Taking the Confusion Out of Common Injury and Estate Planning Worries: Answers to Your Frequent Questions
The most important job for any attorney is making sure that his client understands every aspect of her case. Although some lawyers are comfortable keeping their clients in the dark, we feel that you deserve more. You deserve to have all of your questions and concerns addressed in order to pursue your own case confidently and successfully. This is why we take the initiative to answer common questions that you may have even before you even step into our office. If you don't see your question answered below, please contact our office at 855-522-5291.
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Can I pursue a third-party lawsuit if I was hurt at work?
Employees who have suffered a life-changing injury may not be able to survive on the amount provided by Illinois workers’ compensation benefits. For this reason, it is a good idea to consider whether a third party could be held liable for the costs of your injury. If third-party negligence played a role in a work accident, an injury lawsuit could provide payment for permanent disability, income losses, and even the wrongful death of the worker.
Types of Third-Party Work Injury Lawsuits in Illinois
There are two notable differences between collecting workers’ compensation and suing a third-party. The first is that benefits provided under workers’ compensation are limited, while a third-party claim is not limited in the amount a victim can receive for pain and suffering and permanent losses. The second is that workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning benefits are provided regardless of fault. In an injury case, victims will have to provide proof of negligence—and the percentage of their own fault may have a bearing on the amount of damages they receive.
That said, there may be several third parties who can be held liable in a work injury case, including:
- Product manufacturers. Injuries that were caused by defective equipment or components may qualify for a product liability lawsuit. Manufacturers or distributors of dangerous products can be held responsible if the products were poorly designed, badly assembled, or did not contain proper warnings to the user.
- Property owners. If you were injured while performing work at a location that is not owned or managed by your employer, you could be eligible for a third-party lawsuit against the property owner if he or she allowed a dangerous condition to exist on the property.
- Drivers. Work-related car accidents can occur if the victim is a professional driver (such as operating a taxi, truck, or limousine) or is performing a work-related task for the benefit of an employer. Employees who are injured in a crash may be able to file a car accident lawsuit against an at-fault driver.
- Independent contractors. If you were injured by someone at your workplace who does not have the same employer (such as an electrician on a job site or visiting guest at your workplace), you have the right to file a lawsuit against the person who caused your injuries in addition to filing a work accident claim.
If you suffered significant losses as a result of a work injury in Illinois, our attorneys can help you maximize the amount of available benefits. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at 855-522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
Can I pursue a workers’ comp case and a personal injury lawsuit?
Workers’ compensation laws were created to provide payment for a work injury without the need to file a lawsuit. As a result, employees covered under workers’ compensation can only sue their employers if the employer intentionally caused harm. Intentional harm is usually limited to cases of direct assault, battery, or defamation. However, workers may file injury claims if someone other than the employer played a part in the accident.
What Employees Should Know About Filing Work Injury Lawsuits
Although workers' compensation laws generally prohibit employees from filing injury lawsuits against their employers, there is no law against suing someone else whose negligence causes a work injury. These cases are called third-party lawsuits, since they involve someone other than the first party (the injury victim) and the second party (the employer).
Although employees may file third-party lawsuits in addition to collecting workers’ compensation, these cases may be complicated by:
- Type of injury lawsuit. The ability to bring a third-party case will depend on the type of laws and requirements of the type of case. For example, an injury caused by a defective product will be subject to product liability laws, while an injury on someone else’s property will require the knowledge of a premises liability attorney.
- Burden of proof. While workers’ compensation provides benefits regardless of who was at fault for your injuries, injury lawsuits require victims to provide proof of negligence in order to recover damages. In addition, the victim’s own percentage of fault in causing the accident will be considered when calculating the amount of compensation.
- Liens on damages. If your third-party case is successful, the employer’s insurance company will likely want to be paid back for the workers’ compensation benefits they paid to you. Insurers are allowed to place a lien on any damages you are awarded, and you may have to pay a portion of the recovery back to the insurance company.
If you suffered a work injury in Illinois, our workers’ compensation attorneys can help you maximize the amount of available benefits. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at 855-522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
What are the penalties if an employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance?
The State of Illinois requires all public or private employers with at least one employee to secure valid workers’ compensation insurance to cover job-related injuries. If the employer does not obtain coverage, the business itself may face steep fines and closed doors, while the corporate officers may be held personally liable for damages.
