Workers’ Compensation Application of Act

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Explained

Chapter 2 – Scope and Application of the Act

This chapter discusses the purpose and the scope of the workers’ compensation act.  It also covers the common exclusions for certain classes of employees who are not automatically entitled to compensation for work injuries.

1.  Purpose for the Workers’ Compensation Act

The Workers’ Compensation Act was enacted to provide a reasonable “no-fault” based system of compensation for persons injured at work. It was a compromise between workers and employers. Workers gave up the right to obtain full compensation for injuries caused by the carelessness of their employers. In return, they receive partial compensation for their injuries, regardless of who, even the injured employee themselves, may have been at fault for the accident. On the employers’ side of this “grand bargain” they gave up the right to have liability determined on the basis of fault and in return received the benefit of a system which provides a comparatively smaller amount of compensation to injured workers.  You can learn more about this in our article Industry Can Pay Them Now or We Must Pay Them Later.

2.  To Whom Does the Act Apply

The Illinois Act applies to injured employees who fall into at least one of the following categories set forth in section 1(b)2 of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. (820 ILCS 305/1(b)2):

  • The employee was injured in the State of Illinois;
  • The employee was injured outside of the state, but was hired for their job in the State of Illinois;
  • An employee that does not meet either of the two categories above, but whose job duties were principally performed while in the State of Illinois.

There are some specific and detailed requirements that apply when determining if an employee was hired in the State of Illinois. They are far too complicated to address here. The determination about whether an employee’s job duties were principally performed in the State of Illinois is complex as well, but it is clear that their job duties required they be in the State of Illinois the vast majority of the time in order to be covered by the Illinois Act.

Virtually all types of employment are covered under the workers’ compensation act. However, there are a few notable exceptions:

  • Business owners are normally not covered under the Act unless they make an explicit election to be covered, such as buying insurance to cover themselves;
  • Agricultural employees of small farms are not covered, although those with sufficient employees and number of hours worked are covered.
  • Household domestic employees are not covered unless there are a sufficient number of employees and hours worked to come within the provisions.

Regardless of the above provisions, if the employer has purchased workers’ compensation insurance coverage to provide coverage to such non-covered employees then such employees are entitled to coverage under the Act.

3.Time Limit to Make a Claim

You have three years from the date of accident to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Filing a claim requires having filed an “Application For Adjustment of Claim” with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. It is not sufficient to have simply told your employer or the insurance carrier about your injury. There are longer time limits applicable to Asbestos and radiation exposure.

There are some provisions for filing a claim after the three-year period has passed, such as when an employee continues to receive “compensation” they may have up to two years after the last payment of “compensation” to file a claim. It is not a good idea to rely on this extension period without first discussing it with an attorney. Laws can change and potentially leave you without rights to compensation benefits if you have not filed the claim within the three-year period.

On a final note, the reader is cautioned that the law also requires an injured employee give the employer notice of their accident within 45 days. This notice provision is discussed in Chapter of this Article, Workers’ Compensation Chapter 5 – Notice.


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