What is the Injured Workers Benefit Fund?
A brief overview of the Injured Workers Benefit Fund, who it applies to, and a skeleton outline of how it functions.
Pursuant to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act nearly every employer in Illinois is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Some employers in Illinois break the law and do not have workers’ compensation insurance or are not up-to-date on their insurance premiums. While the Act allows for criminal penalties to be assessed against an employer who failed to provide worker’s compensation insurance those penalties do nothing to help the injured employee.
In 2005, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission established the Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund (“IWBF”) to provide workers’ compensation benefits to employees injured during the course of their employment whose employers did not have workers’ compensation insurance.
The Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund is the only way to provide benefits for injured employees when their employer does not have insurance. Unfortunately, the benefits afforded to workers under the IWBF are not entirely comparable to the benefits a worker would receive if his/her employer had adequate workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
One detriment to proceeding against the IWBF is that an employee only has “one shot” to pursue worker’s compensation benefits. Often employers dispute claims and do not pay injured workers appropriate temporary total disability benefits (off work benefits) or medical benefits. If an employer has adequate insurance, our office can file a motion for an emergency hearing and have the case heard before an Arbitrator to get these benefits instituted during the pendency of the injured workers’ case. In a case where the employer is uninsured and the worker must collect against the IWBF, proceeding on an emergency hearing is not a favorable option, as the employee only has one chance to proceed against the fund. An emergency hearing will prevent the employee from collecting a permanency award (settlement award) from the fund. Unfortunately, injured workers whose employers do not have workers’ compensation insurance coverage, must, from time to time, go without off work benefits or medical benefits.
The IWBF only pays out awards once a year, at the end of each fiscal year (currently June 30). This means that an injured worker can proceed against the IWBF in September, receive an award from an Arbitrator, and not receive payment of the award from the IWBF until the following June. This creates a long time delay for a worker, who has already suffered greatly due to the employer’s failure to carry adequate workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
The IWBF does not always pay 100% of the award. Payment of the award is subject to the availability of money in the IWBF each fiscal year. If there is insufficient money in the IWBF to pay all awards submitted, distribution is on a pro rata basis as determined by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
It is important to make sure that your attorney understands how to proceed against the IWBF, as procedurally, there are many additional steps that must be taken before a trial. Our office has experience handling these types of claims and it is imperative that an injured worker hires an attorney with experience before the IWBF.
Although there are many downfalls to the IWBF, at this time it is the only remedy for workers’ injured during the course of their employment whose employers do not have adequate workers’ compensation insurance coverage. The remedy provided by the IWBF is better than the alternative, which is no recovery at all. Please contact our office with any further questions regarding the IWBF.