible. The responsibility for maintaining a reasonably safe worksite typically falls to the general contractor. The general contractor is also expected to hire workers who are capable of safely performing work tasks and to provide any training needed. Contractors should also ensure that equipment is functional and regularly maintained so that it does not present an avoidable risk to workers or bystanders.

All Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations should be followed. If a contractor fails to adequately follow safety protocols, the contractor or company overseeing the construction work may be fined for its violations. In Illinois, an OSHA violation does not allow an employee to file a personal injury lawsuit instead of a workers’ compensation claim against his or her employer. If the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission determines that the employer willfully violated the OSHA regulation, it can increase the injured employee’s workers’ compensation benefits by 25 percent.  

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How Can I Protect My Right to Compensation After Being Injured on the Job?In an average year, some three million American workers suffer a work-related injury or illness. Many are fortunate that their injuries are relatively minor and can go back to work quickly. Others, however, suffer much more serious injuries, including spine and head injuries, which cause them to miss work for long periods of time. In the most severe cases, the injuries can be catastrophic, leading to permanent disability or even death. Regardless of the severity of the injury, all injured workers need to know how to ensure their rights are protected as they seek compensation for their injuries — especially if they are seeking benefits under the Illinois workers’ compensation system.

Report Your Injury Quickly

When you suffer an injury at work, you should report the injury to your employer right away or as soon as reasonably possible. You must report your injury within 45 days or you risk losing your eligibility for work comp benefits. If the incident in question involves radiation exposure, the reporting deadline is extended to 90 days. Do not risk losing your benefits. Report your injury to your employer immediately.

Keep a Copy of Your Records

Nobody likes extra paperwork, but the documentation of the nature, extent, and treatment of your injury will be critical in getting you the benefits you deserve. Get and keep a copy of your initial injury report as well as any records that are available from your treating doctors and facilities. These records are especially important if you are seeking disability benefits or if your employer is disputing your claim in any way. By having your own copies of your records, you ensure that you and your lawyer have access to everything you need to pursue compensation.

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Is It Difficult to File for Workers’ Compensation?There is no doubt that filing a workers’ compensation claim can be beneficial if you have been injured while working. Workers’ compensation benefits cover your healthcare expenses related to your injury and give you disability pay if you are forced to miss time from work or are limited in the work you can perform. However, you may also wonder how much work is required to file a claim. It is natural for a person to feel discouraged by the prospect of filling out application forms and arguing their claim in court. Most workers’ compensation claimants find that applying for benefits is well worth the effort they put into it.

Steps Leading Up to Filing

Whenever you suffer a work-related injury, you should prepare as if you will be filing a workers’ compensation claim in the future. This includes:

  • Seeking immediate medical attention to diagnose and treat your injuries
  • Notifying your employer within 45 days of your injury
  • Keeping track of the doctors you visit and healthcare expenses you incur

Receiving medical attention and keeping a record of your expenses are tasks that you would be doing regardless of whether you filed a workers’ compensation claim. Some workers may be worried about telling their employer about their workplace injury, but your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you for filing a claim.

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Illinois Presumes Workers’ Compensation for Essential Workers with COVID-19Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, Illinois has relied on many workers to continue operating essential businesses and services while potentially exposing themselves to the virus. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission enacted an emergency rule in April that created a rebuttable presumption that healthcare workers, emergency responders, and front-line workers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 contracted the virus as a result of their job and would be eligible for benefits. As of June 5, Illinois replaced that emergency rule with a new law that provides the same protections for these workers. The following guidelines will help you understand whether you could receive workers’ compensation if you contract the coronavirus.

Who Qualifies?

Several states have enacted laws providing workers’ compensation for employees at hospitals and emergency responders, such as EMT workers, police officers, and firefighters. Illinois is one of the few states that has extended the coverage to front-line workers. The law defines front-line workers as those who work for businesses and organizations that Illinois deemed to be essential in the executive order that declared Illinois a disaster area due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The businesses and organizations include:

  • Grocery stores and pharmacies
  • Food production and distribution companies
  • Restaurants that can serve food for off-premises consumption
  • Social service organizations
  • Transportation and fuel services
  • Financial institutions
  • Construction workers
  • Hardware and office supply businesses
  • Delivery services
  • Utility and maintenance workers

In order to qualify for coverage, the workers also must have been required to interact with the public or work at a location with at least 15 employees. The law applies to workers who contract the virus from March 9 to the end of the year.

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Road Construction Injuries Can Involve Workers’ Compensation, Third Party ClaimsDespite the COVID-19 pandemic forcing many workers to stay home, road construction workers are among those who are performing essential work. Maintaining roadways is crucial to the transportation of essential goods and services. The Illinois Department of Transportation said that its workers will continue to perform maintenance on roads and that there are no plans to delay construction projects. Road construction workers may feel fortunate to be able to work, but their profession has a high risk of serious or fatal injuries, for which they may need to file a workers’ compensation claim.

Injury Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1,844 workers died at road construction sites from 2003 to 2017, including 83 workers in Illinois. Many more workers are injured each year. Anyone working on a major roadway is at risk, including:

  • Construction laborers
  • Highway maintenance workers
  • Operators of heavy machinery and transportation vehicles
  • Supervisors for these workers

Heavy machinery and falling accidents are common with all construction jobs. For road construction workers, transportation-related accidents are responsible for a majority of the injuries because workers are dealing with public drivers on the roadway and work-related vehicles. Even if workers take every precaution against being injured by their own vehicles, they cannot control the actions of a reckless driver who ignores caution signs and causes a crash.

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