Time to File

The Elements of an Illinois Workers' Compensation Claim

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Injured workers in Illinois generally have 3 years to file an “Application for Adjustment of Claim” with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission if no benefits have been paid or, if benefits have been paid, 2 years from the last date of payment.

You can receive workers’ compensation benefits from your employer or their insurance company without ever filing anything with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

However, filing an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Commission is necessary if you need the Commission to resolve a dispute with your claim. You can find a copy of this form on the Commission’s  website. IWCC PDF

Moreover, if the Application for Adjustment of Claim has not been filed within the required time – similar to a “statute of limitations” – your claim will be barred (not allowed) and you will not be eligible to receive any benefits. 

Time to File in Most Cases

Generally, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act requires you to file the Application for Adjustment of Claim within:

  • 3 years, if no compensation has been paid; or
  • 2 years after the date you were last paid compensation. 

820 ILCS 305/6(d) Illinois General AssemblyIWCC PDF.

The same time requirements apply to cases resulting in death:

If in any case except one where the injury was caused by exposure to radiological materials or equipment or asbestos, the accidental injury results in death application for compensation for death may be filed with the Commission within 3 years after the date of death where no compensation has been paid or within 2 years after the date of the last payment of compensation where any has been paid, whichever shall be later, but not thereafter.

820 ILCS 305/6(d) Illinois General AssemblyIWCC PDF.

The Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act similarly provides:

In any case, other than injury or death caused by exposure to radiological materials or equipment or asbestos, unless application for compensation is filed with the Commission within 3 years after the date of the disablement, where no compensation has been paid, or within 2 years after the date of the last payment of compensation, where any has been paid, whichever shall be later, the right to file such application shall be barred.

If the occupational disease results in death, application for compensation for death may be filed with the Commission within 3 years after the date of death where no compensation has been paid, or within 3 years after the last payment of compensation, where any has been paid, whichever is later, but not thereafter.

820 ILCS 310/6(c) Illinois General Assembly.

In Legris v. Industrial Commission, 323 Ill. App. 3d 789 (2001) Google Scholar | Illinois Courts, the Illinois Appellate Court found that the reference in section 6(d) to “compensation” includes the payment of both disability and medical benefits.

Time to File for Injuries Caused by Exposure to Radiological Materials or Equipment or Asbestos

Injured workers are allowed longer time to file the Application for Adjustment of Claim if your “injury was caused by exposure to radiological materials or equipment or asbestos.” In these cases, you must file within 25 years of the last day you were “employed in an environment of hazardous radiological activity or asbestos.” 820 ILCS 305/6(d) Illinois General AssemblyIWCC PDF.

The same time requirements apply to cases resulting in death:

If an accidental injury caused by exposure to radiological material or equipment or asbestos results in death within 25 years after the last day that the employee was so exposed application for compensation for death may be filed with the Commission within 3 years after the date of death, where no compensation has been paid, or within 2 years after the date of the last payment of compensation where any has been paid, whichever shall be later, but not thereafter.

820 ILCS 305/6(d) Illinois General AssemblyIWCC PDF.

The Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act similarly provides:

In cases of disability caused by exposure to radiological materials or equipment or asbestos, unless application for compensation is filed with the Commission within 25 years after the employee was so exposed, the right to file such application shall be barred.

In cases of death occurring within 25 years from the last exposure to radiological material or equipment or asbestos, application for compensation must be filed within 3 years of death where no compensation has been paid, or within 3 years, after the date of the last payment where any has been paid, but not thereafter.

820 ILCS 310/6(c) Illinois General Assembly.

Unfortunately, the provision of 25 years for asbestos exposure claims has proven to be insufficient. In Folta v. Ferro Engineering,  2015 IL 118070 Google Scholar | Illinois Courts PDF, a worker who was exposed to asbestos was diagnosed with mesothelioma 41 years after the date of his last exposure. Because of section 6(d) of the Act, workers’ compensation benefits were not available and the worker filed a civil lawsuit against his employer for negligence. Generally, the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act and Occupational Diseases Act would prevent such a lawsuit because the injury and disease arises out of and in the course of employment.

In a split decision, the Illinois Supreme Court rejected the worker’s argument that the exclusive remedy provision did not apply to his lawsuit because no compensation was possibly available to him due to the 25-year limitation. As the dissent noted, this decision “completely barred [the worker] from seeking any compensation from his former employer for his asbestos-related disease.”

Time for File in Cases of Coal Miners Pneumoconiosis (Black Lung Disease)

Injured workers are also allowed longer time to file an Application for Adjustment of claim for coal miners pneumoconiosis under the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act:

Effective July 1, 1973 in cases of disability caused by coal miners pneumoconiosis unless application for compensation is filed with the Commission within 5 years after the employee was last exposed where no compensation has been paid, or within 5 years after the last payment of compensation where any has been paid, the right to file such application shall be barred.

820 ILCS 310/6(c) Illinois General Assembly.

In Carter v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2014 IL App (5th) 130151WC Google Scholar | Illinois Courts PDF, the Appellate Court found that the 5-year limitation period for coal miners pneumoconiosis did not apply to a coal miner’s claim for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Rather, the general 3-year period applied.

Time for Filing Tolled While Receiving Certain Group Health Benefits

If you missed the general filing deadline, you may be in luck if you received benefits under a group health plan covering non-occupational disabilities that 1) was paid or partially paid for by your employer; and 2) should not have been payable if you had a valid workers’ compensation claim. “In such event, the period of time for giving notice of accidental injury and filing application for adjustment of claim does not commence to run until the termination of such payments.” 820 ILCS 305/8(j) Illinois General AssemblyIWCC PDF.

Further reading:

PPG Industries v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2014 IL App (4th) 130698WC (finding that section 6(d) of the Act, which sets forth a 3 year limitation for the filing of workers’ compensation claims, does not act as a bar to the presentation of evidence of work activities that took place more than 3 years prior to the date of accident or manifestation date in a repetitive trauma case) Google Scholar | Illinois Courts PDF.

This article does not provide legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.