When a worker in Illinois is injured on the job, he or she often is eligible to file for workers’ compensation benefits. State law in Illinois requires most employers to provide such coverage for their eligible employees. But as we explored in a recent article, the reality is that sadly some employers’ flout the law. Whether they allow coverage to lapse, never obtained coverage, or simply fail to pay awarded benefits, injured workers are the ones who suffer the most. Such workers, however, may not be without justice or options. As discussed in a previous article, employers in violation of the law may be fined and even jailed for failure to provide coverage. More importantly, such employers make themselves vulnerable to expensive lawsuits. While the Workers’ Compensation Act sheilds employers in most cases from lawsuits by injured workers, noncompliance may negate this protection. As such, employees may be able to seek a far greater amount for their injuries than would otherwise have been paid out by workers’ compensation coverage. Another possible option for workers without coverage, and the subject of this article, is the Illinois’ Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund.
The Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund (IWBF) was created in 2005 to provide assistance to injured Illinois workers’ whose employers illegaly failed to provide workers’ compensation coverage. The IWBF is funded via fines and penalties assessed against such employers. When an eligible worker is left without coverage, he or she may be entitled to petition this fund for payment of benefits if injured. According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the IWBF has “collected over $6 million in fines and brought over 500 uninsured employers with thousands of workers into compliance…[and] has paid $5.5 million in workers' compensation benefits to 128 injured workers whose uninsured employers failed to pay them.”
However, application for benefits under the IWBF is a complicated multi-stage process. According to the commission, the first step is to make certain one is eligible to file:
An employee must first make certain their employer does not have coverage. The employer must have “failed to provide WC coverage for the employee’s injury” and “failed to pay the WC benefits due and owing to the injured employee under the final award.”
After eligibility is determined, several steps must be taken, including multiple applications and petitions to various government entities such as the State Treasurer and the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Deadlines are strict and it is vital that required procedures are met. Success can be best assured through the use of a workers compensation attorney Illinois who not only has ample experience with the process but who also knows the most effective way to win your case.
For some injured workers, the Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund has been incredibly beneficial. But it’s important to note that coverage and payment are both limited, as payment relies upon availability of money in the IWBF. When insufficient funds are available to cover all eligible claims, payment must be limited, and workers’ may not receive the amount they would otherwise have been awarded with normal workers’ compensation benefits. Similarly, the fund will not pay any penalties/interest assessed to be paid to an employee by the employer. Therefore, it’s vital that employees consult an attorney to make certain they have explored all options available to them in recovering payment for their injuries.
About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation attorney that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation lawyer,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.