Does your employer really not have Illinois worker' compensation insurance?

It’s a felony in the state of Illinois to not carry workers’ compensation insurance if you have any employees.  Doesn’t matter if they are full time or part time or when they started.

We’ve seen less and less employers that are willing to break the law because the penalties for doing so are really stiff. It still happens of course, but not as often.

What we are seeing an uptick of is an employer telling their employees that they do not have workers’ compensation insurance when in fact they really do.

They do this of course to discourage employees and try and get you to put your medical care through your group insurance plan.  They are only looking out for themselves when they do this.   Other times they falsely promise to pay you for any out of pocket expenses or missed time if you tell the doctor that you got hurt at home or somewhere else.  It’s all a scam to screw you over.

The good news is that we can quickly and anonymously check to see if your employer does in fact have insurance.  All we need is their Federal Tax ID number or their business name and we can look in to a database that stores all of that information.  You’d be surprised how many employers truly do have coverage, but just choose to lie to their employees instead of doing the right thing.

There are still options if there isn’t insurance coverage, but you’ll find that it’s there more often than not, even when they tell you otherwise.

 

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An Illinois Workers' Compensation Riddle?

I like a good riddle.  See if you can figure out this one.

Q. Why did the Chicago workers’ compensation attorney not file the case even though the client hired him one month ago?????

A. To get to the other side.  No, wait, that ‘s the answer to why did the chicken cross the road. 

The real answer as to why the attorney didn’t file the case is that it costs too much.  Wait, that’s wrong too, filing an application for adjustment of claim is free.

So why didn’t the lawyer file?  There is absolutely, positively no good reason other that this lawyer is incredibly lazy beyond comprehension. 

In the meantime, the caller to my office, who told me that her lawyer had yet to file the case, is being evicted from her house as she hasn’t received any benefits yet.  There’s no good reason for not having received benefits other than the attorney being a lazy bum.

She asked me what we could do to solve her problem.  Unfortunately we can’t build a time machine and file the case a month ago.  Had that happened then it’s likely benefits would be coming in and the caller wouldn’t be facing an eviction.  So all we can do now is file the case and a petition for immediate hearing, but the reality is that we are probably 60-90 days away from getting in to court if she hires us today.  She didn’t like that answer, but it’s the honest one.

When you hire a lawyer, you will sign a couple of documents.  One of them is called the application for adjustment of claim.  It’s the paperwork that officially files your case with the State.  It gets file stamped and you should receive a copy.  Quite honestly, the case number should probably be on any piece of correspondence you get regarding your case.

If you hire a lawyer on Monday and ten days later they don’t have a filed copy of your document then you probably hired the wrong firm.  The reality is that cases should get filed within 24 hours.  And if it’s a month later and the case hasn’t been filed, you should bang your head against the wall and then go find a new attorney.  Actually you should bang your lawyer’s head against the wall and then go find a new attorney.

 

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Five benefits you can get after a work injury in Illinois

When you file a claim for workers' compensation, it’s similar to filling a claim with your health insurance. It's not a lawsuit, and in fact, Illinois law says that you can't sue your employer for an injury. You have to file a claim in order to get compensation, which is typically paid by your employer’s insurance carrier. Here are some benefits available under this system.

 

1. Medical. We all know that health care costs can add up quickly. When you're hurt, you don't want to worry about what you can afford -- you want to focus on getting better. In Illinois, your medical bills should be completely covered after a work-related injury. You shouldn’t have any out-of-pocket expenses, not even a co-pay. The times when this isn’t true is when you decide to undergo alternative treatment or something that isn’t considered reasonable. Also, if it’s not considered related to your injury, it might not be covered. That said, don’t take the insurance company’s word for it. They often try to deny treatment that is reasonable and an experienced lawyer can work to get it approved.

 

2. Lost wages. If your injury causes you to miss work, whether it’s a week or six months, then your benefits should include payment for part of your lost wages. The law in Illinois says that you should receive 2/3 of your “average weekly wage.” This average is based on your wages over the past year. It can be a straightforward calculation if your wages are straightforward. However, if you work on commission, tips or if your pay is inconsistent, then you might need help (from an attorney, not the insurer) figuring out the correct amount. There is a short waiting period, as well. You aren’t eligible for payments until you miss at least three days of work. This benefit kicks in on the fourth day. If you end up missing more than seven days, however, you will be paid retroactively for those first three.

