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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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What Are Retail Employees’ Rights to Workers’ Compensation?Though they may not have the most dangerous job, retail employees have a high rate of work-related injuries. You are less likely to suffer a catastrophic injury while working at a retail store than working for a construction company, but labor studies suggest that retail workers have a higher injury rate than construction workers. If you have suffered an injury from retail work, you have the right to request workers’ compensation benefits to cover your medical expenses and missed pay from the time you are forced to take off from work. Your employer is not allowed to retaliate against you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Retail Injuries

Many retail stores require their employees to perform physical tasks that can result in injury. For example:

  • A customer has spilled a drink or tracked water into the store, and you slip on the liquid because you did not notice it.
  • The repetitive strain from lifting heavy objects causes chronic muscle pain.
  • You accidentally cut yourself with a knife while opening a box.
  • You are involved in a forklift accident while working in the stockroom.
  • You are hit by a car while collecting shopping carts from a parking lot.

It does not matter who was at fault for your injury or whether you could have avoided the injury. If you are injured while you are working for your employer, you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

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Workers’ Compensation Includes People Who Work From HomeAll non-essential businesses in Illinois have been closed to the public in order to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Some employees are able to work from home and may continue to do so after the stay-at-home order is lifted. Even before this public health crisis, many jobs were trending towards telecommuting in order for businesses to save money on office space. Because you are rarely in an employer-owned office, you may be surprised to learn that it is possible to receive workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured while working from home.

When Do Home Injuries Qualify?

Workers’ compensation claims are not limited to incidents that occur while you are on your employer’s property. The workers’ compensation insurance covers any injuries that happen while you are doing work on behalf of your employer. For instance, you are working if you are visiting someone on a sales call or driving a truck to deliver goods. The same applies when you are working from home. If you trip and fall while working at home, you can file a claim to cover your medical expenses and provide you with disability benefits if your injury prevents you from working. It does not matter that your employer does not control the safety conditions of your home.

Proving Your Claim

When you are injured on company property or in a public place, you have the advantage of witnesses who can confirm that you were injured and when it occurred. You likely do not have a witness if you are injured while working at home, which may give your employer and its workers’ compensation insurer a reason to scrutinize your claim. To support your claim, you should:

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