The Rights Of Injured Workers Under The Workers’ Compensation Act

by John P. Scanlon

Everyday throughout this state, working men and women are exposed to risks due to their work environment. Oftentimes these risks are readily apparent. However, there are many occasions where workers are exposed to risks that are difficult to appreciate and recognize.

In today's article we will attempt to highlight some of the more important rights workers have under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. Next month, we will address requirements workers must meet in order to secure benefits and some of the different risks posed by workplace environments.

THE RIGHTS OF INJURED WORKERS

There are three basic benefits provided by the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. Those three benefits are as follows:

(a) The right to receive reasonable and necessary medical care for injuries suffered on the job.

(b) The right to receive 66 2/3% of your average weekly wage tax-free while you are off work due to your injury.

(c) The right to a final settlement or award if your injury is determined to be permanent in nature.

THE RIGHT TO RECEIVE REASONABLE AND NECESSARY MEDICAL TREATMENT

All workers injured in the workplace have the right under the Workers' Compensation Act to receive reasonable and necessary medical treatment. The general rule is that the employee can choose his own doctor and can get a second opinion without being penalized. The employer is responsible for payment of all bills that relate to a workplace accident. If the employer fails to pay the bills in a timely manner, the employer may be liable for penalties under the Workers' Compensation Act.

Two important considerations should be kept in mind: First, it important to seek out medical care immediately following a workplace accident - even if the injuries do not at first seem severe; Second, the injured worker should be very careful when first seeking medical care to advise the doctor or nurse that the injury was suffered while working and to carefully list each distinct injury suffered in the accident.

If the above two suggestions are faithfully followed by injured workers there is less chance that an employer will contest its responsibility for benefits due to the worker. Unfortunately, some of the most loyal workers are the most likely to have their benefits disputed. The reason for this is simple: loyal workers often have a misguided sense that they are betraying their employer by seeking out medical care immediately following an accident.

However, by delaying the receipt of medical treatment injured workers give employers a greater chance of defending the case by claiming the accident couldn't have caused the injuries, if the treatment for injuries was received at a later date and time. For this reason, it important to document all injuries early on by going to the proper medical facilities.

THE RIGHT TO TEMPORARY TOTAL DISABILITY BENEFITS

As noted above, an injured employee is entitled to receive 66 2/3% of his or her pay for each day lost due to injuries on the job. This benefit is received tax-free by the injured worker. If an employer fails to pay this benefit, an employee can seek out an emergency hearing to have the matter resolved early on and the worker may also be entitled to penalties if the employer's conduct is deemed to be unreasonable.

THE RIGHT TO A SETTLEMENT OR AWARD FOR PERMANENT INJURIES

If an employee's injury is permanent in nature he or she will also be entitled to receive an award or a settlement to compensate the worker for the disability suffered. The final recovery typically falls into one of four varieties:

(a) An award or settlement based on the percentage loss use of the body part involved.

(b) A wage differential award.

(c) Permanent total disability.

(d) Death benefits.

A.AN AWARD OR SETTLEMENT FOR PERMANENT PARTIAL DISABILITY

Most injuries receive an award or settlement that is calculated based on the percentage loss use of the body part. The Illinois Workers' Compensation Act provides a stated number of weeks of disability payment for each body part. For example, the body as a whole is worth five hundred weeks of compensation, an arm is worth two hundred and thirty five weeks of compensation and a leg is worth two hundred weeks of compensation. If for an example a worker has a knee injury requiring surgery he or she may be entitled to an award based on 25% loss use of the injured worker's leg. Under that scenario the worker would receive fifty weeks of compensation at a stated rate under the Workers' Compensation Act.

B.WAGE DIFFERENTIAL

Certain workers are injured so severely that they are no longer capable of performing their old job duties. Instead, they must take a new job at a lower rate of pay. Under these circumstances, the injured worker will be entitled to 66 2/3% of the difference in pay between the old job and the new job. Once again this benefit comes tax-free. In addition, this benefit may continue on for the remainder of the worker's life.

C.PERMANENT TOTAL DISABILITY

Sometimes injuries are so severe that an injured worker can no longer work in any capacity. In these situations the injured worker is entitled to 66 2/3% of his or her average weekly wage for the remainder of the worker's life. This benefit also comes tax-free.

D.DEATH BENEFITS

In situations were a worker is killed while on the job, his or her surviving spouse or minor children are entitled to receive 66 2/3% of the average weekly wage of the worker. In the above paragraphs we examined some of the general rights of injured workers. Next month, we will explore what is required of workers to secure those rights.