Workplace injuries represent a significant risk to the health and economic security of many Waukegan workers. For most of its history, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and Occupational Safety and Health Statistics (OSHS) have collected and published statistics on occupational injuries, illnesses, and fatalities. The findings show that despite progress in workplace safety, injuries and illness continue to affect many of the nearly 158 million employed people in the United States.
Those who have suffered injuries or developed illnesses while working or because of their occupation should consult with a Waukegan work injury attorney. For nearly 40 years, the experienced attorneys at BB&G have helped individuals and families secure compensation after suffering injuries or the death of a loved one because of a workplace accident.
Types of Chicago Workplace Accident Claims
Every state has established workers’ compensation programs that address vital occupational safety and health concerns. In addition, under Illinois law, individuals who suffer injuries at work may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against the culpable party. However, there are key distinctions and limitations to both of these options. A Waukegan attorney can help individuals understand their rights and remedies after a workplace accident.
Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act (820 ILCS 305/1) is a no-fault insurance program designed to compensate injured workers. At its core, the system was created to address the many inequities of the typical tort remedies. It is designed to work as a compromise between the employer and employee, as the employer and employee give up certain advantages to gain others.
The program provides benefits that:
- Compensates a worker for medical expenses of job-related injuries and illnesses,
- Compensates almost every employee in Illinois, and
- It starts from the moment a job begins.
In exchange for these benefits, the workers do not have the right to pursue civil actions against their employer for damages, except in limited cases involving intentional acts.
Injuries Covered by Workers’ Compensation in Illinois
The state’s workers’ compensation program applies to job-related injuries, such as:
- Repetitive use injuries,
- Heart attacks resulting from other physical injuries resulting from a worker’s employment, or
- Pre-existing conditions that were exacerbated by an employee’s work.
However, certain injuries are not covered under the Illinois workers’ compensation program, such as:
- Injuries occurring are a voluntary or optional company gathering,
- Pre-existing injuries unrelated to employment,
- Injuries that did not happen at work or as a result of a worker’s employment, and
- Accidents resulting from alcohol or drug impairment at work.
It is important to note that while the general rule is that the IWCA exists to compensate individuals for accidental workplace injuries, the Act may provide benefits for those who experience psychiatric conditions because of their job. For instance, employees who are physically or emotionally victimized by a co-worker may file a workers’ compensation claim. However, it is rarely cut and dry in most cases, and injured workers may be unsure if workers’ compensation will provide the exclusive remedy, especially if an employer refutes the worker’s claim that it occurred in and out of the course of employment.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The Workers’ Compensation Act provides applicable benefits to those who suffer injuries at work.
Medical benefits compensate for necessary and reasonable medical treatment, prescriptions, and hospital services.
Temporary total benefits provide compensation to injured workers who are disabled for more than seven days.
Permanent partial disability benefits when a work-related injury or illness results in permanent bodily impairment and functional loss.
Permanent total disability benefits apply when a job-related injury or illness prevents a worker from returning to any form of gainful employment.
Death benefits provide compensation to a worker’s dependents.
Every six months, the Illinois Department of Employment Security publishes the average weekly wage for the state. The agency sets the maximum and minimum weekly benefits for workers’ compensation.
Establishing Entitlement to Workers Compensation Benefits
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) is an impartial court that addresses these claims. Illinois Rules of Evidence Section 7030.70 provides practice rules before the IWCC. Generally, claimants must present evidence to substantiate their claims for benefits. Some forms of evidence include:
- Wage records,
- Accident reports,
- Surveillance videos,
- Expert witnesses, and
- Medical bills.
Presenting and correctly entering evidence requires a comprehensive understanding of Illinois common law rules of evidence and the Illinois Evidence Act. In some cases, the IWCC may reject a claimant’s evidence. When this occurs, an attorney can make an offer of proof to ensure that the appellate court has a record to determine whether the exclusion was proper.
Personal Injury Lawsuit Against Employer in Illinois
Typically, workers who suffer injuries in the workplace may only secure compensation through Illinois’ workers’ compensation program. However, exceptions allow injured workers to file lawsuits outside the workers’ compensation program. Some exceptions include the following:
Defective Product Claims
Workers who experience injuries from a defective machine, vehicle, or other product may be able to bring a third-party claim under the state’s product liability laws. For instance, a worker who experiences a laceration because of a defective machine may file a claim against the product’s designer, manufacturer, or retailer.
Toxic Substance Claims
Toxic substance claims may arise when a worker experiences an illness or disease related to toxin exposure. The worker may bring a lawsuit against the dangerous compound’s producer in these situations. Most of these claims allege acute or latent injuries related to the toxin.
Intentional and Egregious Conduct
Workers may file a claim when their employer engaged in intentional or particularly egregious conduct. These cases are fact specific and require a significant amount of evidence.
Employer Does Not Maintain Workers’ Compensation
In some cases, if an employer fails to maintain workers’ compensation, the worker may pursue a civil claim for damages related to a work injury.
These exceptions exist to address the many nuanced situations that can lead to a work-related injury.
Personal Injury Damages After Work-Related Accident
The amount of damages an Illinois personal injury victim can secure is based on the extent of damages they sustained. Damages refer to measurable losses a person experiences because of a personal injury or wrongful death. Damages after an Illinois work-related personal injury suit may include:
In Illinois, economic damages refer to tangible, quantifiable financial losses a person experiences because of another’s negligence. Examples of economic damages include medical expenses, property loss, and wages.
Non-economic damages are more subjective and refer to non-monetary losses. Examples of non-economic damages include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages serve to punish the at-fault party for their willful, wanton conduct or where the at-fault party acted with actual malice, fraud, gross negligence, or deliberate violence. Courts rarely award these damages, and those pursuing punitive damages must meet strict procedural and evidentiary rules.
Generally, calculating economic damages involves adding up a claimant’s total losses. However, more complex methods exist to address some types of economic damages. For instance, an expert may need to present evidence in cases where the parties disagree regarding a victim’s lost earning capacity. In these situations, an expert can calculate the extent of the worker’s loss by evaluating their age, health, work history, and other related factors.
Calculating non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify. In these cases, the injured worker’s attorney may present a damage calculation using the per diem or multiplier method. Under the per diem method, the attorney will assign a dollar amount to each day of pain and suffering. In contrast, under the multiplier method, an attorney calculates damages by taking the injured worker’s economic damages and multiplying them by a set number between 1 to 5. The multiplier relates to the severity of the injury.
In some cases, claimants may need to find out which side the case will ultimately end up on, e.g., in civil court or before the IWCC. Thus, under certain circumstances, a worker may file both a workers’ compensation claim as well as a civil claim. An experienced Waukegan work injury attorney can help individuals decide the best path to recovering compensation after an accident.
Speak with a Waukegan Workplace Injury Lawyer at No Cost to You
If you or a loved one was recently injured on the job, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim. However, in the wake of a serious accident, it is understandable that filing a lawsuit may not be at the front of your mind. At the Waukegan work injury law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg, we are here to help. We have over 30 years of experience advocating on behalf of Waukegan workers, and we know what it takes to get you and your family the compensation you need, deserve, and are entitled to. As a part of the Briskman Guarantee, we handle all cases on a contingency basis, meaning we will only accept payment if we are successful in getting compensation for you or your family. To learn more, call 1-877-595-4878 to schedule a free consultation today.