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Chicago Workplace Accidents


Abstract: Workplace accidents are a major cause of injury and illness in Illinois, especially in and around the Chicago metropolitan area. Traditionally, the sole remedy for many employees who were injured on the job was a workers’ compensation claim, however, injured employees may be able to pursue a personal injury case in certain situations. While there are significant legal differences between work-related accidents and traditional personal injury cases, the line between the types of claims is blurring. Both the causes and seriousness of Chicago workplace accidents vary by industry; however, an injured worker’s ability to recover for their injuries depends on a variety of factors including who caused the accident, how the accident occurred, the injured worker’s employment status and the employment status of the at-fault party.

Data Collection: The data used for this report was taken from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, State of Illinois Department of Public Health, Illinois General Assembly Illinois Compiled Statutes, the Centers for Disease Control, the National Safety Council and the State of Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Work Injury Overview

A wide range of injuries may qualify for workers' compensation

When discussing workplace accidents, certain types of incidents may come to mind. For example, a factory worker may be injured by a malfunctioning piece of equipment. However, now more than ever, employees perform almost every type of task imaginable. This somewhat recent development blurs the lines between what were once two distinct types of cases: personal injury cases and wrongful death cases.

Today, any type of accident can be a workplace accident, including motor vehicle accidents, construction injuries, slip-and-fall accidents and product liability cases.

Common accidents, Work-caption

Illinois Employment Overview

Largest employment sectors in Illinois

As of December 2022, the industries that employee the largest number of people Illinois are:

  • Trade, transportation and utilities: 1,233,300 employees
  • Professional and business services: 974,000 employees
  • Education and health services: 935,700 employees
  • State and local government: 796,400 employees
  • Leisure and hospitality: 589,600 employees
  • Manufacturing: 576,000 employees

Non-Fatal Workplace Accident Data

Injuries in the state's public and private sectors

Work-related accidents vary in severity, depending on the industry as well as the type of injury. While there are hundreds of fatal Illinois workplace accidents, there are over 100,000 accidents that result in serious injury.

In 2021, there were 124,700 non-fatal work-related injuries and illnesses in Illinois, including 102,000 reported by private employers and 22,700 government workers. Of those, over 79,600 required the employee either miss work, transfer positions or otherwise restricted the employee’s ability to perform their job. In 2021, 85 percent of private industry recordable cases were injuries. Workplace illnesses accounted for the additional 15,300 incidents.

Two supersectors — education and health services and trade, transportation, and utilities — account for 60 percent of all private sector workplace injuries and illnesses.

  • Over 40,300 injured workers missed at least one day from work
  • Over 10,800 injured workers were transferred or could only perform some of their job duties

The industries with the highest rate of injury are:

  • Trade, transportation, and utilities
  • Educational and health services
  • Manufacturing
  • State and local government
  • Leisure, entertainment and hospitality
Industry sectors in Illinois that experience the most worker injuries

Eighty-seven percent of injuries and illnesses reported in Illinois’ public sector occurred among local government workers.

This data shows the rate of injury in certain industries. However, it does not necessarily reflect the seriousness of each workplace injury. Presumably, the most serious workplace injuries result in an employee missing work or requiring a job transfer as a result of their injuries. Thus, by looking at the percentage of injuries in each industry that required an employee miss work or be transferred, one can better understand which injuries are most likely to result in serious injury.

Serious Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

Industries in which workers are most likely to sustain an injury requiring they miss one or more days of work

Overall, in 2021, over 63 percent of workplace injuries or illnesses resulted in an employee missing work. Per industry, the percentage of injuries that cause employees to miss days of work break down as follows:

  • Education and Health Services: 47 percent
  • Construction: 56 percent
  • Trade, transportation and utilities: 50 percent
  • Professional and Business Services: 40 percent
  • Manufacturing: 35 percent
  • Leisure and hospitality: 39 percent

Another way to gauge the seriousness of an Illinois workplace accident is to consider the percentage of injuries that require an employee transfer positions because they can no longer perform the necessary functions of their job. Across all industries, public and private, 19 percent of workplace injuries resulted in an employee transferring positions. Below is a list of industries in which workers are most likely to require a transfer after sustaining an on-the-job injury:

  • Education and Health Services: 13 percent
  • Construction: 16 percent
  • Trade, transportation and utilities: 22 percent
  • Professional and Business Services: 16 percent
  • Manufacturing: 18 percent
  • Leisure and hospitality: 14 percent
Rates of employee injury in Illinois

Fatal Illinois Workplace Accidents

Fortunately, Fatalities Are Not As Common As Injuries

Nationwide, more than 5,000 people die each year in work-related accidents. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) maintains records of all fatal workplace accidents. The ten-year average between 2010 and 2020 is 168 deaths per year. The majority of these workplace fatalities occur in positions involving employees who are paid an hourly wage or an annual salary. However, about 42 work-related fatalities each year involve self-employed workers. Below is a table of fatal Illinois work-related accidents:

2010 206 deaths
2011 177 deaths
2012 146 deaths
2013 176 deaths
2014 164 deaths
2015 172 deaths
2016 171 deaths
2017 163 deaths
2018 184 deaths
2019 158 deaths
2020 135 deaths

Fatal Workplace Injuries and Illnesses

The BLS also keeps state and national records regarding the types of accidents that cause or contribute to workplace fatalities.