Penalties for Employers Without Illinois Workers’ Compensation Insurance
One of the most important consequences for employers who fail to provide workers’ compensation coverage is the loss of the exclusive remedy protection. Under workers’ compensation law, employees are forbidden from suing an employer in exchange for benefits. However, if the employer did not secure workers’ compensation coverage, the employee is free to file a lawsuit directly against the employer. In addition, employers named in these lawsuits cannot use certain defenses (such as negligence of a co-employee) and the burden is on the employer to show freedom of negligence relating to the injury.
In addition to legal liability, employers who fail to obtain workers’ compensation coverage in Illinois may face:
- Work stoppage. Investigators with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (IWCC) Insurance Compliance Division can issue a work-stop order on an employer for failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance. IWCC can request the intervention of state law enforcement to prevent any employee from occupying the place of employment until proof of insurance is provided and the work-stop order is lifted.
- Criminal charges. Illinois law allows individuals such as corporate officers, directors, partners, and members of an employer limited liability company to be charged with criminal acts and face personal liability for failing to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Individuals who knowingly violate the insurance requirement may be found guilty of a Class 4 felony, while those who negligently fail to provide coverage may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
- Fines. IWCC investigators may issue citations to employers for insurance non-compliance in an amount between $500 and $2,500, which must be paid in addition to providing proof of valid workers' compensation insurance. If the employer does not comply with the citation, the Commission may assess a civil penalty of up to $500 per day for each day without insurance, with a minimum fine of $10,000.
If you have suffered a work injury in Illinois, we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact the experienced workers' compensation attorneys at Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
Do out-of-state employers have to provide Illinois workers’ compensation insurance if they have an employee in Illinois?
In most cases, yes. Although workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state, Illinois requires all companies with at least one employee in the state to be covered under Illinois workers’ compensation requirements. As long as the employee is not exempt from workers’ compensation benefits, the out-of-state employer is required to include Illinois-compliant benefits on its insurance policy.
When Out-of-State Employers Need Illinois Workers’ Compensation Coverage
Under Illinois law, an employer must purchase valid Illinois workers’ compensation insurance to cover:
- Remote employees who live in Illinois. An out-of-state employer must cover employees in Illinois, even if there is only one employee in Illinois and the company and all other employees are located in a different state.
- Employees whose majority of work takes place in Illinois. A company that is headquartered in another state but has a satellite office or factory in Illinois must provide workers’ compensation insurance that includes Illinois coverage.
- Business operations in Illinois. Out-of-state companies that conduct regular business in Illinois must provide a workers' compensation insurance policy that includes Illinois coverage, even if all workers reside in the same state as the company.
- Employees hired in Illinois. Any workers whose employment contracts were entered into in Illinois must be covered by Illinois workers’ compensation insurance.
- Work-related injuries that occur in Illinois. If an employee from an out-of-state company is injured while doing a work-related task in Illinois, he or she has the right to file a workers’ compensation claim in Illinois.
If you are eligible for Illinois workers’ compensation coverage, you have a right to collect benefits for an on-the-job injury regardless of where it occurs. Contact the experienced workers' compensation attorneys at Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
How long do I have to be employed to be eligible for workers’ comp?
While there are many things that can affect eligibility for Illinois workers’ compensation benefits, the length of employment generally isn’t one of them. Coverage is guaranteed on whether you are a non-exempt employee, so if you are covered, you qualify for benefits whether you have worked for an employer for 10 years or 10 days. However, there are some instances where workers’ compensation coverage can exist in a gray area—and insurers may wrongfully deny payment if employees don’t know their rights.
Non-Work Situations in Which Workers’ Compensation May Apply
If you are injured on your employer’s premises while performing your regular job duties, filing a workers’ compensation claim is usually straightforward. Unfortunately, those injured before or after a shift or away from the work environment may be required to prove the validity of their claims—and may be denied medical and wage loss benefits if they are unable to do so.
Some cases where it may be more difficult to get workers’ compensation benefits include injuries that occur:
- Off the clock. If you are attending an orientation or training session before your workday begins, or are injured on work premises before or after clocking out, you are likely still covered by workers’ compensation.
- Traveling to or from work. In most cases, daily commutes are not covered by workers’ compensation. However, if the employee was performing a work-related task as part of the commute (such as making a pickup or delivery), workers’ compensation covers the journey.
- Away from the main working environment. Injuries suffered outside the office, job site, or regular work location may be covered if they are in any way associated with the duties and performance of your job. This can include mandatory meetings as well as sponsored events like company picnics.
- Under coverage of multiple benefit providers. Some employees may be covered by more than one work injury compensation program, especially if they work in an occupation that involves the overlap of federal and state injury laws.
