When Injuries Worsen: Reopening a Closed Workers’ Compensation Claim

Posted on August 18, 2021

When a workers’ compensation claim is closed, it may be reopened under certain conditions such as work-related injuries, disabilities, or occupational illnesses and diseases that get significantly worse.

Reopening Closed Workers’ Compensation Claims

Once a workers’ compensation claim is fully paid out in benefits or paid through a settlement award, it is officially closed by the state. In most cases, workers with closed workers’ comp claims are not entitled to collect further benefits related to that particular injury. However, depending on state guidelines, some states allow exceptions that permit claims to be reopened.

Although guidelines vary state to state, in most states a closed claim may be reopened under certain conditions. The most common reason is a worsening health condition related to the same work-related injury, disability, or occupational illness or disease. In such cases, state officials usually investigate the request and determine how the original case was resolved and the date it was closed. 

In Illinois cases, Chicago workers’ comp lawyers can review the claim, show proof of worsening conditions, and work with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) to reopen the claim. Under IWCC guidelines for workers’ compensation claims, it is possible to reopen a closed workers’ comp claim with proof of the following conditions:

  • The original injury or disability significantly worsens
  • Occupational illness or disease caused by the injury worsens
  • A worker’s employer or insurance company commits fraud
  • The workers’ comp judge makes a factual or legal error
  • The workers’ comp judge issues an award or order after a hearing
  • A settlement agreement remains open

If a workers’ compensation settlement agreement remains open or provides for installment payments, a worker has the right to collect additional workers’ compensation benefits. In Illinois cases, IWCC allows a case to be reopened within 30 months of a settlement approval unless the worker signs a waiver.

Typically, settlement agreements are made between a claimant or claimant’s workers’ comp lawyers near me and an insurance company. It’s common for insurance companies to insist on a “full and final” settlement in exchange for a lump-sum payment. This usually requires a claimant to sign a waiver agreeing to give up his/her right to make any future claims related to the same workplace injury, disability, or occupational illness or disease. When a waiver is signed, workers’ comp lawyers would have to prove that the insurance company committed fraud to reopen the claim.