An Illinois bus driver recently sued his former employer after he was terminated from his employment while still recovering from a job-related injury. His suit was dismissed because he did not rely exclusively on anticipated workers’ compensation benefits. A worker compensation attorney in Woodstock can point to this case as a valuable illustration of the complicated issues that arise in many work situations.
Injury on the bus route
Richard Dale, a bus driver in Illinois, injured his shoulder at work in July 2009 and filed a claim for temporary disability. According to the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act, he was entitled to the standard allotment of 12 weeks of leave to recover from his work-related injury. He was unable to recover and return to work during this period. At the end of his leave, he was terminated from his job. He sued his employer, claiming that he was fired because his workers’ compensation claim was delayed and he was unable to obtain the surgical treatment he needed to come back to work.
A failed lawsuit
Dale’s case was sent to the Illinois Appellate Court, where it was discovered that he had personally declined the surgical treatment recommended by his doctor while waiting for Illinois workers’ compensation approval. The court ruled that he had not made proper use of workers’ compensation benefits and was not entitled to sue for further damages. The lawsuit was dismissed.
Every worker compensation attorney in Woodstock knows that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act is designed to help an injured worker recover after an accident or illness. It is easy for employees to forget a lesser known fact: this legislation is also designed to protect employers against lawsuits by workers. The Act contains a set of exclusivity provisions that require an employee hurt on the job to benefit only from workers’ compensation during the recovery process. The employee generally cannot seek additional compensation through a lawsuit.
How can workers protect themselves?
A worker compensation attorney in Woodstock would recommend all of the following steps to injured employees:
- Seek proper medical care even if approval is delayed.
- Document all work-related injuries and symptoms.
- Do not withhold any information from employers, arbitrators or doctors.
The Workers’ Compensation Act cuts both ways, prohibiting many forms of legal action by accident victims. Workers should know about the exclusivity provisions of the Act and learn how to protect themselves.
Illinois workers’ compensation law can be a complex field to navigate. Injured workers may wish to contact a personal injury attorney to find out more about their options.