 

3. Permanency. At the end of your claim, you might receive a settlement (or lump sum after trial if settlement doesn’t work) to compensate you for the fact that your injury is permanent or the likelihood that you may have medical expenses in the future. After settlement, you no longer get benefits through workers’ compensation. So a settlement essentially pays you to agree to close your claim. Don’t settle until you are fully recovered. And be aware that the insurance company will try and settle for less than your case is worth.

 

4. Job training. If your injury left you unable to continue in your current line of work, you can ask the insurance company to pay for retraining. This should hopefully allow you to get back into the workforce in a new position. The availability of this benefit depends on how your injury affects you, what job you held at the time you were injured and what jobs you are able to do going forward. As with many types of benefits, the insurance company isn’t likely to offer this out of the goodness of their hearts. Make sure to go after what you want.

 

5. Death benefits. If lost your spouse because of a work injury, there are benefits available to you.  These are called death benefits, and they are payable to the spouse, minor children and/or other dependents of the worker. Some amount of death benefits should be available in every case where a death is caused by and related to the worker’s job duties. Funeral expenses and any related medical bills should be covered. In addition, you should receive an amount that is meant to compensate you for your loss. In our experience, this can be up to $500,000 or more. The workers’ compensation system isn’t perfect, but in Illinois it’s pretty good. In many cases, what you get is a good alternative to a traditional court case, which can take a long time and end up costing more.

 

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Will Bruce Rauner Screw Illinois Injured Workers?

Normally I focus my postings on cases or the law because my goal is to help you, the worker.  Knowledge is power and there is a ton of bad information out there.

 

But today’s post is on Governor elect, Bruce Rauner and some of the things I’ve been reading about his desire to revamp the Illinois workers’ compensation system.

 

We have had two overhauls in the last 10 years, the most recent being drastic changes that happened three years ago.  The amount spent per case has been drastically reduced, although insurance companies haven’t fully passed on their savings to businesses (although rates are down over 18%, saving Illinois businesses more than $450 million).

 

What I’ve been reading and hearing is that Governor Rauner wants to reduce the Illinois minimum wage.  And if he keeps it or raises it, it will only be if we can gut the workers’ compensation system although he hasn’t offered any specifics other than to parrot things that are important to his base such as “tort reform.”

 

I’m not a very political person as I think both parties tend to do a terrible job.  But part of what makes them awful is that they just say things that sound good versus really understanding an issue.  For example, I’ve read two things that Bruce Rauner has said need to happen in Illinois work comp.  One is not allowing for payments for injuries that happen while you are commuting to work.  The second is requiring causation to prove a work related injury.

Well, these two things already exist.  If you work at Jewel for example and get hurt while driving to work, you can not claim workers’ compensation.  In fact, you could slip on ice in their parking lot and it probably wouldn’t be covered unless they owned the facility.  The only commuters that get covered for their work injuries are traveling employees.  So if you drive a truck and are in an accident then yes you will get benefits, but that’s part of your job.

Beyond that, in every workers’ comp case in IL, you need to have what is called a causal connection statement.  That’s a statement from your doctor that your job contributed to your injury.  To imply that this isn’t needed or that if you have any injury you can say it’s work related is so beyond false that it makes me want to scream.

I am a big believer in honesty always being the best policy and when politicians (in both parties) say things that score points, but aren’t true, it makes my skin crawl.

And when they are willing to say things that aren’t true, that leads me to believe that their goal is to appease their base, facts be damned.  The reform from three years ago has done what it was intended to do.  But the wave of politics right now isn’t compromise or common sense, it’s to grab everything you possibly can while you are in power.

So that is why I am worried Rauner will try to screw workers.  We’ll see what happens and be watching with interest.  But if you think your case has been challenging now, you probably won’t believe what is coming.

 

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Five things you should do after a work injury

Many people feel overwhelmed after a work injury, especially if it affects their ability to do their job. One thing you should be thinking about is workers’ compensation, which applies exclusively to injured employees. Here are some concrete steps you should take to gain some control over the situation.

