Illinois Workers’ Comp Laws Staff Profile Picture
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According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 102,000 nonfatal workplace-related illnesses and injuries and 176 fatal workplace injuries were reported by employers in Illinois in 2021. It is a reality that the potential for work-related illnesses and injuries exists. When accidents, injuries, and illnesses occur, employers and employees in Illinois will benefit from having workers’ compensation insurance, which can help cover the cost of expensive and unexpected medical bills and will also replace a portion of lost wages. Employers who don’t carry workers’ comp insurance will likely be held financially responsible for those bills and lost wages if their employees become sick or injured on the job. They may also face steep fines. 

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act

Most workers’ comp guidelines in Illinois are outlined under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. According to The Hartford, a U.S. investment and insurance company, estimates show that over 91% of employees in the state of Illinois are covered under this law, which stipulates that employers of at least one part-time or full-time employee must carry a workers’ comp insurance policy, with exceptions made for certain types of employees, such as business partners or corporate officers. This type of insurance coverage is needed, even when employees are family members. It is worth noting that employers who opt not to get workers’ comp coverage may face hefty fines, starting at a minimum of $10,000. Under this statute, employees with sickness or injuries developed in the workplace are required to inform their employers of said sickness/injuries within 45 days. A few types of injuries that are not covered by this statute are:

  • Injuries incurred while an employee was not on the job

  • Injuries occurring when an employee was violating company policies

  • Injuries sustained while an employee was committing a genuine crime

  • Self-inflicted injuries, including any stemming from a fight started by the injured employee

Outside of the obligation to provide workers’ comp benefits to their employees, Illinois employers are also required to post information about workers’ comp rights, including the name, policy number, and contact information for their insurance carrier. They must keep records of all work-related injuries and illnesses and report any injuries that result in more than three days of lost work to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC). Illinois employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against employees who exercise their workers’ compensation rights. Likewise, they are prohibited from asking employees to pay for any part of their workers’ comp benefits. 

Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act

Under the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act, employees who experience disablement, disfigurement, or impairment as a result of exposure to toxic or harmful chemicals or other damaging substances in the workplace are eligible for benefits covered under this law. While the statute does not state any specific diseases that may fall under its administration, there are common ailments that may occur in workplaces where frequent exposure to things like dust, fumes, lead, asbestos, chemicals, molds, etc. are prevalent. Some examples of possible conditions covered under this law are: 

  • Asthma

  • COPD

  • Dermatitis

  • Hearing Impairment

  • Tuberculosis

Employees who suffer from such occupational diseases are entitled to benefits that can help cover the costs of such things as medical and surgical care, hospital fees, rehabilitative sessions, prosthetics, and funeral costs, among other things. Their dependents may be covered as well. Generally, employees filing for benefits under this act must show that their impairment/illness occurred within two years from the final day they were exposed to whatever substances caused their disablement. Exceptions to this timeline include persons filing claims for berylliosis, who will have up to three years after employment to file their claims, and persons with diseases caused by radiation, who will have up to 25 years from their final day of exposure to file their claims. 

Illinois Workers’ Comp Insurance Requirements

The Illinois Department of Insurance states that employers in the state of Illinois are required to provide workers’ compensation for almost all Illinois employees. Employers who knowingly and willingly fail to comply with state workers’ comp requirements are subject to fines of up to $500 per day of noncompliance, with a minimum fine of $10,000. If a company neglects to pay these fines, its corporate officers may be held legally responsible for paying them. Additionally, businesses that deliberately choose not to carry workers’ compensation insurance will lose any protections provided to employers under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. If an employee is injured on the job during a time in which their employers are not carrying appropriate workers’ compensation insurance, they may elect to file a civil lawsuit against their employer. In such instances, limits to potential damages that can be awarded do not exist. 

How Much Can Someone Sue For Workers’ Compensation in Illinois?

Determining the amount of damages that can be awarded in workers’ comp cases in Illinois can be complicated and may depend on the type of injury or illness, and the age of the injured party. Is the injury temporary or permanent? How long will the employee be out of work as a result of their injury or illness? How severe is their injury or illness? The answers to these questions may also impact the amount of compensation that can be awarded. Illinois has no cap on the total amount of disability benefits an injured employee can receive. However, they place a cap on the maximum weekly benefits someone may receive. The maximum weekly benefit cap, based on average state wages, is subject to change every six months.  Depending on the type of disability an employee has sustained, there are different formats for compensation under Illinois workers’ comp laws, as outlined below. 

Permanent Partial Disabilities

Permanent partial disabilities are a type of disability that render a worker unable to perform the tasks necessary to do their job, even though they are not fully disabled. They may have lost full or partial use of specific body parts or partial use of their entire body. Illinois has set limits to the maximum number of weeks a person may receive benefits for certain injured body parts. These are referred to as scheduled injuries. With scheduled injuries, the injured party would receive 60% of their average weekly wages for the prescribed amount of time assigned to their injured body part. If an employee’s injury causes them to have to take a different job that pays less than their previous job, they may be eligible to receive two-thirds (66.67%) of the difference between their old and new jobs. This situation is referred to as a wage differential. In such cases, employees would not be permitted to receive more than the state average weekly wage. 

