Can I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Illinois?
A common question I am asked by prospective clients is – “Can I file a workers’ compensation claim in Illinois?” In some situations an injured worker can file a claim in Illinois even if the injury occurred in a different state. Illinois has one of the more employee-friendly workers’ compensation laws in the country. Thus, it is in the best interest of injured workers to file a claim in Illinois if the opportunity arises. Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, Illinois jurisdiction exists if:
- the injury occurs in Illinois;
- the contract of hire is made within the State of Illinois; or
- the employment of the claimant is principally located in Illinois.
The first question to ask is – Where did the injury occur? If the work injury occurred in Illinois, then Illinois jurisdiction exists. Thus, a truck driver who is injured in a motor vehicle accident while passing through Illinois or a flight attendant who is injured while on a layover at O’Hare can file an Illinois claim, regardless of where they were hired or where they are principally employed.
Illinois jurisdiction is also proper if the contract of hire was made in Illinois. In Mahoney v. The Industrial Commission, the claimant was hired by United Airlines in Chicago, Illinois as a serviceman in 1969. Twenty-four years later the claimant voluntarily transferred to United’s facility at Orlando International Airport in Florida. The claimant sustained work injuries in 1999 and 2001 while working in Florida and filed workers’ compensation claim in Illinois. The Court found that the original Illinois contract for hire was still in effect. Therefore, he was able to pursue Illinois workers’ compensation benefits.
When determining whether Illinois has jurisdiction via contract of hire, the Courts will examine whether the “last act of hire” occurred in Illinois. The Courts have held that Illinois jurisdiction exists when the claimant accepted the out of state job over the phone, while she was physically in Illinois. In this case, the claimant’s verbal acceptance of the job while in Illinois served as the “last act of hire.”
Often times however, the hiring process occurs in more than one state and it may not be clear when the “last act of hire” occurred. For example, many job offers are contingent on the prospective employee passing a drug test. Courts have also deemed such drug testing as the “last act of hire.” Thus, even if the claimant accepts the job offer while he or she is physically in Illinois, if the drug testing is done in Indiana, the courts will likely find that the “last act of hire” occurred in Indiana.
Determining proper jurisdiction can be a complicated, fact intensive analysis. If your workers’ compensation benefits are being denied on the basis of jurisdiction, it is important that you contact an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation.