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How Long Can a Workers’ Comp Claim Stay Open in Illinois?

How Long Can a Workers’ Comp Claim Stay Open in Illinois?

Wondering, “how long can a workers’ comp claim stay open in Illinois?” It can stay open for as long as three years or more, although the ideal outcome is a quicker resolution. In many situations, workers receive a one-time lump sum payment, but it is possible to get payments over a period of time, or even for life.

Time Limits for Filing Workers’ Comp Claims

The timeline of a workers’ compensation claim is not always straightforward. A critical factor is the statute of limitations. It is typically three years from the date of the worker’s accident or two years from the most recent workers’ compensation payment, if applicable.  There are even some additional exceptions to this rule as well. 

In other words, you have three years from the date of your workplace injury to file a claim. Note that filing a claim is different from reporting the accident to your employer. You only have 45 days to report an accident to your employer.

Some exceptions apply to the three-year time limit to file claims. They include cases of pneumoconiosis, radiological exposure, asbestosis, and similar illnesses. Your work injury lawyer can clarify the time frame that applies to your case.

What Delays an Employee Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Filing your workers’ compensation claim as soon as possible is essential. Some people wait to file, for example, wanting to see if or how their medical situation changes, or whether an insurance company becomes more cooperative. However, it is best to speak with a work injury attorney sooner rather than later. Three years can go by quickly when dealing with insurance companies and attorneys need time to review documents, medical records, statements, and other evidence.

Unfortunately, some workers wait to file because they have been misled. Employers or insurance companies sometimes tell employees they do not qualify for workers’ compensation because of their employment status, the type of their injury, or some other reason.

Workers may accept these claims at face value and do nothing further. It’s hard to file a claim within, say, a year or two when you do not even realize you have the right to file. When you hire an attorney for your workers’ compensation case, you may be able to receive back pay, compensation for medical costs and bills, and much more.

Repetitive stress injuries can also cause filing delays. RSIs are tricky in that they may not show up for years before causing workers pain, stress, or injuries. Arthritis is one such example, as is chronic back pain. Work activities can also worsen pre-existing injuries, and the connection between the two is not always evident right away.

Attorneys might be more likely to not accept cases with only one or two months left in the statute of limitations, although they do take on such cases. Don’t let a statute of limitations that is about to expire prevent you from seeking advice.

Is There a Time Limit For Settling an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Case?

Strictly speaking, no time limit exists to settle an Illinois workers’ compensation case. That said, some cases linger for a few years. This is not ideal, but it sometimes happens because the employee is still getting medical care.

A claim delay can also occur because of events, such as a pandemic, wreaking havoc with the legal system or an attorney who has lost interest in the case and is not giving it the attention it deserves. In the latter type of situation, it is probably time to look for a new workers’ compensation lawyer.

A case that has been filed for three years is called “above the red line.” It must be set for hearing every 90 days unless either the petitioner or respondent gives a justifiable reason why it should remain open and pending.

If your lawyers seem to be dragging their feet, ask why they have not made a settlement demand. Ask that they explain their approaches, even if they have made a settlement demand that the respondents have not responded to yet.

“Starting over” with a new lawyer may seem daunting, but it gets frustrating when you have been out of medical care for a year or more, bills are paid, and case settlement is the only thing remaining on the agenda. Because no settlement offer is in the picture, though, it may be relatively simple to find a more assertive firm that can take the case to settlement.

How Long Does Workers’ Compensation Last in Illinois?

Workers’ compensation in Illinois tends to last for a few weeks to a few years. That said, it can last for life in cases of permanent total disability (PTD), although these affected workers have the option of a lump sum, too. PTD occurs when doctors say workers are unable to go back to work or when workers lose any combination of two eyes, arms, hands, legs, or feet. You can also receive PTD if you have a permanent restriction, and you are unable to find a job in a stable labor market, this is called an “Odd Lot Perm Total”. 

Whether you have PTD, temporary total disability (TTD), temporary partial disability (TPD), or something else, discuss with your work injury attorney the pros and cons of getting payments versus a lump sum for disability benefits. In general, a lump sum payment could be appropriate if you are not able to recover anymore, or have recovered as much as you are going to. That means you probably won’t have future medical expenses related to the injury, which is a tricky matter with PTD. Otherwise, the lump sum payment amount should be high enough to support you as you recover.

A lump sum offer is unlikely to be the right approach if you are early in your recovery. At this point in the timeline, it is not clear how much money you will need in your recovery journey. Your expenses could skyrocket if your injuries get worse. The lump sum payment offer could be far less than what you eventually need. Weekly benefits could be the better choice in these cases.

If it is possible you could get Social Security disability, then a lump sum payment could cut into an amount you get from Social Security. Lump sum payments can also affect pension payments after retirement.

Getting Disability Benefits Under Workers’ Comp

Disability benefits can be for TPD, TTD, PPD, or PTD. Not surprisingly, many employers and insurance companies try to minimize payouts, which means it is even more critical for workers to follow all required steps and their work injury lawyers’ advice.

Temporary Partial Disability

TPD occurs when you are able to perform part-time or light-duty work until you resume your pre-injury duties. TPD benefits cover two-thirds of the difference between your previous income and your earnings in part-time or light duty.

Temporary Total Disability

TTD means you are not able to work for some time or that your employer does not have light-duty or part-time work available for you to perform. You get TTD disability benefits until you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). The payments equal two-thirds of your regular weekly wage. Do note that if you need to be off work for fewer than 14 days, the first three days go unpaid.

Permanent Partial Disability

The amounts for PPD benefits could vary depending on disfigurement, wage differential, and whether the disability is scheduled or nonscheduled. Scheduled injuries relate to the extremities such as elbows, hands, fingers, toes, ears, knees, nose, and eyes. 

Nonscheduled injuries could include back, hip, shoulder, or neck strains. They are injuries that do not get classified as scheduled. Nonscheduled injuries typically lead to lump sum payments and depend heavily on the worker’s ability to perform up to pre-injury levels. 

  • In general, workers receive 60% of their average weekly wage (AWW) for scheduled injuries.
  • For nonscheduled injuries, workers get 60% of their AWW for a number of weeks based on their doctor-assigned disability rating.
  • For disfigurement, workers can get 60% of their AWW for as long as 162 weeks, which is a little more than three years. Payments depend on the severity of the injury.
  • For wage differentials, workers get two-thirds of their lost wages for five years, or until they turn 67, whichever is the longer period.

Permanent Total Disability

As mentioned earlier, PTD occurs with a loss of any combination of two eyes, arms, hands, legs, or feet, or when a doctor says you cannot return to work. These payments can be lifelong, or you can opt for a lump sum. The payment amounts are at two-thirds of your AWW.

How Long Can a Workers’ Comp Claim Stay Open in Illinois?

Your workers’ comp claim should remain open for no more than three years, although some cases go on longer than that. Workers’ comp covers medical costs, including future treatment expenses. A case may be taking longer when the worker is still recovering, with the extent of his or her injuries unclear.

Workers who have been fully recovered for a while should typically have their cases settled. When this isn’t happening, then it could be time to find new attorneys.