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Illinois probably has the best laws in the nation when it comes to protecting the rights of injured workers. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation is mostly common sense and worker friendly while still keeping insurance costs down. In almost every case you are entitled to a settlement at the end of your care. The insurance company doesn’t have to offer one, but a lawyer can usually make it happen or get an award for you at a quick arbitration.
There are other things to know about settling an Illinois work comp case. In no particular order, here are things that you should be thinking about.
– Any settlement is tax free.
– Once you settle your case, you typically close out your rights related to the injury/accident forever. So if you end up missing more work or need more treatment, the work comp insurance wouldn’t have to pay for it.
– Because of that, you should never consider settling your case until you are as good as you are going to get health wise which is known as maximum medical improvement. That doesn’t necessarily mean you are good as new, but that you aren’t going to get any better. It’s possible that you could need future care down the road or might have to keep taking medication. Those costs should be considered in any settlement that you make. Quite often a side arrangement called a Medicare Set Aside is put in place.
– A Medicare Set Aside happens when it’s anticipated you will need more care down the line for your injury. The insurance company funds an account that should be used to pay for this care. It’s designed to protect the interests of Medicare so they don’t make payments that they shouldn’t. You can control this account and spend it how you choose, but should know that if you don’t use it for your medical bills, you might not have anyone to pay for treatment at a later date if needed.
– We typically recommend that you be back to work and able to do your job without problems for at least a month or two before considering any settlement. The value of your case is in part based on your ability to do your normal work.
– If you can’t return to your old job due to permanent physical restrictions, you can continue to get paid while looking for work within those restrictions. If the only jobs you can find pay much less than what you’d make in your prior job, you could be entitled to wage differential benefits. That is 2/3 of what you would be making in the old job versus what you can make now. For example, if in your old job you made $1,800 a week, but now can only make $1,200 a week, you are entitled to weekly payments of 2/3 of the $600 difference or $400 per week. That is tax free and will continue until you reach 65 or five years, whichever is longer. It also can result in a lump sum settlement for your future wage loss.
– The amount you get for any settlement depends on a lot of things including your wage, the injury you sustained, the treatment you had, your age, the job you can return to, whether or not you have restrictions due to the injury, prior health problems and any defenses the insurance company might have.
– You almost never get the “best offer” with the first offer.
– A settlement can only happen if each side signs contracts and they are approved by an Arbitrator at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
– Once a settlement is approved, you typically get paid within 30 days.
– Attorney fees are capped at 20% of the settlement. You almost always will get more with a lawyer than without one. If a settlement offer is made before you hire a lawyer, it can be difficult to get an attorney to take the case and you might get stuck having to take a low value settlement.
– If you don’t like the settlement you can always go to trial and get compensated that way. Trial of course has some risks too but that depends on the strength of your case.
– The bigger the injury, the more important it is to have legal representation. Not only can a good Illinois work comp lawyer prevent problems from occurring during the case, but in the end, having an attorney could literally put hundreds of thousands more in to your pocket.
There’s more to think about, but this is a good start. If you have questions and want a free, confidential consultation, please call us any time.