It’s often said that there are two Illinois. One is Chicago, and one is everywhere else. To some people in the northern parts of the state, this may be the perception. But for those who call southern Illinois home, each region has a distinct and unique identity. Much like southern Illinois itself, our attorneys each have their own unique and personal touch. For injured workers in small towns and communities throughout the state, one of the most frustrating and difficult things to face is an employer’s denial of compensation.
When you are hurt on the job, there are typically several competing concerns. Do you risk losing your job to pursue compensation, or do you risk getting hurt worse? Do you take time off work and lose income, or do you tough it out and risk being stuck with massive medical bills? A southern Illinois work injury can be a confusing and troublesome time. If you’re the primary breadwinner for your family, it can be even more difficult. Fortunately, there are options. You don’t have to worry in silence and make the decision alone. At Jerome, Lindsay & Salmi, LLP, our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys have decades of experience helping people throughout the state. Our goal is to make sure injured workers understand their rights and have all the information they need to make educated and practical decisions about their own injuries.
What Happens After a Work Injury
When a worker is injured on the job in Illinois, a clock starts ticking. There are two big deadlines in every workers’ compensation case. The first is called a notice period. The second is the statute of limitations.
Notice Period for Illinois Work Comp – Upon getting injured at work, you must give notice to your employer within 45 days. If you fail to do so, you will completely waive your right to be compensated for your work injury. While this may sound okay to some people in theory, it could mean drastic consequences. For instance, your health insurance may choose not to cover treatment, leaving you to pay the bill in full. Or, you could re-injure yourself even worse, leaving you uncompensated and out of work.
Statute of Limitations for Illinois Work Comp – In general, you have a relatively short period of time to make up your mind about pursuing compensation for a work injury. This is either 2 years from the date of your last paycheck from work or up to 3 years from the date of the injury, whichever happens to be longer. But remember that if you miss the notice deadline, you lose your rights all together.
Some Injuries Are Hard to Identify as a Specific Injury Date
One common question injured workers have is how to decide the date of injury. After all, not every injury will happen as a specific event. Some injuries occur over time or develop over a long period, such as a chronic disease caused by environmental exposure or a repetitive task injury, like carpal tunnel syndrome. In these cases, it may be necessary to identify the first date on which you were either diagnosed or received word from a physician that the condition may be work-related. One of our skilled workers’ compensation lawyers in southern Illinois can help you identify the correct date for notice purposes.
Sometimes a worker fails to give formal notice, but there were dozens of witnesses who saw the injury. Maybe a supervisor or management person actually took the injured person to the hospital for treatment. In these situations, the law sometimes allows the injured worker to claim that the company had constructive notice. This just means that it’s as good as formal notice, though perhaps a little defective.
Southern Illinois Industries
Rural southern Illinois workers fill a wide and diverse range of employment types throughout the region. Major employers and industries include:
Coal Mines – Major coal mining interests have developed in recent years, leading to a virtual explosion of new jobs in the region. From Hamilton Coal to Knight Hawk Coal, thousands of jobs have been created in just the past few years.
Factories – While many parts of the country are struggling to keep manufacturing jobs, southern Illinois is keeping homegrown industry right here in our neighborhoods. Some notable manufacturing plants include General Tire (Continental), AISIN Group, and American Steel, as well as Boeing manufacturing in Mascoutah and Prairie Farms in Edwardsville.
Oil and Gas – The region was once a thriving oil and gas market, and today you can still see remnants of an era that has long passed. Small “grasshoppers” line the corn fields throughout rural reaches of the state, setting stark reminders that Illinois was and remains a major oil reserve.
Transportation and Trucking – With its low cost of living and location at the apex of numerous major interstates, the region is also home to many truck drivers and railroad employees.
Agriculture and Farming – By far the largest single industry in Illinois, they don’t call us the breadbasket for nothing. Hog farms, corn and soy, as well as a healthy amount of dairy are what really lead southern Illinois’ agricultural industry.
Wine Country – Few people outside of Illinois would ever think of us as wine country, but once you’ve taken a scenic drive through the Shawnee Hills, you’ll never look at Illinois the same again. It’s one part Sonoma and two parts backwoods charm.
