How Long Do I Have to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim After a Workplace Injury in Illinois?

Safe workplace top view of construction worker wearing safety helmet.

After a workplace injury in Illinois, you have three years from the date of injury or diagnosis or two years from the last payment to file a workers’ compensation claim, whichever is later. Knowing how long you have to file a workers’ compensation claim will ensure you don’t forfeit your benefits. However, there are important steps to take, including notifying your employer of the injury within 45 days.

The Workers’ Compensation Claim Process in Illinois

Before you file any injury report, seek medical assistance for your injury. Some injuries may require immediate treatment, and delaying medical care could result in additional health problems down the line and lead to unnecessary pain and suffering.

The first step of the workers’ compensation claim process is informing your employer of the injury or illness you suffered on the job. The deadline for this notice is 45 days from the date of your injury. If you fail to meet this deadline, you may forfeit your worker’s compensation benefits.

Of course, not all injuries are immediately apparent. If you were diagnosed with an injury caused by repetitive motion or use or due to prolonged exposure to toxins in the course of your job, you have 45 days from the date of your diagnosis to notify your employer.

While this notice may be given orally, it is best to do it in writing to prevent disputes and delays. Your employer may give you an accident report form to fill out, or you can write one yourself and hand it to your boss.

To avoid disputes, the written notice should include the following information:

  • Your name, address, and telephone number
  • A short description of the injury or illness, including all body parts that sustained injury

Once you report your illness to your employer, he or she is required to report the accident to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission if it caused you to lose three or more days of work. Your employer will do this by filling out “Form 45: Employer’s First Report of Injury.” He or she may ask you for assistance in filling out the details on the Form 45.

What Is Considered a Workplace Injury Under Illinois Law?

A workplace injury is any injury that results due to and during employment. In other words, any injury that is caused by your work is considered a workplace injury and eligible for compensation.

Even if you have a preexisting condition, it is considered a workplace injury if it was aggravated due to your work. For example, repetitive use of certain body parts may aggravate an existing injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Alternatively, your workplace environment may aggravate your asthma, turning it from a mild condition to a more severe one.

Heart attacks, broken limbs, concussions, and other workplace-related injuries are also eligible for compensation.

Excluded Injuries Under Illinois Law

Some injuries do not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. They include injuries resulting from actions that violate company policy, even if they occurred on the job. Self-inflicted injuries and injuries that occurred as a result of committing a serious crime do not qualify, either.

Only injuries that occur at the workplace and as a result of employment qualify. An injury that occurs on the job site, but while visiting as a member of the public and not in the capacity of an employee, won’t qualify. For example, if you work in a restaurant as a waiter or waitress but visit as a customer after your shift to buy a meal, any injury sustained during that visit won’t qualify as a workplace injury.

Similarly, an injury that occurs during your commute to and from work is not typically considered a workplace injury.

In some of the above cases, you may still be eligible for personal injury compensation, but not for workers’ compensation.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Illinois?

The statute of limitations for filing a worker’s compensation claim for benefits in Illinois is three years from the date of injury or two years from the date of the last payment, whichever happens to be later.

For example, let’s say you slipped and fell on the 10th of January 2023, breaking your leg. You have until the 10th of January 2026 to file your claim.

In the case of an injury that developed over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, or another injury that is a result of repetitive movement or exposure to toxins, the deadline is three years from the date of the diagnosis.

However, if you have previously received benefits through your employer’s insurance program but wish to file for a continuation, you have two years from the date of the last worker’s compensation payment to file.

Perhaps you suffered an injury on the 10th of January 2020, and your employer’s insurance paid compensation until the 5th of December 2023, at which point it discontinued payments. In that case, you have until the 5th of December 2025 to file your claim for additional compensation, even though it is over three years since the injury.

Consequences for Missing the Filing Deadline

A lot of people ask, “What should I do if I failed to report my work injury before the deadline?” Claimants may be unaware of how long they have to file a workers’ comp claim in Illinois, only finding out that there is a deadline when it is too late.

Unfortunately, if you forgot to report your injury to your employer within 45 days or failed to file your claim within three years, you may be denied workers’ compensation benefits.

There are exceptions, though. If you suffered injuries due to radiological exposure, you have 90 days to notify your employer of your injury. Even if 45 days have passed, you will not have forfeited workers’ compensation until the 90-day deadline.

In any case, your employer may not harass you or punish you in any way for making a workers’ compensation claim. He or she may not fire you, demote you, withhold your pay, or lower your salary. He or she may also not discriminate or threaten to punish you if you do not withdraw your claim. If that happens, you may be able to file a suit for damages.

Even if the deadline has passed, though, it’s best to contact a lawyer. An attorney will review your case and investigate whether there is still room for eligibility for workers’ compensation.

The Impact of Delayed Reporting on the Claim Process

Although you have three years to file your claim for benefits, it is recommended to do it as soon as possible rather than wait.

The longer you wait, the more you risk losing evidence. In addition, delayed reporting could lead to inaccuracies and misstatements. In turn, that could lead to delays in the claim approval process.

Besides, the more you delay filing your claim, the more you delay getting the medical treatment you need. The sooner you treat your injuries, the less chance there is of the injuries getting worse. There is no reason to live in pain any longer than you should, so file the claim well before the deadline.

The Role of a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Illinois

The role of workers’ compensation lawyers is to ensure that the claim is filed accurately, and the claim process proceeds smoothly. Having an attorney by your side can speed up the process, give you peace of mind, and avoid delays and complications.

An attorney can also inform you of which mistakes to avoid when filing a claim. For example, you may have to visit a doctor approved by the insurance company. Going back to work too soon is another common mistake.

How an Attorney Can Help Navigate the Claim Process

An attorney can ensure that you fill out all the documents accurately. He or she can also collect evidence that proves that the injury qualifies as a workplace injury and that you are eligible for compensation. Your lawyer may collect documentation, such as doctors’ reports and medical bills, to bolster your claim.

In some cases, a workers’ compensation claim may turn out to be more complicated than you thought. At other times, the insurance company may try to deny the claim on dubious grounds.

Remember, insurance companies are not on your side. Their main priority is their own profits, and they may have their own lawyers and claims adjusters helping them avoid paying by citing unjustified loopholes. The attorney handling your case can negotiate with the insurance company and ensure it is complying with the law.

If the claim is denied, he or she can repeal it. In addition, if the case ends up in court, a workers’ compensation attorney can represent you and fight for your rights.