Many of those injured in the workplace are unaware that their ability to recover benefits is subject to the Illinois statute of limitations for workers’ compensation claims. The statute of limitations is essentially a deadline where a claim must be filed. If the claimant fails to file a claim before the expiration of the time period set forth in the statute, then he or she will forever forfeit the right to recover. There is, however, an important Illinois statute of limitations workers’ compensation exemption that can potentially save your claim if you failed to file within the statute of limitations period.
What is the Illinois Statute of Limitations for Workers’ Compensation?
Pursuant to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, you have 3 years from the date of your injury to file a claim for benefits. For instance, if you were injured at your job on December 1, 2019, you have until December 1, 2022 to file a claim. By claim, we are referring to filing an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. There are many reasons why a worker may fail to file a claim within the three-year period. Often, the failure is the result of:
- Unfamiliarity with rules and procedures under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The claimant does not know that he or she is required to file a claim within 3 years of the injury.
- Poor legal counsel. A diligent Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer will ensure that a claim is filed within the Illinois statute of limitations for workers’ compensation.
- Viewing the claim as an unnecessary formality.
The third bullet point typically comes into play where an injured worker is being paid benefits by his or her employer’s insurance carrier. The payments are for things like medical bill reimbursement or other temporary benefits like Temporary Total Disability (TTD). At some point the insurance carrier will decline additional payments. The claimant, not thinking about the big picture while benefits are being paid, fails to file an Application for Adjustment of Claim within the 3-year statute of limitations period. Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, the claimant is barred from filing a claim. There is, however, an important statute of limitations workers’ compensation exemption that claimants should be aware of.
Illinois Statute of Limitations Workers’ Compensation Exemption
There is an important exception to the 3-year statute of limitations for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If you have received benefits for your injury that fall within the definition of “compensation” under the Act, then you have 2 years from the date of your last benefits payment to file an Application for Adjustment of Claim. This statute of limitations workers’ compensation exemption was at issue in an important Illinois workers’ comp case, Legris v. Industrial Commission, et al., 323 Ill. App. 3d 789 (2001).
In the Legris case, the claimant injured his back at work on July 2, 1989. From shortly after his accident until 1996, his employer’s insurance carrier paid all medial claims for his treatment from various doctors. In 1996, the insurance carrier contacted the claimant to inform him that his injury would no longer be covered under workers’ compensation. In the beginning of 1997, the claimant filed his Application for Adjustment of Claim some 8 years after his injury occurred.
The arbitrator assigned to the case found that the claimant’s claim for benefits was barred under the Illinois statute of limitations for workers’ compensation. The Commission disagreed with the arbitrator and allowed the claimant to file a claim. On appeal, the Court held that the insurance carrier’s payment of medical claims to the claimant amounted to “compensation” under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Under Illinois law, the applicable time period is two years from the date that the last compensation payment was made. Since the claimant received his last payment in 1996 and filed his Application for Adjustment of Claim in 1997, it was allowed.
The tactic used by the insurance carrier in the Legris case is one that is used fairly often. As we discussed above, the injured employee comes to rely on the temporary benefits. As time passes, the employee has no reason to think that the benefits will not continue into the foreseeable future. Also, the insurance company is hoping that the claimant will view his or her claim as being adequately paid and not warranting additional compensation.
As the Legris case shows, you should file an Application for Adjustment of Claim as soon as possible. The Romaker Law Firm always recommends filing a formal claim even where you have started receiving benefits. You have nothing to lose by filing the claim. While requiring a fair amount of paperwork, the Application for Adjustment of Claim does not cost you anything to file. As a best practice, we file claims on behalf of our clients at the outset of the case in order to avoid a statute of limitations issue down the road and to protect important rights.
Even if the Illinois statute of limitations for workers’ compensation has run, you may still be eligible to file for benefits. It is important to consider when you were last paid benefits by your employer and whether the benefits amount to “compensation” under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. As we discussed above, medical benefits were found to be compensation in the Legris case. If you are unsure of the timing of payments or whether you qualify under the Illinois statute of limitation workers’ compensation exemption, it is important to consult with an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer.
Workers’ compensation law is highly complex. Following procedural requirements like the statute of limitations can make the difference between receiving adequate compensation for your injuries or nothing at all. The Romaker Law Firm goes the extra yard for our clients. We timely file and meet all procedural requirements to ensure that our clients’ rights are protected. If you have previously been represented by another law firm or handled your workers’ compensation case yourself and are unsure whether you are eligible to file a claim, contact us today to discuss your rights and options.