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Workers' Compensation Hearings for Firefighters

Chicago Lawyers Helping Injured First Responders

As a firefighter in Illinois, you put your life on the line every day. Firefighters are at risk of burn injuries, disfigurement, broken bones, smoke inhalation injuries, heart attacks, traumatic brain injury, paralysis, and other catastrophic or fatal injuries. Each state has its own workers’ compensation system. Generally, these systems are complicated and intricate, and may require claims to be decided in workers’ compensation hearings for firefighters. It's important, as a firefighter who needs benefits, to retain a seasoned Chicago workers’ compensation attorney. There are restrictions on bringing a workers’ compensation claim if you’re a firefighter who works within Chicago. However, firefighters in other municipalities are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for work-related injuries in the same way that workers in other industries are.

Workers’ Compensation Hearings for Firefighters

Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, City of Chicago firefighters are ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits unless they sustain serious, permanent disfigurement to certain parts of their bodies because of work-related burns. For example, if you sustained third-degree burns on your face while firefighting for the Chicago Fire Department, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits to compensate for those injuries. However, if you are an Illinois firefighter for a municipality outside of Chicago, you will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for any work-related injuries as a firefighter.

Injured firefighters should file an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission even if they are already receiving paid benefits for their injuries sustained while firefighting. Once the claim is on file, status hearings will be scheduled and will recur every three months. However, you will only request a trial if you have a dispute with your employers’ workers’ compensation insurer. For instance, you may need a hearing if your employer’s insurer stops paying benefits abruptly or refuses to pay certain benefits, such as permanent disability pay.

What Happens at Workers’ Compensation hearings?

Workers’ compensation hearings are held before an arbitrator, who will listen to arguments and evidence from both sides. In a firefighter’s claim, the arbitrator may hear testimony from doctors and witnesses, as well as review medical records and IME reports. Firefighters may also testify about the extent to which their injuries have impacted their lives. For instance, if your employer's insurer will not authorize and pay for a revision surgery related to your scars, you could ask for a trial on this issue. In that case, your lawyer must understand how to present your need for surgery in a compelling way.

In some cases, the insurer may dispute how to calculate an item of loss, such as temporary and total disability pay, for a firefighter. The municipality that employs you may not calculate your average weekly wage accurately, or according to the method that provides you with the greatest benefits. The arbitrator may urge the parties to come to a settlement before or during the trial. For example, if you sustain disfigurement to a particular part of your body and achieve maximum medical improvement, you and the insurer may be urged to come to a settlement about the value of the disfigurement. Generally, an arbitrator does not make a decision immediately at the hearing. Rather, the hearing is held, and then both sides wait for the arbitrator to render a decision within 60 days.

Either side can appeal the arbitrator’s decision by petitioning the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. A three-commissioner panel will review the petition and make a determination. While the parties may seek an appeal in court, obtaining a favorable decision in the appellate process is much more challenging. Take a proactive approach and retain an attorney to prepare for your initial claims and hearing instead of trying to remedy the situation after problems develop.

Consult a Seasoned Lawyer in Chicago

Workers’ compensation hearings for firefighters require diligent preparation. You should meet with the seasoned Chicago attorneys of Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca to discuss your claim. We represent firefighters in Rockford, Champaign, Aurora and Quincy in addition to Winnebago, Sangamon, Kane, Cook, and Adams Counties. Call us at 800-444-1525 or 312-263-6330 or complete our online form.