In 2020, the statistics for fatal workplace accidents nationwide were as follows:

  • Transportation accidents: 41 percent
  • Contact with objects or equipment: 15 percent
  • Violence (either by other people or animals): 16 percent
  • Falls, slips and trips: 15 percent
  • All other accidents: 15 percent

These numbers largely mirrored the Illinois results; however, a larger percentage of fatal Illinois workplace accidents were caused by transportation accidents and incidents involving contact with objects or equipment. The private transportation and warehousing industry sector had the highest number of fatalities in Illinois, accounting for 20 percent of all worker deaths.

  • Transportation accidents: 41 percent
  • Contact with objects or equipment: 12.5 percent
  • Violence (either by other people or animals): 14 percent
  • Falls, slips and trips: 17 percent
  • All other accidents: 15.5 percent
Casues of workplace fatalities

Workplace Accident Demographics

Incidents by Gender and Age

When it comes to the gender of Illinois workplace accident victims, men accounted for 93 percent of deaths. This figure was in line with the national average. Middle-aged and older workers are most at risk to suffer a fatal workplace injury. According to the BLS, in 2020, the ages of employees who were killed in Illinois on-the-job accidents were as follows:

18 to 19 years old 1 death (one percent)
20 to 24 years old 4 deaths (three percent)
25 to 34 years old 25 deaths (19 percent)
35 to 44 years old 25 deaths (19 percent)
45 to 54 years old 23 deaths (17 percent)
55 to 64 years old 38 deaths (28 percent)
65 years and over 18 deaths (13 percent)
Illinois Workers' Compensation claim statistics

Workers' Compensation in Illinois

In Illinois, 99.7 percent of all employers are covered by the state’s workers’ compensation program. Of the employees that miss three or more days of work, 40,000 file a workers’ compensation claim.

  • 35,000 of these claims are settled,
  • 4,000 of these claims are dismissed by an arbitrator, and
  • An arbitrator reaches a decision in 1,000 cases
  • Less than 100 cases are appealed to a state appellate court

The average amount of time, in weeks, of an injured workers Temporary Total Disability claim in Illinois is 19 weeks. The average across the United States is 13 weeks.

Independent Contractor Statistics

According to the BLS, in 2017, independent contractors made up nearly seven percent of the workforce in the United States. However, according to more recent statistics by the United States Department of Labor, one in ten workers is an independent contractor. Certain industries are more likely to use independent contractors. The following are those jobs with the most workers classified as independent contractors:

  • Grounds maintenance jobs
  • Farmers, ranchers and other agricultural jobs
  • Childcare jobs
  • Barbers, hairdressers and cosmetologists
  • Carpenters
  • Assemblers and fabricators
  • Housekeeping jobs
  • Truck driving jobs

For those who are injured while on the job by another person who is working, that worker’s employment status can be an important consideration that may affect the injured party’s ability to recover. If the at-fault party is an independent contractor, it is unlikely that the accident victim will be able to pursue the company the contractor was working for at the time of the accident.

Available Compensation

Workers Compensation & Personal Injury

There are crucial differences between workers' comp and personal injury cases

The type of compensation available to an injured party depends on whether an injury occurred on or off the job. Historically, there has been a distinction between workplace accidents and other personal injury accidents. People not injured at work have always been able to pursue a claim against the at-fault party. If successful, Chicago personal injury plaintiffs can recover economic damages, including the costs of past and future medical expenses, lost wages, as well as for any decrease in earning capacity caused by the accident.

The availability of non-economic damages is one of the most significant differences between traditional personal injury cases and Illinois workers’ compensation claims, as non-economic damages can easily reach into the millions of dollars. However, there are other critical differences between these two claims. For example, personal injury claims require a plaintiff establish that the named defendant was legally negligent whereas the workers’ compensation program is a no-fault system designed to more quickly process claims.

Third-Party Liability Claims

Personal injury plaintiffs can also recover non-economic damages. Non-economic damages include compensation for the unquantifiable – or at least difficult to quantify – harms caused by an accident. In Illinois, there are three types of non-economic damages:

Pain and Suffering

This category of damages compensates injury victims for the emotional and physical pain caused by an accident, including emotional trauma, new mental health diagnoses, or any other change to a person’s emotional wellbeing. In some cases, damages for future pain and suffering are also available.

Loss of Normal Life

Accidents that result in severe injury routinely impact a person’s ability to live the life they once knew. An injury victim may not be able to partake in the hobbies they once enjoyed, or may not be capable of deriving joy from what used to be their favorite activities.

Disability and Disfigurement

Some accidents cause permanent changes to a person’s body. This may be the result of burns, scars, broken bones, amputations or skin grafts. Naturally, these changes can serve as a constant reminder of the accident and negatively impact a person’s life.