The important thing to remember is that workers’ compensation coverage applies to any injury that is work-related—no matter when or where it occurs. If you have been injured on the job, contact the experienced workers' compensation attorneys at Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
What if my employer is retaliating against me for filing a workers’ compensation claim?
Workers' compensation laws do not only guarantee medical and lost wage payments to injured employees, they also prevent employees from being discriminated against for collecting benefits. If an employer is found guilty of discrimination, the employer can lose the “exclusive remedy” protection of workers' compensation, allowing the employee to directly sue the employer for damages.
Common Forms of Employer Retaliation in a Workers’ Compensation Case
The Illinois workers’ compensation system protects employees from many adverse actions in the workplace as a result of filing a benefits claim. The law protects injured employees from discrimination immediately after the injury occurs, covering them from adverse employment actions even before the formal workers' compensation claim is filed.
Common ways an employer may punish an employee for filing a claim include:
- Discharge. Terminating or laying off employees who exercise their rights under workers' compensation laws is expressly forbidden. This is known as "retaliatory discharge,” and is grounds for an employee to bring a civil action against his or her employer.
- Disciplinary action. Employees cannot be placed on leave or denied wages as a result of filing a benefits claim.
- Demotion. An employee who is forced out of his role or into another position may have a valid discrimination claim.
- Harassment. Employers may be guilty of retaliation if they discourage an employee from filing a claim, threaten termination, or otherwise harass the employee.
- Salary reduction. Employers may retaliate by forcing the employee to sacrifice sick hours, paid time off, pension benefits, and other earnings.
If you believe that your employer has unjustly terminated or discriminated against you for filing a workers' compensation claim, you may be able to sue your employer for lost wages, pain and suffering, and punitive damages. In many cases, employers will often attempt to claim that the reason for the retaliation is unrelated to the filing of the claim. However, the law states that employees still have a valid claim if collecting workers’ compensation benefits was not the sole reason for the discharge.
Our experienced workers' compensation attorneys can evaluate your case and advise you on your next steps at no cost to you. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
How can I verify that my employer has workers’ compensation insurance?
Employees, contractors, and all other parties can easily verify if an employer has workers’ compensation in Illinois. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (IWCC) has provided a searchable online database of employers and their workers' compensation insurance policies. If your employer and insurer are not listed, you may be able to take action.
Why an Illinois Employer May Be Missing From the IWCC Database
While the IWCC database allows free access to workers’ compensation information for each company, some employers may not be listed in the database. For example, a company may not be listed if it is:
- Based in another state. Out-of-state employers may not be listed on the statewide database, but that does not mean they are exempt from providing workers’ compensation insurance. Even if an employer’s headquarters is in another state, the company is required to secure workers’ compensation for employees who live and work in Illinois.
- Self-insured. Illinois employers are allowed to provide self-insured coverage, meaning that payment for work injuries is provided directly from the company rather than a third-party insurer. Although employees in these cases must pursue a work injury claim internally, the employer is required to provide coverage similar to the benefits included in state workers’ compensation laws. If employees are having trouble securing injury payments from a self-insured employer, they can file a complaint with the Illinois Division of Insurance and may have grounds to file a lawsuit.
- Committing fraud. Some employers knowingly violate the workers' compensation insurance requirement by failing to secure coverage or lying about the policy information. The IWCC has the ability to investigate and report companies who do not have coverage according to law, so employees should communicate any coverage concerns to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission.
Work injury claims in Illinois can quickly become complicated, especially for employees who are still struggling to overcome the effects of an injury. Our experienced workers' compensation attorneys can explain your options and advise you on your next steps at no cost to you. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
Is workers’ compensation state or federal law?
Most Illinois employees are covered under state workers' compensation statutes. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act requires all public or private employers, state agencies, firms, school districts, and cities and villages that have any person in service to provide workers’ compensation coverage—even those with only one employee. However, there are a few exceptions depending on the job description and the work performed.
Exemptions to Illinois State Workers Compensation Laws
Illinois workers who are not covered under state workers' compensation may qualify for benefits through a federal law. On the other hand, some residents may be exempt from both forms of workers’ compensation, and may have to file a lawsuit to receive payment for a work-related injury.
For example, state workers’ compensation benefits do not apply to:
- Federal employees. Postal workers and other U.S. government employees can collect medical costs, wage replacement, vocational retraining, and disability benefits through the Federal Employees' Compensation Act.
