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Your Guide to Workers' Comp in Illinois in 2024

Written by
A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.
Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
Published June 24, 2024
9 min read
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Atticus offers free, high-quality workers' compensation advice to those injured at work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and help thousands of Americans get the benefits they deserve each year.

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If you get hurt on the job or fall ill because of a work-related incident in Illinois, workers’ compensation can offer payments to cover your lost wages and medical care while you recover. Navigating the Illinois workers’ comp process isn’t easy though. It requires paperwork, doctor’s visits, and calls with an insurance agent. While the state workers’ comp board — the Illinois Workers’ Comp Commission (IWCC) — does maintain a website, it can be tricky to navigate or understand.

Atticus created this guide to help you understand the workers’ compensation system and the benefits you’re entitled to in Illinois.


Illinois workers’ comp 101

Workers’ compensation is an insurance program governed by state laws. In Illinois, employers are required to have this type of insurance if they have even one employee — and even if that employee is part-time.1

There are a few exceptions to this rule. Sole proprietors, corporate officers, business partners, and members of limited liability companies may opt out of buying workers’ comp insurance under certain circumstances. But if you’re working for someone in the Prairie State, they most likely should have a workers’ comp policy, and it should protect you. 

Your employer should also have a workers’ compensation notice posted somewhere visible at your workplace. If you can’t find it, you can check this database from the state board

If you still can’t find your employer’s insurance info, you can report them to the IWCC Information Unit by emailing inscompquestions.wcc@illinois.gov or calling (312) 814-6611. The Unit will reach out to your employer for proof of insurance (they won’t use your name). The Unit will ensure that your employer complies with state law, which means they’ll have to put this insurance in place to protect you if they don’t already have a policy.

Chicago workers’ comp

Everything we’ve laid out applies whether you live in the Windy City or anywhere else in the state. While major Illinois cities like Chicago, Aurora, Rockford, and Joliet might have their own municipal laws or procedures, workers’ comp is the same for the whole state. The Illinois Workers’ Comp Commission also governs the program statewide.


Types of workers’ comp benefits in Illinois

Illinois workers’ comp gives you access to seven different types of benefits:

  1. Medical benefits: Workers’ comp insurance pays for all the medical care you need to treat your work-related injury or illness. It pays for doctor’s visits along with any treatments, medications, physical therapy, or surgery the workers’ comp doctor recommends. If your employer has a preferred provider program (PPP), you’ll need to see one of the doctors on that list for your medical benefits. Otherwise, you can choose your own provider.

  2. Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits: These payments help you maintain an income stream if you can’t work at all while you recover.

  3. Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits: Partial disability payments help to supplement your income if you can do light-duty work as you heal.

  4. Vocational rehabilitation/maintenance benefits: If your injury or illness will make it impossible for you to return to your previous job, you can use these benefits to find a new career. You’ll need to participate in a state-approved vocational rehabilitation program, but that can range from job search counseling to education at an accredited learning institution.

  5. Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits: If you recover as much as possible but your injury leaves you unable to do the same level of work as before your injury, you can get permanent benefits. PPD payments supplement your wages for weeks or months depending on your injury and which part of your body was affected.

  6. Permanent total disability (PTD) benefits: PTD benefits are available if you’ll never be able to work again and receive a disability rating of 100%. You also qualify if you experience the loss of use of both hands, both arms, both feet, both legs, both eyes, or any combination of two of those body parts (such as one hand and one arm).

  7. Death and survivors’ benefits: These benefits are offered to dependents or surviving family members when a worker is killed on the job.


Who’s eligible for workers’ comp in Illinois?

Under state law, you’re covered under workers’ comp in Illinois starting from your first day on the job if:2

  • Your work-related injury occurs in the state.

  • Your work is primarily located in the state.

  • Your hiring contract was created and executed in the state.

That means that even if you’re a resident of another state, you can likely file your claim in Illinois if the incident happened within state lines. If you’re not sure where you should file your claim, talking to a workers’ comp lawyer can go a long way.

There is one caveat here. You need to be an employee, not a contractor. Workers’ comp covers part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers, but you need to be an employee of the company in the eyes of the state.

How to know if you’re an employee

One easy way to check your employee status is to check your tax forms. If you get a Form W-2 from that employer during tax season, you’re classified as an employee. If you get a 1099 form (like Form 1099-NEC or Form 1099-MISC) then the company classifies you as a contractor, freelancer, or consultant.

Regardless of your job title, your legal classification determines whether you’re an employee for the sake of workers’ compensation.

