Can a Person With a Pending Lawsuit Also File a Worker's Compensation Claim to Avoid the Bar of the Statute of Limitations ?

In Wren v. Reddick Community Fire Protection District, 337 Ill. App. 3d 262, 268, 785 N.E.2d 1052, 1057, 271 Ill. Dec. 858 (2003), volunteer firefighters who were injured while riding on a fire truck brought a negligence action against the fire protection district, the driver of the truck, and the driver of the other vehicle. The plaintiffs later filed claims for workers' compensation benefits shortly before the statute of limitations for those claims was due to expire. Wren, 337 Ill. App. 3d at 264, 785 N.E.2d at 1054. The trial court entered a summary judgment for the driver of the truck and the district on the basis that workers' compensation benefits which had been voluntarily paid were the exclusive remedy. The reviewing court reversed, finding that the volunteer firefighters' acceptance of unsolicited workers' compensation benefits did not bar the negligence claim and that the firefighters did not forfeit their right to sue for negligence by filing a workers' compensation claim. While a person may not recover payment from an employer by means of both a workers' compensation claim and a common law negligence action, "nothing should prohibit a cautious plaintiff with a pending lawsuit from also filing a workers' compensation claim to avoid the bar of the statute of limitations." Wren, 337 Ill. App. 3d at 268, 785 N.E.2d at 1057-58.