Requirements of The Workers' Compensation Act

by John P. Scanlon

Last month, we addressed some important rights that injured workers have under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. We discussed a worker's right to receive medical treatment, temporary disability benefits and an award for permanent disability. In today's article we will set forth some of the requirements workers must meet in order to secure these important benefits. Also, we will discuss some of the less apparent risks that workers may face at their place of employment.

There are two key requirements to follow in order to receive benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act. First, injured workers are required to give notice to the employer that they were injured on the job. Under the Workers' Compensation Act, notice should be given within the first forty-five days following the accident. Under certain circumstances, this period of time may be extended if the worker could not have known of the injury until a later date and time. Examples of this include injuries caused by exposure to chemicals at work which may not manifest themselves until much later in time.

The second main requirement that must be met by injured workers involves the filing of claims within the statute of limitations. The general rule under the Workers' Compensation Act is that claims should be filed within three years of the date of accident. If a worker fails to file a claim within the three year period the claim likely will be forever barred.

RISKS OF INJURY THAT MAY NOT BE READILY APPARENT

Most injuries on the job are easily connected to events that have occurred during the workday. For example, when a wall collapses on a worker it is no difficult matter to prove that the injuries received were connected to the collapse of the wall. When a worker lifts a heavy object at work and injures his back, again, it is often easy to draw the connection between the lifting event and the injury.

However, some injuries are not so apparent. Some workers are exposed to repetitive, minor assaults on the body during the workday. For example, assembly line workers often use their hands in a repetitive manner day in and day out for years on end. This repetitive motion may result in carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger or epicondilitis. Proving a connection between repetitive injuries and the work environment can be a more difficult task and requires careful consideration.

In addition, sometimes workers are repeatedly exposed to loud machinery at work. Over the course of time this noise exposure can result in hearing loss. This type of injury is also compensable under the Workers' Compensation Act. Unfortunately, most workers fail to recognize slowly deteriorating hearing loss as being caused by noise in the work environment.

Finally, chemicals, fumes and dust can cause numerous types of injuries due to overexposure. For example, fumes produced during the welding process can cause the early onset of Parkinsonism like symptoms. As a result, the devastating effects of Parkinson's disease is experienced at a much higher rate by welders when compared to the general population.

For this and other reasons, workers should carefully consider their work environment whenever they receive a diagnosis that may be related to overexposure to welding fumes or other toxins.

CONCLUSION

In the past two articles, some of the more general rights, requirements and risks pertaining to workplace injuries have been outlined. There are additional rights, requirements and risks that may come into play under the Workers' Compensation Act for a specific type of injury.

In addition, there are recoveries for injured workers that go beyond the Workers' Compensation Act. For instance, injured workers may also be able to pursue Social Security Disability benefits. Furthermore, injured workers may be entitled to additional recovery if they are discriminated against or discharged illegally under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Finally, an injured worker may also have a right of recovery against the manufacturer of a defective product that caused a workplace injury. As noted above, there a variety of routes to recovery. Some of the simplest cases can become complex under certain circumstances. For all of these reasons, it is important that injured workers seek out the advice of competent legal counsel with experience in pursuing compensation for injured workers.