Imagine you have been injured on the job in Illinois. You have heard about workers’ compensation, a system of benefits for injured employees in the state, but you wonder if you are eligible to receive them. Perhaps you were injured in an accident in which nobody else was involved – one in which you dropped a heavy object onto your foot, for instance. Maybe you had a friend who was hurt in a car accident, but because he was determined to have been at fault for the accident, it was he who had to pay for the other driver’s injuries, with nobody to compensate him for his own. With this in mind, you may ask yourself, “Is the situation with my work injuries similar? Do I have to prove somebody else is at fault to receive workers’ compensation benefits?” In short, no, with some minor exceptions, because of the no-fault nature of workers’ compensation in Illinois.
Illinois’ No-Fault Workers’ Compensation System
Workers’ compensation in Illinois is a no-fault system of benefits. That means that you do not need to prove that your employer, co-employee, or anyone else was at fault for your work injury. As long as your injury occurred in the course and scope of your employment, you should be covered – with certain exceptions, however, including, but not limited to, injuries or illnesses sustained under the following circumstances:
- While engaging in activities that do not fall under the list of your standard job duties, including pranks, games, fighting or wrestling, or other forms of horseplay.
- While away from the workplace, unless you were ordered by your employer to be at that location as part of your job.
- While traveling or commuting to and from work, unless by traveling you were engaged in activities that were part of your job.
- While working as a Chicago police officer or firefighter.
- While working as an independent contractor and not as a traditional employee, barring certain cases in which your employment status may have been misclassified. If the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission determines that you were effectively an employee in all but name only, you may eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries, though such instances are rare.
Barring exceptions such as these, however, workers’ compensation in Illinois is generally awarded on a no-fault basis to claimants who were injured during the course and scope of their employment, so proving liability is not required.
Personal Injury Cases Depend on Negligence
The no-fault nature of the Illinois workers’ compensation system places it in stark contrast with classical personal injury litigation, such as might arise when a motorist is injured in a car accident with another motorist. In that situation, financial responsibility would be determined by negligence.
Negligence is based on the core idea that people have a duty to exercise reasonable care in their actions by taking account of the potential harm that they might foreseeably cause to other people or to property. If you are claiming negligence as part of a personal injury lawsuit, then you are alleging that the Defendant breached the duty to you to exercise reasonable care and that this breach caused you damages.
In such a case, the Defendant would be at fault for the incident and could potentially be found financially liable for your injuries, illnesses, or other damages – provided that you can establish to an insurance company, a jury, or a judge that the Defendant was at fault. If you cannot do so, you may be unable to obtain financial compensation.
The need to prove that somebody else was at fault, however, does not generally apply to the no-fault workers’ compensation system in Illinois. If you are a traditional employee and are injured on the job while acting in the course and scope of your employment, you are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits regardless of fault.
Illinois Workers’ Compensation Attorneys
That is, you would be entitled to receive these benefits in an ideal world. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world – we live in this one, where, even under a no-fault system, obtaining workers’ compensation benefits is not a foregone conclusion. There are many potential objections that employers and insurance companies can raise to limit the value of a workers’ compensation claim or deny it completely.
In the face of such obstacles, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney – one who can anticipate and overcome the obstacles that stand between you and the benefits that you deserve – can be invaluable. For this reason, if you have been hurt on the job, consider seeking out the services of the Illinois workers’ compensation attorneys at GWC.
With over $2 billion recovered for our clients and offices throughout Illinois, GWC is one of the leading Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury law firms in the state.