Establishing Liability

Liability in Personal Injury Cases

To establish liability in an Illinois personal injury claim, the plaintiff must present evidence proving each of the following elements:

  • The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
  • The defendant’s acts or omissions violated that duty of care;
  • The defendant’s breach of the duty owed to the plaintiff was the cause of the plaintiff’s injuries; and
  • The plaintiff suffered a legally cognizable injury.

Together, these elements make up a claim of negligence, which is the basis of the vast majority of personal injury claims.

Liability and Workers' Compensation

A workers’ compensation claims in Illinois does not require that an injured employee prove that an employer was at fault. Instead, someone hurt in an on-the-job accident must be able to show the following:

  • The person was an employee of the employed at the time the accident occurred;
  • The person was injured (or exposed to a disease) as a result of their employment;
  • The person’s injury was caused (or made worse) by their employment; and
  • The person complied with all necessary reporting requirements

Due to the exclusive remedy provision of the Illinois workers’ compensation act, those who are injured while on the job are often limited to an Illinois workers’ compensation claim. The exclusive remedy provision reflects an implicit agreement between employees and employers by which employees are allowed to pursue a claim for compensation against their employer without the need to prove fault, but give up the right to pursue a traditional personal injury claim.

Negligence in the Workplace

When it comes to determining the cause of a workplace accident, on-the-job accidents can be broken down into four categories:

  • Those that are caused by the injured employee;
  • Those that are caused by a fellow employee;
  • Those that are caused by an employer;
  • Those that are caused by a third-party.

For workplace accidents falling into the first two categories, the injured workers’ most likely remedy will be through a workers’ compensation claim. However, when an employer’s actions are involved, the injured worker may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against an employer, provided the employee can show that the employer’s actions were willful or intentional.

Personal Injury Claims Involving a Negligent Third Party

Exceptions to the Sole Remedy Provision

In certain cases, a workers’ compensation claim will not be an injured employee’s sole remedy. For example, if an employee is hurt as a result of an employer’s intentional conduct, the employee can pursue a traditional personal injury action against their employer. Additionally, employees who are injured while at work but whose injuries were not related to their employment may not be bound by the workers’ compensation laws.

Negligent Third Parties

Some employees who are injured due to the fault of someone other than their employer or a fellow employee may be able to pursue a third-party workplace injury claim. In the context of a workplace injury claim, the injured worker is considered the “first” party and the employer the “second” party. A third party is a person or entity other than the employee or employer who is involved in the incident.  A third party may be another business, an independent contractor or an individual.

Other Employers & Employees

In many work-related injury cases involving the fault of a third party, the at-fault party is another individual or an employee of another business. In such cases, the injured worker can pursue a claim against either the individual or their employer. Generally, accident victims should pursue a claim against an employer when possible, as the chances of being able to collect on a damages award is much more likely.


In theory, it should not matter to an accident victim if the person who is at fault for causing an accident was classified as an independent contractor or an employee. However, in practice, it is much more likely to collect a damages award from a business that it is from an individual.


Wrongful Death Claim Lawyer

Preventable accidents are the third-leading cause of death in the United States and the fourth-leading cause of death in Illinois. Each year in Illinois, thousands of people die as the result of an accident. In fact, according to the most recently available data from the Centers for Disease Control, there were over 6,000 preventable deaths in Illinois in 2019 alone.

Employees are often entitled to one or more forms of compensation after suffering an on-the-job injury.

The type of compensation that is available for an injured employee depends on a variety of factors. Most notably, these factors can be broken down in to those involving the facts surrounding the accident and how it occurred and those involving the employment status of the injured employee.

In situations where a non-employer third party is responsible for a worker’s injury, the at-fault party’s employment status will also be a crucial consideration. Illinois workplace accident cases can be complex, and those who have been injured in an on-the-job accident should reach out to a dedicated Chicago personal injury and wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.

Contact an Experienced Chicago Workplace Accident Law Firm


If you or someone you care about has recently been injured in a Chicago workplace accident, the dedicated Illinois personal injury lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg can help. Our attorneys represent injured employees and their families in personal injury and workers’ compensation claims. Our firm has over 30 years of experience advocating on behalf of Chicago workers, and we know what it takes to succeed on our clients’ behalf. From the moment you invite us to work on your case, we diligently investigate your claim, seeking to uncover all potentially liable parties and theories of liability. All cases are handled on a contingency basis, which means that 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.

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Contact a Dedicated Chicago Personal Injury Law Firm


If you or a loved one was recently injured in an accident, it isn’t right for you to bear the brunt of the economic costs associated with your injuries. At Briskman Briskman & Greenberg, we can help. Our attorneys will meet with you to answer your questions, review the recovery process, and help you determine the best course of action. If you decide to bring us on your team, we will immediately prepare your claim. 

Since 1987, the lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg have developed a reputation for being compassionate advocates who aggressively seek compensation on behalf of injury victims. We recognize the challenges that you and your family go through after an accident and cater our representation according to your unique needs. To learn more and schedule a free consultation with one of our Illinois personal injury lawyers, give us a call at 877-595-4878. You can also reach us through our online contact form.

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