 

  1. Tell your boss or supervisor. Illinois law requires you to notify your employer of your work injury in order to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Also, notifying your employer often gets the ball rolling. They tell their insurance company, and you start getting benefits (payment of medical bills and lost wages). 

 

  1. File a formal claim, even if benefits have started already. Telling your employer is not a formal claim, even though it can get your benefits started. The official form is called an Application for Adjustment of Claim. You can file this with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. Taking care of this early on can help you later if there is a problem with your benefits or eligibility and you need to request a hearing.

 

  1. Take your medical care seriously. Listen to your doctor. Not only is this simple common sense, but going against your doctor’s recommendations can hurt your case. The insurance company can cut off your benefits. Sometimes they use surveillance to catch people doing physical activity that they shouldn’t be doing and use that to try and end a claim.

 

  1. Don’t talk to the insurance company. The insurance company doesn’t want to provide any more benefits than they have to. In fact, they work hard to find ways to deny benefits when they can. One way they do this is to get a statement from you that works in their favor. You don’t have to talk to them. Your attorney should do that for you.

 

  1. Know when to talk to an attorney. If your injury is serious (prevents you from working) or permanent, or if your benefits are denied or suddenly cut off, then it’s time to talk to a lawyer. Find someone who focuses on helping injured workers and get a free consultation. They can request a hearing in front of an arbitrator and argue for your benefits. They also can negotiate with the insurance company more effectively because they know how the insurance company operates.

If you’re like most employees, you probably haven’t dealt with workers’ compensation before. These tips will help you get started. You don’t want to miss out on benefits that you’re entitled to by law, and you certainly don’t want the insurance company to take advantage of you.

 

Five things to avoid after an Illinois work injury

When you are injured on the job while doing something related to your job, Illinois law says that you get workers' compensation. This should cover all of your related medical bills and even pay you for workdays you are forced to miss because of your injury. In order to put yourself in the best position possible for getting all of the benefits you’re entitled to, try to avoid the following.

1. Delay. There are things you can do to get benefits more quickly. Don't delay in telling your boss or supervisor about your injury. Don't delay in seeing your doctor or filing a claim for workers' compensation. If your benefits are denied or if you have a serious injury from which you don't know if you'll fully recover, then don't delay in getting legal advice, as well.

2. Unsolicited advice. Avoid the advice of well meaning family and friends, at least when it comes to the legal stuff. Even if the person offering advice has been through the workers' compensation system before and seems to know what they're talking about, take it with a  grain of salt. We say this because every situation is so different. Even two cases of the same injury can be different because of the way the law works. A lot comes down to how it relates to your job duties. 

3. The insurance company. Unlike friends and family, the insurance company doesn't even mean well. Don't give a recorded statement. In fact, the safest bet is to not talk to them at all and get an attorney to speak with them on your behalf. The insurance company plays games and the game, for them, is to pay out as little in benefits as possible. An experienced attorney knows how to play this game. Unfortunately, that's how it works in many cases.

 

4. The wrong lawyers. The wrong lawyers are those who make promises that sound too good to be true. If they guarantee that you'll get a certain amount in settlement, be wary. It's very difficult to predict this at the start of a claim. There are too many factors, including the details of a person's job, the details of their injury and likely recovery, many of which are unknown at the start. If someone is promising you a big payday, you should wonder why they are doing that. They might just be trying to get your business. 

 

5. Further injury. Follow your doctor's orders and if you have work restrictions from your doctor, follow those as well. Obviously it's not good to increase your injury or get a second injury. But we bring it up because it can also be bad for your workers' compensation claim. If you do something to make your injury worse, the insurance company might try to deny your claim and stop your benefits. Sometimes they even do surveillance to catch people doing things they said they couldn't do in order to deny a claim. Be careful out there.

 

Crazy Urbana workers' compensation lawyer alert

I’m hoping that this one is just a joke, but if not, it’s a great example of how some attorneys harm their clients with their bizarre behavior or desire to get in to a pissing match when no argument would be happening otherwise.