Workers’ who aren’t eligible for benefits

In addition to independent contractors, there are a few types of workers who usually don’t qualify for Illinois workers' compensation coverage:

  • Farmworkers: Unfortunately, Illinois state workers’ comp law includes a special exemption for agricultural businesses.3 If you’re a farmworker hired to work for someone who had fewer than 400 total working days of labor in a quarter in the prior year, they don’t have to extend workers’ comp coverage to you.

  • Federal employees: If you work for the federal government, you’re excluded from the Illinois state workers’ comp coverage. Instead, you’re covered under the federal government’s program. Visit the Department of Labor website to file a federal claim.

  • Railroad employees: You can still get benefits after a work injury but you’re covered through a separate workers’ comp program and not the state program.


Injuries that qualify for Illinois workers’ comp

If you get sick or hurt at your workplace, you can qualify for benefits through workers’ comp. Because workers’ comp is a no-fault system, you’re covered even if you have an accident or make a mistake that results in your injury. This assumes you don’t hurt yourself on purpose and you aren’t breaking company rules or state law, like working under the influence of alcohol.

Here are a few examples of what might be covered under workers’ comp in Illinois:

You can also get workers comp for conditions that develop over time, such as back pain.

State law says you’re entitled to benefits if your injury or illness was caused in whole or in part by your work. So if you already had arthritis but repeated motions required by your job aggravated the condition, you can likely get coverage. The state even specifically lists carpal tunnel in its benefits plan.

What about injuries that don’t happen at work?

You don’t necessarily need to be at your place of work as long as you are doing your work duties. For example, if you’re driving to meet a client and get into an accident, you should be covered for any injuries because you were actively carrying out your job. However, a car crash while you’re driving home from the office won’t qualify because your commute to work isn’t part of your job duties.

If you’re not sure if your illness or injury qualifies under Illinois workers’ comp law, you can take our 3-minute intake quiz. We’ll get in touch and help you understand if you could be eligible for benefits.


How to file for workers’ compensation in Illinois

The burden is on your employer to file a claim, but you need to get the process started by reporting the work injury to your boss, manager, or supervisor.

Under state law, you have 45 days to report the incident to your employer (unless it centers around radiological exposure, in which case you have 90 days).4 That doesn’t mean you should wait. Reporting your injury as quickly as possible will start your benefits sooner and can help your claim go more smoothly.

Illinois doesn’t require that you give notice of your injury in writing, but we recommend it. You’ll remember more details about your incident and a written record can help if you run into any issues down the road.

Next, your employer has to follow state rules on how to file a workers’ comp claim with the IWCC. Your workers’ comp payments should also start within 14 days.

If they don’t or you run into problems, you can also file a claim yourself using the CompFile system. If you have a lawyer, they will help you file. If you don’t have a lawyer, follow these instructions from the IWCC, though hiring a lawyer will make the process much simpler and ensure you get the full benefits you’re entitled to.


How much workers’ comp pays in Illinois

After your claim is approved, you will start receiving payments from your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company. Payments are usually worth two-thirds of your pre-injury pay. The state uses your average weekly wage (AWW) from the past year to decide how much you get.

There are also slight differences in how much you get depending on the type of workers’ comp benefit you’re claiming. The next four sections break down how much you can expect for each of the four types of workers’ comp payments.

Benefits type

Weekly minimum

Weekly maximum

Temporary partial disability (TPD)

$373.33

$1,897.92

Temporary total disability (TTD)

$373.33 (more if you have dependents)

$1,897.92

Permanent partial disability (PPD)

$373.33

$1,897.92

Permanent total disability (PTD)

$711.72

$1,897.92

Death benefits

$711.72

$1,897.92

Further reading: How Much Workers' Comp Pays in 2024

Temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits

If you can still do some light-duty or modified-duty work, your workers’ comp checks will be worth the difference between two-thirds of your AWW and your work income. As an example, if two-thirds of your weekly pay is $1,000 and you’re currently earning $400 each week through light-duty work, your workers’ comp checks will be worth $600 per week.

From January 2024 to July 2024, TPD pays a minimum of $373.33 per week and a maximum of $1,897.92 per week.

Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits

If you can’t work at all because of your work injury, you’ll get checks worth two-thirds of your AWW. The state does set minimum and maximum payments, which change every six months.

From January 2024 to July 2024, the minimum TTD payment is $373.33 per week and the maximum is $1,897.92 per week.

The minimum also changes if you have a spouse and children, with the minimum rising to $560 if you have four or more children. You can find the full breakdowns here.

Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits

PPD benefits are paid if you recover as much as possible from your injury and can still work, but you can’t return to your previous job or level of work. The pay rate is two-thirds of your pre-injury AWW minus your current weekly income.

