There is always a risk of injury at work regardless of the type of job you have. Of course, some positions are prone to more accidents than others, like jobs where you have to operate heavy manufacturing machinery. Minor injuries can become significant if left untreated while major injuries may take time to fully heal, if ever. For people injured on the job or while at work, federal and state governments offer protection. Workers' compensation laws are just part of these protection efforts. Sometimes, a personal injury or wrongful death claim provides better outcomes, but they are not always the best option.
At Serpico, Petrosino, DiPiero & O'Shea, Ltd., our associates will guide you through the process. We take the time to learn all about the accident, injuries, and the impact of the latter on quality of life. We take the facts and circumstances into consideration when determining all your legal rights and options. Contact us today at (312) 207-0000 to schedule a free initial consultation and to learn more about how you can obtain optimal protection for an injury you suffered while working.
Workplace Accidents in Illinois
Workplace accidents involve unexpected incidents that result in an employee sustaining an injury or illness in the course of performing their job.
Compensation for workplace accidents is typically covered by state-mandated workers' insurance. The availability of workers' compensation and how it applies varies between different states and policies.
Some scenarios often fall outside the scope of workers' compensation. These include accidents that occur when an employee is:
- Traveling to and from work
- On a break outside of the workplace
- Attending an offsite event (depending on the circumstances of the event)
- Under the influence of drugs or alcohol at work
- Joking around or play fighting at work
- At a work social event
Whether workers' compensation is available turns on the specific facts of a case, and there are always exceptions to the above exclusions. If you've been injured during the course of your work, you should speak to a workers' compensation attorney to find out if you are eligible for workers' compensation.
Common Workplace Accidents
Common workplace accidents include:
- Falls, trips, or slips
- Vehicle-related accidents
- Machinery-related accidents
- Falling objects
- Explosions or fire
- Electric shocks or electrocution
- Exposure to hazardous materials
- Repetitive stress
The injuries caused by these common workplace accidents can range from temporary, minor ailments to severe, long-term conditions.
Common Workplace Injuries
Examples of common workplace injuries include:
- Broken bones or fractures
- Head, neck, and back injuries
- Crushed limbs
- Carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries
If you sustain any of these as a result of a workplace injury, you should consider seeking compensation via either workers' compensation or a personal injury lawsuit.
Occupations with the Most Job-Related Injuries and Illnesses
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) keeps track of employer-related workplace injuries and illnesses. Below is a list of occupations that routinely have high rates of workplace injuries.
- Nursing assistants
- Heavy truck and tractor-trailer truck drivers
- Laborers and freight, stock, and material movers
- Light truck drivers
- Construction laborers
- Maintenance and repair workers
- Stockers and order fillers
- Janitors and cleaners
- Registered nurses
- Retail salespersons
In most instances, when you are injured while working in any of these occupations or any other, workers' compensation offers protection, but sometimes, as mentioned, a personal injury lawsuit may be the better legal option in certain situations.
Should You File a Workers' Comp Claim or Personal Injury Lawsuit in Illinois?
Workers' compensation is a form of insurance taken out by an employer that compensates employees for injuries and illness within the course and scope of their employment. With workers' compensation, it doesn't matter who is at fault as long as the injury occurred as a result of a workplace accident (as defined by the specific policy).
By comparison, a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit must prove negligence on behalf of the defendant to succeed. While harder to establish, a personal injury lawsuit allows a plaintiff to seek full compensation.
The benefits available via workers' compensation, on the other hand, are limited. Importantly, you can't recover damages for pain and suffering via workers' compensation.
Workers' Compensation Claim vs Personal Injury Lawsuit
It is often clear when you should file a workers' compensation claim versus a personal injury lawsuit, but other times, the circumstances are such that it is not so clear. Here's an overview.
When to File a Workers' Compensation Claim
If an employer has workers' compensation, employees generally don't have the right to sue their employer. They can only make a claim via workers' compensation.
When to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit
There can be exceptions to this, such as where an employer's intentional act caused an injury. If an employer isn't subject to mandatory workers' comp (or doesn't have it but is required to have it), then you can file a personal injury lawsuit.
When to File Both Claims
There are also situations where you may consider filing both a workers' compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit. This can happen when a person has a compensable work injury and is covered by workers' compensation insurance. But the injury, though it happened at work, was caused by a third party (e.g., a contractor who is not employed by the injured party's employer). The injured employee can sue the third party in a personal injury lawsuit. When this option is available, the injured party may be able to recover a fairer or more just compensation package.
What Compensation Can I Receive for a Workplace Injury in Illinois?
The compensation available to you for a workplace injury depends on whether you file a workers' compensation claim or a personal injury lawsuit. As you will see, what you can recover under a workers' compensation claim is less than what you could receive under a personal injury claim, that's why it is critical to know what is the best legal option in your specific situation.
Workers' compensation focuses on income protection and typically covers:
- Lost income
- Medical bills
- Temporary and permanent disability benefits
- Vocational rehabilitation
You can't recover damages for pain and suffering through a workers' compensation claim. So, you can recover the costs of your economic expenses but will not recover for the toll it takes on your quality of life.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
Compensation available through a personal injury suit is usually higher, as it includes damages for pain and suffering, which can be substantial. Punitive damages may also be available to you in a personal injury case.
However, the circumstances of your case may prevent you from filing a personal injury lawsuit. On the other hand, when you are able to file a personal injury lawsuit, you need to prove negligence on the part of the defendant before damages will be ordered.
What Should You Do After a Workplace Injury in Illinois?
What to do after a workplace injury in Illinois depends on the circumstances, but generally, you should:
- Report the accident and/or injury or illness immediately to a supervisor – reporting it in writing is preferable so that you can start a paper trail.
- If the injury or illness requires it, you should seek medical attention immediately – even when the injury is minor, seeking medical care is important because it continues the documentation process of the accident that you may need when you file a claim to recover compensation.
- Follow any doctor's orders or medical care plan – if you do not, then this creates vulnerabilities and may result in a denial of a claim.
- Keep any evidence you may have, like names of eye witnesses, statements, pictures, video, etc. – in fact, if the circumstances allow it, take your own pictures of the scene of the accident, the injuries you sustained, and any other details that may be important.
- Contact legal counsel as soon as possible – you may not think you need a personal injury or workers' comp attorney, but it never hurts to speak to one, especially when there are statutes of limitations limiting the time you have to file a claim.
Contact a Workplace Injury Attorney in IllinoisToday
To make sure you and your loved ones receive the best outcome after any workplace accident situation, make sure you pursue the most appropriate legal option. At Serpico, Petrosino, DiPiero & O'Shea, Ltd., our workplace injury associates will help you identify all legal options and advise you accordingly. Contact us today either by filling out the online form or calling us at (312) 207-0000 to schedule a free initial consultation.