Being injured on the job is one of the most stressful things that can happen to the average American.

Navigating the unique legal and procedural area of Workers’ Compensation law — a figurative “island unto itself” — is a rather daunting task that requires a great deal of expertise and compassion.

In order to understand this area of the law, it is perhaps most useful, as is the case with most things in life, to start at the beginning. Before we even get into the basics of matters such as who is “covered” under the Workers Compensation Act (a thick stack of laws that begins with 820 ILCS 305/1), a sound understanding begins with a question that many personal injury and workers comp attorneys field right from the outset — do you file a lawsuit, a workers’ comp claim, or both?

The short answer is, in most circumstances, you have to “pick a side,” and, in many situations, that “side” is chosen for you. This is what is known as the “exclusive remedy” provision. The entire concept can be summarized in language from the 1981 Illinois First District Court of Appeals case of Brooks v. Carter (102 Ill. App. 3d 635), where the Court noted that:

“[a] common law action by an employee against a negligent co-employee is barred if the injuries were accidental and arose out of and in the course of the employment.”

The words “arising out of” refer to the origin or cause of the accident and presuppose a causal connection between the employment and the accidental injury. In order for an injury to come within the Act, it must have had an origin in some risk connected with, or incidental to, the employment, so that there is a causal connection between the employment and the injury.”

Translating this dense language into plain English, if you are injured at work and the injury “arises out of” your employment (i.e. if there’s a causal connection between the injury and your job), then you cannot sue your employer or a co-employee and the only remedy is to file a workers comp claim with the Illinois Industrial Commission.

So, for example, if a factory worker loses a finger in a piece of machinery, then he or she can’t turn around and sue the company for failing to properly maintain the machine that took the worker’s finger — their “exclusive remedy” would be to file a worker’s comp claim.

However, on the other hand, let’s say you are a truck driver driving in heavy traffic during your shift that gets rear-ended by a distracted driver talking on their cellphone. Certainly, it is to be expected that a car accident is a pretty foreseeable risk of driving a truck, but what about the other driver? They’re not an employee of your company, and they shouldn’t be allowed to wiggle out of liability because they had the good fortune of hitting a truck driver on the job, should they?

These situations are actually quite common, and they are what are commonly known in the industry as a “third party action” — a situation where there is potential liability to the employer in a workers comp claim, as well as a lawsuit sounding in negligence against the driver of the car.

Now, unfortunately, there isn’t really a clear line as pertains to which of the two is responsible for how much — after a workers comp case and a third party action have concluded, attorneys can spend days, if not weeks, on end arguing over who is responsible for things such as “set offs” over the bottom line dollar figure, but the important thing to always keep in mind is a keen attention to the details.

Keeping track of who is responsible for what should be the first thing that you and your attorney discuss if you are unfortunately injured on the job.

You can contact us here 24/7/365 (and we really mean that as we will answer our phone) if you have any questions and to learn how we may be able to help you in the unfortunate event of an accident that caused you or your family or friends injuries – in particular, you will find that we listen, take your phone calls and e-mails (and even text messages!).

We would be honored to help you with your matters – large or small.

Contact me today at 312-888-6058 for help with your Personal Injury Lawsuit or Workers Comp Claim.

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