The maximum possible payment is generally $1,024.87 if you didn’t have an amputation and $1,897.92 if you did have an amputation.

How long these benefits last is a bit more complicated. State law sets a maximum number of weeks that you can receive benefits for certain injuries and that maximum multiplied by your disability rating is usually how long your benefits last. Learn more about how long permanent disability lasts in Illinois.

Permanent total disability (PTD) benefits

PTD pays you a benefit worth two-thirds of your pre-injury AWW for the rest of your life. For benefits starting between January 2024 and July 2024, the minimum PTD benefit is $711.72 and the maximum is $1,897.92.


When workers’ comp payments start in Illinois

Illinois workers’ comp doesn’t start paying until after you pass a waiting period of three working days. You can still meet the waiting period if you use sick days or vacation days to cover that gap. The Paid Leave for All Workers Act that went into effect at the start of 2024 will also help ensure you have paid time off to cover the waiting period.

As long as that waiting period is met, your employer is required to make your first payment within 14 days of receiving notice of your injury.

Read more about when workers’ comp starts paying in Illinois.


How long workers’ comp lasts in Illinois

The length of time you can expect to collect benefits depends on a few factors: your specific injury or illness, how long it takes you to recover, and your disability rating if you’re receiving permanent benefits.

For the most part, your benefits last until you:

If you reach MMI but still can’t return to work, you can receive permanent disability benefits. Permanent benefits pay for a set number of weeks based on the part of your body that was injured. For example, a hand injury that results in permanent loss of use pays benefits for up to 205 weeks. That maximum is multiplied by the disability rating you receive from your doctor. So a rating of 60% for a hand injury would result in 123 weeks of permanent benefits (205 x 60%).

Learn more in our full guide to how long benefits last in Illinois.


Can you work while on workers’ comp in Illinois?

That depends. The main thing to know is that you need to follow your doctor’s orders. If they say you can’t work, doing so could mean losing your workers’ comp benefits.

In some cases, your workers’ comp doctor will say you can go back to work in a modified or light-duty role. For example, they may say you can only lift up to 15 pounds or can’t spend more than 30 minutes on your feet.

Not all employers can make accommodations for light-duty work that meets your doctor’s requirements, but if yours can then you must do that work to continue receiving workers’ comp. Turning down eligible work will mean losing benefits.

Your employer is allowed to pay you less than your usual wages for light-duty work, but that’s where your workers’ comp benefits come in to supplement your income.


Do you need a workers comp lawyer?

Not necessarily, but the truth is that getting a workers’ comp lawyer is free to start and having a set of professional eyes on your claim can only help.

Ideally, you’ll report an injury to your employer, they’ll tap into their existing policy, and you’ll get the full benefits you deserve quickly and smoothly. But many workers run into issues or confusion. If you have questions about how to file your claim, how much payments should be, why the insurance company denied coverage, or how to get more independent medical care, a lawyer can help. They can also negotiate a fair settlement for you.

Plus, when you hire an Illinois workers’ comp lawyer, they only get paid if (and after) you get a settlement. You don’t have to pay anything upfront and the Illinois Workers’ Comp Commission caps their fee at 20% of what you get. Since the average settlement with a lawyer is multiple times larger than what people get on their own, your payment after the fee is still more than you’d have gotten without a lawyer.

Atticus is a nationwide law firm with local lawyers in Illinois. If you want to explore working with a lawyer who specializes in workers’ comp, start with our 3-minute intake quiz. This is a no-commitment way to look into your options. Our team will reach out to answer your questions and connect you with one of our lawyers if you’re interested.

Settle your workers' comp claim today.


Related resources:

5 Common Questions About Workers’ Comp Lawyers

A hand draw portrait of a smiling, helpful lawyer.
By Victoria Muñoz

How Much a Workers’ Comp Lawyer Costs in Every State

A hand draw portrait of a smiling, helpful lawyer.
By Victoria Muñoz

See what you qualify for

How long ago did you get an injury or illness at work?

References

  1. 1.
    Workers' Compensation Insurance: It's the LAW.,” Illinois Workers’ Comp Commission, accessed June 24, 2024, https://iwcc.illinois.gov/about/insurance.html.
  2. 2.
    Workers' Compensation Insurance: It's the LAW.,” Illinois Workers’ Comp Commission, accessed June 24, 2024, https://iwcc.illinois.gov/about/insurance.html.
  3. 3.
  4. 4.
    HANDBOOK ON WORKERS’ COMPENSATION AND OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES,” Illinois Workers’ Comp Commission, accessed June 24, 2024, https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/iwcc/Documents/handbook.pdf.
A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.

Victoria Muñoz

Lead Attorney

Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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