Workers' Compensation Tips You Probably Didn't Know
Workers’ compensation is a complex area of law, to say the least. After being in a workplace accident, you might have the option of filing for workers’ compensation benefits, which means walking directly into the legal complexities. There are two things you should do before you get too far into the claim process, though: check out this quick list of 9 Illinois workers’ compensation claim tips you probably didn’t know and call an attorney.
9 Workers’ Comp Tips You Might Not Know About
- Automatic stays: When you file for bankruptcy due to overwhelming debt, the filing will trigger an automatic stay on your financial accounts that stops creditors from garnishing your wages or even contacting you to pay the debt. A similar thing happens when you file for workers’ compensation in Illinois. An “automatic stay” of sorts is created that makes it unlawful for a medical provider or creditor to bother you to pay medical bills yourself while you have a pending workers’ comp claim.
- Calculating your claim value: Every workers’ compensation claim will involve a unique value because numerous factors go into calculating that total value. Everything from your average weekly pre-injury wages, past and future medical treatments for your work injury, your usual job duties, if you are expected to be able to return to the same or modified work, and more are all components that can increase or decrease the total value of your workers’ comp claim.
- Choosing your own doctor: Illinois is one of several states that allow injured workers to choose their own medical provider after being in a workplace accident. You can be seen by the medical team that your employer recommends, but it is ultimately up to you if you would like to be taken to a specific medical facility for your initial and ongoing treatments.
- COVID-19 claims presumptions: Another somewhat unique workers’ comp legality in Illinois is that it has created an employee-favoring rebuttable presumption for COVID-19 claims. If you are an essential employee who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, then you can file for workers’ compensation benefits under the presumption that you caught the coronavirus in the course of your employment. You do not need to prove that connection, but the insurer does need to prove it does not exist if they want to challenge your claim.
- Do not speak to insurance adjusters: At some point, probably soon after your workplace accident, an insurance adjuster is going to try to talk to you about what happened. You are under no legal obligation to give them a recorded statement. For the most part, you should never give them this statement without first consulting with your workers’ compensation attorney.
- Drug testing: It is common for a drug test to be conducted after an employee reports an on-the-job accident. The goal is to see if the claimant was intoxicated or impaired by drugs at the time of the accident, which would likely prohibit them from getting workers’ comp benefits. Failing a drug test does not mean you are automatically unable to get benefits, though. An attorney could argue that the drug test was detecting residual substances that could have been used days beforehand. For example, marijuana is known to leave traces of THC in some users for up to a week.
- HIPAA protections: The insurer will probably try to get you to sign a medical release form that would allow them to browse your medical record to see if you have preexisting conditions they can blame for your current injuries. Thanks to HIPAA protections and Illinois law, you do not need to give your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance company full access to your medical records. You only need to show them records related to your current workplace injury.
- Immediate coverage: Did you know that workers’ compensation isn’t an employment benefit that you need to earn like an annual bonus or extra paid-time-off (PTO)? No matter what your employer might have told you, workers’ compensation benefits must be given to eligible workers the first second that they become employed. There is no waiting period for workers’ comp as there often is for healthcare coverage benefits.
- Maximum attorney fees: If your workers’ compensation claim gets complicated or you are worried about being coerced by an insurance company, then you should hire an attorney. Of course, legal professionals are owed a paycheck for their hard work, but Illinois caps how much they can be paid. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission currently does not allow a workers’ compensation attorney to be paid more than 20% of a claimant’s final earnings in a successful case. Beware any lawyer who tries to get you to agree to pay them more than this amount.
Have more questions about your Illinois workers’ comp case? Leonard Law Group in Chicago has answers. Contact us today to arrange for a free consultation offered to inquiring clients!