January 2008

In Illinois Workers’ Compensation cases the trial judge is called an arbitrator. The arbitrator is a full time employee of the State of Illinois. Her job is to conduct workers’ compensation trials, approve workers comp settlement contracts and rule on motions. She is usually assigned to one or two arbitration sites in the State of Illinois. For instance, in Central Illinois there are arbitration sites in Peoria, Bloomington, Springfield, Urbana, Clinton and Decatur. Cases are assigned to a specific site which is determined according to the location of the accident. For example, if you are injured in Champaign, but live in Lincoln, your case will be assigned to Urbana. The arbitrator remains responsible for all workmans compensation cases at her sites as long as she is assigned to the location. If she is transferred, then the new arbitrator hears your case.

Most arbitrators are lawyers, however, they do not have be a lawyer. Some have backgrounds in labor relations or insurance.

The arbitrator will hear the testimony in the trial, read the medical records and any of the doctors’ testimony, and write a decision in your case. This will usually take 60 days. Both sides have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission if they disagree with the decision in any respect. More about appeals later.


Many times an insurance company will send an injured worker to an Independent Medical Exam. The insurance company pays a doctor to examine the injured worker and provides a written opinion regarding the diagnosis, treatment needed and whether the work injury caused the condition. If the doctor rules against the worker, then the workers compensation insurance company will use this to deny Workers’ Compensation.

Often the injured worker will have to travel out of town to visit the doctor. The insurance company must pay mileage to the doctor and back. In Illinois, the injured worker must attend the exam or the arbitrator has the authority to dismiss the case or deny compensation.

If you have questions regarding IME exams please feel free to give Illinois workers compensation attorney Dirk May a call at309-827-4371.

In Illinois, if you are injured and cannot return to your old job and can no longer earn the same amount you did before you were hurt you may be eligible for a wage differential.

A wage differential is 66% of the difference between what you used to earn and what you can now earn. You must prove your injury caused your inability to perform your old job. You also must prove your new job effectively uses all your capabilities. In other words, if you return as a store greeter but could work as a school teacher the Worker’s Compensation insurance company will argue they do not have to subsidize your work choice.

Sometimes you have difficulty finding a new job. If that happens you may have to rely on a vocational expert to determine what wage you could earn, or you may have to request vocational assistance from the Worker’s Compensation insurance company.

More later about what happens if you cannot return to work at all.