The Illinois workers’ compensation system, much like systems across the country, was designed to provide injured workers with a mechanism for recovery from injury that was less costly and faster than litigation. Before the system was created, injured employees whose employers did not take responsibility for their injuries had to take the employer to court and prove that it was liable before they were able to obtain benefits. Such a system was heavily in the employer’s favor as most employees could not afford to fight their employer in court and receive care for their injuries at the same time. After the creation of the workers’ compensation system, employees who were injured while performing the duties of their position were able to obtain immediate care at the expense of their employer. One area into which this system extends is with regard to death benefits.
“Death Benefits,” or more aptly, Survivors’ Benefits
Unlike lawsuits under wrongful death statutes, families of workers who are killed while on the job must seek any recovery for their loss under Illinois’ workers’ compensation statutes. This is because the family of the worker essentially steps into the place of their loved one and accepts benefits in his or her stead. Not all family members are entitled to survivors’ benefits, however, as the statute specifies exactly who may recover for the loss. According to Illinois law, full benefits are payable to the spouse and/or children of the deceased worker. These benefits continue indefinitely until the spouse remarries, or the children reach a certain age (with an exception for dependents who are physically or mentally disabled). If the worker has no spouse or children, the survivors’ benefits can be payable to any dependent parents, grandparents, or other heirs who were “at least 50% dependent” on the employee at the time of his or her death.
As stated previously, the workers’ compensation system is designed to ensure that workers receive prompt and effective care for injuries, without regard to who was at fault for the incident causing the injury. This system protects employers as much as employees and was designed to provide as much of a “win-win” situation as possible whenever a traumatic event occurs in the workplace. Employers benefit from less time they must operate without the injured employee because faster treatment often leads to less time the employee is out of work. Further, both parties are encouraged to continue to move forward after an incident rather than become embroiled in protracted litigation to prove who or what was at fault for the accident. This system can provide closure in the event of an employee’s death for the employer as well as the survivors by allowing for a mechanism through which the circumstances surrounding a loved one’s death is neither ignored nor drawn out unnecessarily.
Need a guide?
Even though the workers’ compensation system was designed to allow for fairly swift recovery in the event a loved one is injured or killed in the workplace, there are rules that must be followed in order for a survivor to recover the benefits to which they are entitled. If you or a loved one has been injured in the workplace and you have questions about recovering against an employer, call the Law Offices of Robert T. Edens, P.C. in Antioch today. Our attorneys have years of experience fighting to protect workers and ensure that they receive what they are owed quickly, despite an employer’s recalcitrance.