- Chicago police officers. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act covers all police officers and firefighters in cities with fewer than 500,000 people. As a result, Chicago firefighters and police officers will have to seek payment under the Illinois Pension Code, the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA), and other legislation.
- Real estate brokers. State law specifically bars real estate brokers, salesman, or any person performing real estate services who is paid by commission only from collecting workers’ compensation.
- Independent contractors. Independent contractors are not considered employees under state law, and are therefore ineligible for workers’ compensation. However, just because your employer has classified you as an independent contractor does not mean you are exempt from benefits.
- Farm workers. Many farm workers are exempt from workers’ compensation benefits, but some may be eligible for payments depending on the nature of their employment.
If you have been injured on the job, we can examine the facts of your case and advise you on your next steps at no cost to you. Contact the Illinois workers' compensation attorneys at Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
How soon will I receive my Workers' Compensation Settlement?
Many of my workers’ compensation clients ask me, “Once I agree to the settlement of my workers’ compensation case, how long does it take to get the money?”
4-8 Weeks is a General Guideline for Workers' Compensation Settlements
Generally, it will take 4-8 weeks from the time the agreement is reached until there is money in your hands. Once the settlement is reached, the employers’ attorney will need to draft the settlement contracts.
The contracts are then signed by the attorneys and the employee and then submitted to the arbitrator handling the matter for approval. This process can take a few weeks by the time everything is circulated in the mail.
How The Workers' Compensation Payment Process Works
Here’s how it works: Once the arbitrator approves the contracts, the employer’s attorney will order the settlement check from the insurer. The settlement check is generally made payable to you and your attorney’s office. Therefore, you must endorse the check and then the attorney’s office must endorse the check. The funds are then placed in the attorney’s trust account until everyone is sure the check has cleared, a process that can take another two weeks.
Once the check has cleared, the attorney’s office will make the final distribution from its trust account. Further delays can arise if the insurer fails to pay the settlement amount once the contract has been approved by the arbitrator.
While there is no deadline under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, which states that the insurer must send the check within a certain time frame, the employer and his insurer can have attorneys’ fees and penalties assessed against them if there is an unreasonable delay in payment. Although everyone is committed to providing you with the funds as soon as possible, the rules of distribution set out by the Illinois Supreme Court tell us that, even though the settlement has been reached, it will still take some time before the money is in your hands.
Do You Need a Workers' Compensation Attorney to Help With Your Claim?
If You have been injured at work, It's important to have a qualified and experienced workers' compensation attorney on your side. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at 855-522-5291 for a free consultation.
Do I need a lawyer for my workers’ compensation claim?
Injured workers are not required in Illinois or Missouri to retain a lawyer for workers’ compensation claims. However, these cases are legal proceedings, and most employers and insurance companies will have an attorney present at all events.
If an employee is filing a workers’ compensation claim, it means he or she has been injured or suffered an illness that will affect his ability to work and earn income, potentially for the rest of his life. The outcomes of these cases are legally binding and can seriously affect the future for the injured worker and his family.
Why Hire a Workers' Compensation Lawyer for an Illinois or Missouri On-the-Job Injury Case?
Workers’ compensation cases can be complicated, with laws constantly updating and changing. Additionally, members of the commission and the judge are impartial parties and are forbidden from offering any legal advice. If you don't hire a workers' compensation lawyer, then it becomes your responsibility to:
- File appropriate paperwork,
- Track the claim's status,
- Talk with the legal team for the employer or insurance company,
- Appear at hearings,
- Present evidence to support his case if necessary.
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can handle all these issues for the injured worker while he focuses on recovering from his illness or injury.
Complications That May Require Legal Counsel
Some simple workers’ compensation cases may be resolved quickly if the injury is not severe and little or no time off work was required. However, most cases involve some complication that could make it more difficult for an employee to handle on his own. Officials in both Illinois and Missouri suggest retaining an attorney in many situations.
Scenarios Where a Workers' Compensation Attorney Is Helpful:
- If an employer denies the claim,
- If the case must go to trial,
- If medical bills are not being paid,
- If the injured worker receives Social Security or qualifies for Medicaid or Medicare,
- If the employer or insurance company offers a settlement contract,
- If the employee has been fired, demoted or harassed at work due to the claim,
- If the injured worker feels at all uncomfortable proceeding with the case.
Ready to Learn More? Talk to Our Workers' Comp Lawyers for Free
If you or someone you love has been injured at work, the experienced workers' compensation attorneys at the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm want to help. If you are ready to take the next step we invite you to fill out a contact form for a free, no-obligation consultation.