Temporary Total Disabilities

If an employee has been temporarily disabled to the extent that they won’t be able to work for three or more days, their workers’ comp benefits would begin on the fourth day of their impairment and would continue for the entire amount of time they cannot work. Benefits would start the day after an injury has occurred for any employees who are disabled for more than fourteen days. Compensation for this type of disability is two-thirds the average weekly wage and is increased by 10% for each legitimate dependent. 

Permanent Total Disabilities

If an employee has been rendered completely disabled permanently, meaning the extent of their work-related injuries dictates that they will never again be able to work, they are entitled to receive a compensation of two-thirds of their average weekly wage for the rest of their life. 

What Is the Statute of Limitations in Illinois for Workers’ Comp Claims?

Under Illinois law, the statute of limitations for filing a workers’ compensation claim is three years from the date of injury or illness. In cases where an injury or illness develops gradually rather than immediately, the statute of limitations starts from the date of discovering that the workplace conditions caused the harm. If an employee has received workers’ comp benefits for their injury or illness, they will have two years from the last date they received benefits to file a claim.  

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Illinois workers’ compensation benefits are typically designed to favor employees. Workers covered under the state’s workers’ comp laws can enjoy perks that are not offered in every state, such as:

  • Short waiting periods for weekly benefits payments (as early as three days after the injury)

  • Choice of physicians

  • Higher-than-average weekly benefits caps

  • No caps on total benefits

Here are some examples of common work-related illnesses and injuries that are generally covered by workers’ comp benefits in the state of Illinois:

  • Disability benefits (both temporary and permanent)

  • General accidents, such as slips or falls

  • Funeral expenses, in the event of workplace fatalities

  • Illnesses caused by exposure to toxic substances, etc.

  • Legal costs, in the event of a lawsuit

  • Long-term medical care

  • Lost wages for recovering employees

  • Stress injuries caused by repetition, such as bursitis or carpal tunnel syndrome

Legal Resources for Injured Workers in Illinois

If you’ve been injured on the job, it’s important to know what benefits you are eligible to receive under Illinois state laws. Talking with a qualified workers’ comp attorney is a smart idea if you are unsure how to proceed after your injury, especially if you have been found to reach the point of maximum medical improvement (MMI), meaning you’ve been told by a medical professional that you have either fully recovered from your injury or have reached your maximum potential for improvement. They will be able to help you file a claim with the IWCC and can help make sure that you don’t miss out on any of the benefits you are entitled to. Below you’ll find some links to free online legal resources, and information about federal disability benefits, which may also apply to your situation. (An attorney can help you determine the difference between general state workers’ comp benefits and federal disability benefits.) 

Disability and Temporary Disability Benefits

Depending on a number of factors, such as the nature and severity of your injury, your age, your financial status, and whether or not you are ever able to work again after your workplace injury/illness, you may be eligible for government-funded disability benefits that can help with the financial stress caused by your injury. 

If you meet the following requirements, you may qualify for SSDI benefits:

  • You are unable to work due to a medical condition that is expected to last at least a year or result in death.

  • Your disability is not partial or short-term. 

  • You meet the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability. 

  • You are younger than your full retirement age. 

For SSI benefits, the following requirements must be met:

  • For Adults:

    • Are age 65 and older, or blind, or have a disability.

      • Have limited income (wages, pensions, etc.).

      • Have limited resources (the things you own).

      • Are U.S. citizens, nationals of the U.S., and some noncitizens.

      • Reside in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands. It does not include Puerto Rico, Guam, or the United States Virgin Islands. Exception: The children of military parent(s) assigned to permanent duty outside the U.S. and certain students temporarily abroad may receive SSI payments outside the U.S.

  • For Children:

    • Are under age 18 and have physical or mental condition(s) that very seriously limit their daily activities for a period of 12 months or more or may be expected to result in death, and

    • Live in a household with limited income (benefits based on need) or resources.

To determine which of these benefits you may qualify for, you can reach the program at 1-800-772-1213 or go to

Find Free Online Legal Advice

The American Bar Association Free Legal Answers is a virtual legal advice clinic that provides an online version of the walk-in clinic model. Users may request brief advice and counsel about a specific civil legal issue from a volunteer lawyer by posting their civil legal questions to their state’s website. Lawyers will follow up with basic legal advice and information without expecting long-term representation. This is a great resource for people who are seeking advice and information about non-criminal legal matters who cannot afford a lawyer.

You can contact the ABA through the ABA Service Center Hotline at (800) 285-2221 or email them at, Monday - Friday, 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM ET.

Online Legal Dictionaries

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