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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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Receiving Permanent Total Disability Benefits After a Work InjuryMost workplace injuries are ones that you expect to recover from with time. You may need to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits to pay for your medical expenses and lost wages if you miss time from work. Unfortunately, some injuries cause permanent disability that will forever affect your ability to work. If your disability makes you unable to work any job, you may qualify to receive Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits for the rest of your life. Because the workers’ compensation insurer is likely to contest a PTD claim, you would need the help of a workers’ compensation lawyer to prove your case.

What Is a Permanent Total Disability?

Your disability is permanent and total if you are incapable of performing any work tasks for which you could receive employment and if your condition is unlikely to improve. Most PTDs involve losing a body part or losing your ability to use that body part. However, you do not have to be completely incapable of normal function in order to qualify for PTD benefits. You can argue that your disability has made you unable to obtain employment if:

  • You make a good-faith effort to apply for jobs but have not received any job offers
  • You do not have the education or training to qualify for jobs that could accommodate your disability
  • Your age makes it unreasonable to expect you to retrain for a new career

You may qualify for Permanent Partial Disability if you are capable of working in a limited capacity or in a position that pays less than what you made before.

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