How to File a Workers' Compensation Claim in Illinois

Illinois workers' compensation pays benefits to injured workers.

If you were injured on the job, you may be eligible for Illinois workers’ compensation benefits. Workers' compensation covers medical treatment, pays compensation for wage loss, and provides other financial assistance. To collect benefits, you must meet certain requirements, including reporting your injury to your employer on time.

How Does the Illinois Workers’ Compensation System Work?

In Illinois, most employers must have workers’ compensation coverage. Employers get coverage either by purchasing a workers’ comp policy from a private insurance company or by receiving certification from the state to self-insure. (In general, only large, financially stable employers will qualify to self-insure.) The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission oversees all workers’ comp claims in the state.

Like all other states, Illinois has a no-fault workers’ compensation system. In order to receive benefits, you do not need to show that your employer acted carelessly. As long as your injury happened on the job or was caused by your work activities, you will typically be eligible for benefits.

Eligible workers may receive a variety of benefits, including:

  • temporary disability compensation (payments for wage loss)
  • permanent disability compensation (for permanent impairments or loss of use of a body part)
  • reasonable and necessary medical care, and
  • vocational rehabilitation (training or education for a new line of work).

To learn more about these benefits, see Types of Workers' Compensation Benefits.

How Do I Report an Injury?

Notifying your employer is the first step to starting a workers’ compensation claim. In Illinois, you must promptly notify your employer of a work-related injury. If you fail to notify your employer within 45 days, you may lose some or all of your benefits. Notice may be either oral or in writing. However, written notice is best, because it can be used as evidence if a dispute arises.

It is in your best interest to report your injury and get medical treatment as quickly as possible. Employers and insurance companies are skeptical of delayed claims and tend to deny them. Giving notice and getting treatment early on will reduce the likelihood of a claim denial.

When you notify your employer, provide as much detail as possible, including:

  • when and where the accident happened
  • how you were hurt, and
  • what symptoms you are experiencing.

Your employer may also ask you to fill out a written accident report. When completing the report, be as accurate as possible. Accident reports are frequently used as evidence in disputed claims, and any inconsistencies may be used against you.

After you give notice, your employer should tell you how to get medical care. In Illinois, you have the right to choose your treating doctor, unless your employer has a preferred provider program (PPP). If your employer has a PPP, you must select a doctor in its network.

What Happens After I Report My Injury?

Once notified, your employer must report your injury to its insurance company or claims administrator. The insurance company will then determine your eligibility for benefits. Its investigation may involve:

  • reviewing your medical records
  • analyzing your work experience, education, and wages
  • ordering a medical examination to assess your condition, and
  • sending you for a functional capacity evaluation (an assessment of your ability to perform work duties).

Under Illinois law, the insurance company must either approve or deny your workers’ compensation benefits promptly. If your claim is approved, you will start receiving disability payments and other benefits. Unfortunately, insurance companies deny many workers’ compensation claims. (For common grounds for a denial, see Denied Workers' Compensation Claims.)

Do I Need to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

You do not need to file any paperwork with the Commission unless your claim is denied. To appeal a denied claim, you must file an application for adjustment of claim within three years of your injury or two years of your last wage loss or medical payment, whichever is later. Different filing deadlines apply in death claims or claims involving radiologic or asbestos exposure.

Unless your claim is very simple, you should consider hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer to handle your appeal. The insurance company will have a lawyer and you may be at a disadvantage if you proceed without an attorney. To learn more, see Should I Hire a Workers' Comp Attorney or Can I Handle My Own Case?

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