When a person suffers a serious injury at work, the consequences to both their personal and financial well-being may be substantial. Workers’ Compensation insurance benefits exist to account for these harms. To obtain Workers’ Compensation as an injured employee, you do not have to prove that the accident was your employer’s fault.
However, there may be better options for you to recover what you deserve. While not every injured worker can file a personal injury lawsuit, this option may exist in certain instances of toxic exposure or third-party negligence. Lawsuits provide financial relief in areas that Workers’ Compensation does not, such as non-economic and punitive damages.
If you were recently injured at work and need help determining what to do next, we urge you to reach out to our Chicago workplace injury lawyers as soon as possible. When you call Rhatigan Law Offices at (312) 578-8502 today, you can get a free initial case assessment.
Chicago Workplace Compensation Insurance Law
If you were injured while on the job in Chicago, there are ways for you to recover financial compensation that will help you deal with the consequences. However, it is important to identify the path (or paths) that may be available to you to seek this compensation.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act makes Workers’ Compensation Insurance the “exclusive remedy” for employees who are injured in accidents where no fault or assigned or where their employer was at fault. In other words, if your employer’s negligence led to your workplace injury, you likely cannot file a lawsuit to recover compensation. Instead, you must file a claim under the Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage that your employer provides.
However, there are a few key exceptions to the exclusive remedy rule of which you should be aware.
In 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court determined that employees who contract illness or injury due to toxic exposure on their job site may step outside of the exclusive remedy rule if their employer’s negligence played a role in causing their exposure.
You can also sue your employer directly if they caused your injury intentionally. When an employer intentionally harms an employee, their actions are viewed as outside the scope of the business. Therefore, the employer does not receive the same protection from liability through the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.
You should also consider whether a third party, such as a subcontractor or product manufacturer was responsible for causing your workplace injury, as these parties are not shielded from liability for a workplace accident.
Workers’ Compensation Law for Independent Contractors
In Illinois, independent contractors are not eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. However, traditional employees are misclassified as independent contractors all the time. This happens predominantly because the independent contractor classification is often better for the employer’s bottom line.
Courts use a number of criteria to determine whether an individual should be classified as an independent contractor or a traditional employee. The most important of these criteria is the level of control that the employer had over the worker’s schedule. More scheduling control would indicate that the worker should actually be regarded as an employee.
Below are some of the other factors that courts will consider:
- Whether the worker did work for other entities outside of their work with the employer
- Whether the employer withheld taxes from payments to the worker
- Whether the employer provided materials, tools, or a uniform
- The amount of control that the worker had over deciding how to perform their work
If you believe that you were denied Workers’ Compensation benefits for a workplace injury because you were misclassified as an independent contractor, reach out to our seasoned Chicago workplace injury attorneys for help evaluating your legal options.
Benefits of Filing a Lawsuit for a Workplace Injury in Chicago
As discussed above, Workers’ Compensation insurance may be the only option at your disposal for recovering compensation after suffering a workplace injury. However, when grounds for a lawsuit exist, this option is often the much better choice over filing a Workers’ Compensation claim.
For one, all Workers’ Compensation claims are capped based on the limits of the policy that the employer provides. While state law requires that all Workers’ Compensation coverage provides at least certain minimums, recovery beyond what is provided by the policy will not be permitted through a claim, no matter how severe the injuries or their consequences may be. Limits will apply to both the total dollar amount of the compensation as well as the length of time for which an injured worker can receive these benefits.
Conversely, personal injury lawsuits are not bound by policy limits. Courts will award damages to the plaintiff in whatever amount would achieve equity. If the applicable insurance policy does not go high enough to cover the entirety of damages, the defendant has the responsibility to pay out the rest.
Lawsuits are better not just because of the amount of damages that can be awarded, but the types of damages as well. Specifically, a lawsuit can return compensation based on the plaintiff’s pain and suffering associated with their experience and the injury itself. These damages, also known as non-economic damages, are not available through Worker’s Compensation insurance.
Lawsuits may also yield punitive damages. While punitive damages may not be available in every personal injury lawsuit, they may be available if the defendant’s injurious conduct was so reckless or intentionally harmful that it warrants additional punishment. Again, this form of damages will not be available through a Workers’ Compensation claim.
For a better picture of what you stand to gain through a lawsuit instead of a Workers’ Compensation claim, we urge you to reach out to a dedicated Chicago workplace injury attorney.
Get the Help You Deserve from a Chicago Workplace Injury Lawyer
Whether you are filing a lawsuit or a Workers’ Compensation claim, you can benefit from the insight of the Chicago workplace injury attorneys at Rhatigan Law Offices, starting with a free initial case assessment when you call our offices at (312) 578-8502.