Compensation for Work Related Injuries or Disease

All of the information applies to Illinois law only, which may be applied in some situations to accidents which occur and diseases contracted outside the state.

In general, if you were injured on the job or contracted a disease as a result of exposure to a work hazard, you may be entitled to benefits under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act or the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act. You also may be entitled to benefits if you were related to or dependent upon the income of someone who was killed in a job-related accident or who died as a result of a job-related disease. However, certain classes of employees, such as federal employees, are not covered by these laws.

There are four types of benefits

  1. medical, including physical, mental, and vocational rehabilitation expenses
  2. compensation for a temporary period including time lost while you are unable to work
  3. compensation for permanent disability or a specific injury
  4. death benefits for certain surviving relatives and certain dependents


If you have suffered a job-related injury or disease, you have the right to secure medical, surgical, and hospital care at your employer's expense. That care may last as long as necessary, even for the rest of your life. You may initially select your own doctor, and your employer must pay the cost of that doctor and any doctors to whom that doctor refers you. If you wish to change doctors you may do so one time, and your employer must still pay the costs of your second doctor and any doctors to whom your second doctor refers you. If you wish to change doctors again, the employer does not have to pay the costs, unless he specifically agrees to do so and he chooses the doctor. Also, your employer must pay for certain physical, mental, or vocational rehabilitation you may need as a result of the work related injury or disease.

If you are unable to work because of the injury or disease, you have the right to compensation until your injuries allows you to return to work. Normally, you will receive two-thirds of the wage you earned when you became disabled. Overtime is generally excluded under Workers' Compensation Act, but included under the Occupational Diseases Act in figuring your pay while you are recovering and unable to work. There are maximum and minimum rates, so your compensation may be less than two-thirds of your wage if your wage was very high, or more than two-thirds if it was very low.

You also have the right to receive compensation from your employer for any permanent disability caused by your accident or disease. Different types of permanent disability are compensated in different ways.

  1. Disability which affects the use of, or disfigures, certain parts of your body, such as an arm, hand, or leg, but which does not permanently prevent you from doing your regular work, generally is compensated according to a schedule set by the law. For example, total loss of a leg is evaluated at 200 weeks of compensation, while 20 percent loss of use of the leg entitles you to 40 weeks of compensation.
  2. As an alternative, disability which permanently prevents you from returning to the kind of work you have done in the past, or forces you to take a lower-paying job, may entitle you to weekly compensation equal to a percentage of the difference between your present pay and the pay you would have been able to earn in your former occupation.
  3. Disability which permanently prevents you from returning to work of any kind may be compensated by a weekly pension at your compensation rate for the rest of our life.

    If a spouse or parent or a person upon whom you were dependent has died as a result of a job-related accident or disease, you may be entitled to weekly compensation for 20 years or up to a total of $250,000, whichever is greater. However, all children and dependents are not necessarily entitled to compensation, so the law must be consulted in each specific case.

    A lump-sum settlement of your claim may be agreed upon between you and your employer. This settlement is subject to approval by the Industrial Commission. Such a settlement ends all your rights to benefits under the law, including your right to payment for further medical care, unless the agreement specifically provides for continuing benefits. Lump-sum settlements are not automatic.

    Your right to benefits may be enforced by filing a form called an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Illinois Industrial Commission. In Chicago, the Commission's office is located at 100 West Randolph Street, 8th Floor. The Industrial Commission will appoint an arbitrator to hear and decide your case. Both the injured employee and the employer are entitled to present their side of the case. Certain rules of evidence and procedure must be followed. You are entitled to be represented by an attorney, but this is not mandatory. Either side may appeal the arbitrator's decision to a panel of three commissioners.

    If the application for Adjustment of Claim is not filed within the time limits set by law, you may forever lose your right to receive benefits. Time limits differ for different types of cases, and your attorney should be consulted for particulars. As of January 1, l993, the time limit is no less than three years from date of accident or injury.

    In addition to the requirement that the Application for Adjustment of Claim be filed within a certain time period, there is also a notice requirement that an injured employee must satisfy prior to filing a claim. Under the Act, you must give notice to your employer that you sustained an accidental injury arising from your employment as soon as practicable but not later than 45 days after the accident. A notice of an accident must give the approximate date and place of the accident, if known, and may be given orally or in writing. The failure of an employee to give notice may bar his or her claim.