If I’m Injured on the Job with No WC Insurance, do I have Rights?
Last July, legislators passed long-overdue, important changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. For the first time, injured employees have the right to sue uninsured employers for damages. The message was loud and clear: Uninsured employers will no longer be protected at the expense of injured workers and their families.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance protects an employer from being sued if an employee is injured. When coverage is present, an injured employee’s exclusive remedy against the employer is to file a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
The Act has built-in limits and guidelines regarding benefits, such as lost wages, medical care costs, compensation for permanent disability, and vocational rehabilitation for those who are unable to return to their pre-injury line of work. The benefits allowed under the Act represent the extent of the employer’s liability to an injured worker, and in most cases, prevent civil lawsuits from being filed against the employer for additional money damages.
Under the new law, an employer who knowingly fails to provide Workers’ Compensation insurance is no longer afforded such protection and can be sued for all damages resulting from your injury. Compensation for your injury is determined by a jury without the limitations otherwise imposed by the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Lawmakers also recognized the enormous financial hardship placed upon injured employees and their families when employers fail to protect their workforce. Knowingly failing to provide proper insurance coverage is now punishable as a Class Four Felony.
Furthermore, when an uninsured employer is prosecuted criminally for this offense, any fines collected are to be deposited in a special state fund earmarked for payment of compensation to injured workers with uncollectible claims against uninsured employers.