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Illinois law says that you have three years from the date of your injury to file a claim for workers’ compensation. Even if you have a perfectly good claim, blowing the deadline can mean that you are forever barred from bringing that claim.

Filing a claim means that you fill out an Application for Adjustment of Claim and submit it to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. An Illinois workers’ compensation attorney can handle this for you, but your employer will not. It’s the injured worker’s responsibility to file a claim.

In some cases, you might start receiving benefits without filing a claim. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t file a claim or that you won’t need to do so later on if there’s an issue with your benefits. If you have already received some form of workers’ compensation, then your deadline is different. You generally have two years from the date of your last payment of benefits, or three years from your injury date, whichever is later.

Filing a claim right away usually is recommended, even though you have three years from your injury date. If you fall at work and injure your back on August 1, 2013, you technically have until August 1, 2016, to file a claim. However, filing a claim right away can help you get benefits sooner.

In some cases the date of accident or injury is clear. However, in other cases, it is not. For example, if you have a repetitive stress injury that occurred over time, it can be hard to pinpoint the exact date you were injured. The rule here is that you have three years from the time you knew or should have known that you had an injury caused by your job.

There is another deadline to be aware of when you are injured on the job. The law says that you need to notify your employer of your injury within 45 days. If you fail to do this, you should still be able to get benefits, but the insurance company might try to deny your claim.

Sometimes injured workers assume it is too late to seek workers’ compensation when in fact it’s not too late at all. It’s worth asking an attorney whether you have a claim and what your deadline is. An initial consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney is almost always free.

Written by Michael Helfand