Higher Education – Southern Illinois is also home to quite a few major education institutions, including Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Southwest Illinois College, John A. Logan, Sanford Brown College, Kaskaskia College, Rend Lake College, McKendree University, Greenville University, and Lindenwood University.
Benefits of Filing a Claim for Workers’ Compensation in Downstate Illinois
Unlike big city companies in northern parts of the state, downstate employers are often the only major employment source for a small community. This can make injured workers very fearful about retaliation. Sadly, this scares people off and makes them put up with a lot of inappropriate and unlawful conduct. Here are the facts:
- You can be fired for filing for workers’ compensation, but it’s unlawful. Therefore, you may have a valid claim based on Illinois whistleblower laws and other regulations that protect workers from retaliatory discharge.
- You may have to deal with harassment or negativity from friends and co-workers. We won’t sugar-coat it. Some people may not like the fact that you are seeking compensation from your employer. Unfortunately, misinformed people are going to have opinions. Our goal is to educate you and inform you so that you can stand your ground and feel confident in your decision to pursue compensation.
- You can receive compensation that helps you and your family. Your employer has a right to direct medical care to some extent, but you also have a right to have a doctor of your choice provide care and make recommendations. Employers will generally rely on their insurance carriers and defense attorneys heavily. Unless you have an attorney with the same degree of skilled and experience, you are at a significant disadvantage. The truth is, without your income, your family suffers. Workers’ compensation is designed to protect workers who get hurt. It’s a form of insurance that protects both you and your employer.
Understanding What Workers’ Compensation Is and Is Not
A workers’ compensation case is not a lawsuit. In fact, the entire workers’ compensation system was established by employers for the purpose of limiting their liability in situations where workers got hurt. By setting up risk pools (insurance) and paying into those policies, they are given complete protection from lawsuits. If you are hurt on the job, you cannot sue your employer in a traditional court.
So long as your employer paid for workers’ compensation insurance, as most are required to do, then your sole option is to file an insurance claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. Through this government agency, your case will proceed much the same way a normal lawsuit would proceed through a court system, except:
- Unlike a traditional lawsuit, your employer is required to make payments to cover your medical expenses along the way, not just in response to a verdict at the end.
- Your employer may be required to pay you temporary disability benefits to replace some of your salary.
- You could potentially recover compensation for a permanent disability.
Of all the ways that workers’ compensation is designed to help you, perhaps the most important protection is the fact that you get your medical care covered upfront, and you are able to document the injury and get the care you need. If you can still work, that’s great. Once a doctor clears you, then you can return to work and continue doing your job. This way if you get hurt again or reinjured in some way, you have preserved your rights.
What Sets Our Southern Illinois and Metro St. Louis Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Apart From Other Firms Around the State
Workers’ compensation is a unique and somewhat focused practice area for lawyers. Only a small handful of attorneys in southern Illinois and the metro St. Louis area actually handle these types of cases on a regular basis. Some lawyers “dabble” or toy with these cases, thinking that they are going to be easier than other types of cases. Nothing could be further from the truth. What typically happens is these small, solo attorney shops end up working on a case, making a few errors, and referring them out to other more experienced lawyers who have the significant experience needed to really succeed.
Each of our workers’ compensation lawyers has well over 20 years of experience, much of which has been spent protecting injured workers. Our attorneys are leaders in the field of work injury litigation, and they take multiple cases to trial before the Workers’ Compensation Commission each year, making them among some of the most reputable and foremost leading lawyers in their field.
If you’ve suffered a serious work injury, call Jerome, Lindsay & Salmi, LLP right away. Don’t take chances, and never speak with insurance adjusters or risk managers until you’ve at least gotten a chance to speak with one of our attorneys about your case. Our first meeting is always free, we don’t charge for telephone calls, and if we decide to take your case, we will never charge you an upfront fee. In fact, we only get paid if you recover compensation for your work injury. An initial meeting with an attorney is always a great way to learn more, ask questions, and enjoy a risk free and stress free discussion with someone who can provide compassionate and creative solutions to your work injury case. So call us today to get started.
DISCUSS YOUR CASE
Get a free face-to-face consultation with an experienced injury lawyer now.