A defense attorney friend of mine shared that on one of his cases, the opposing lawyer in Urbana stated that his client would only attend the IME if the attorney would as well.  IME exams are often a joke, but they are part of the process.  And of course nothing requires a lawyer to go to them nor would you want the opposing attorney there.

In the bigger picture, the attorney for the injured worker is simply being a jerk.  I know of this attorney and he has a reputation for playing games and being a jerk.  He may not realize or it more likely just doesn’t care, but his strange behavior hurts his clients, especially, the good, honest ones that don’t deserve to have problems with their case.

We are fighters, but fighters only when we need to be.  If you piss off everyone around you, it’s going to hurt you and your clients in the long run.  There are a lot of biter people in this line of work and if they can’t stand you or your attorney, they’ll gladly make things difficult.

It’s not really possible for you to know what other people think of your attorney, but you have to use common sense as well in your hiring decision.  If you meet with a lawyer and they seem like a jerk or a weirdo or some other red flags are going off, then you shouldn’t hire them.  If they aren’t putting their best foot forward in trying to impress you and get you to hire them then imagine how they are around other people.  That will affect your case.

If this doesn’t make sense to you, think about how you feel when you go to a restaurant and the waiter is snotty or if you have to renew your license and the worker behind the counter isn’t very helpful.  It impacts you and how you deal with them as well as your desire to deal with them in the future.  On the flip side, if you go to the grocery store and the person behind the deli counter offers you an unsolicited free sample and tells you how cute your kid is, it will create great feelings and make you want to come back more.

It’s no different with workers’ compensation or any other area of law.  The biggest failing of most firms is that they don’t recognize that we are in the customer service business.  I always tell callers and clients the blunt truth, even if it’s not what they want to hear, because that is best for their case.  But I don’t do it in a way that belittles them and I try to treat other people I come in contact with the same way.  We all have bad days and I’m not perfect at this, especially when someone is rude to me.  But we all must realize that being a jerk today could cause a huge problem a year from now.

 

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The biggest reason people are having bad case results

Must be something in the water, but I’ve talked to a ton of people lately that have cases more screwed up than the Chicago Bears defense against the Packers.

The #1 culprit of the problems were that these people had hired law firms that aren’t really Illinois workers’ compensation attorneys.

Lawyers in Illinois are not allowed to call ourselves specialists.  That said, you want to hire a firm that is very narrowly focused on what types of cases that they handle.  The state wide network of lawyers I’ve created is made of attorneys that are focused on handling work injury cases and that is a huge reason why we’ve had a big track record of success.  Experience plus customer service plus a narrow focus is a winning formula for our clients.

But for whatever reason, many people that have called recently have hired firms that seem do whatever case comes in the door.  One particularly bad firm listed immigration, commercial litigation, real estate transactions and divorce on their website.

Most of the problems come when you think you are hiring a workers comp firm, but discover that you’ve actually hired an injury firm.  The difference is that most injury firms really want car accidents or medical malpractice cases.  They’ll take on a work injury case too, but that’s because they mistakenly think that these are easy matters.  They are wrong.

What ends up happening is that these firms aren’t up to date on changes in the law and they don’t have a relationship with the Arbitrators who handle these cases.  So when the going gets tough, they aren’t able to get you the result you want.  One firm I was called about had a “success” page that listed a bunch of multi-million dollar verdicts.  But these were all malpractice and accident cases.  The handling lawyer didn’t even mention workers compensation in his firm bio.  So you can guess who he is paying attention to when he has to choose between a tough work injury claim and a medmal case potentially worth millions.

My advice is that before you hire anyone I recommend or someone you find on your own, look at their website and find out what it says about Illinois workers’ compensation cases.  If it only briefly mentions it then you are probably going down the wrong path. 

Of course there are plenty of bad firms that do nothing but work comp.  The point is that you want to eliminate risk factors.  The reality is that lack of experience with handling these cases is a huge red flag that you can’t ignore.

 

How much does it cost to file a workers' compensation claim?

I got a very sad e-mail from a woman whose husband became paralyzed when his work truck flipped after he swerved to avoid a deer.  Their life has been turned in to chaos and they have a long road of challenges ahead.

Her e-mail was more venting than anything and she wanted to know how she would be able to afford a lawyer given all of their medical bills and this injury.

But what she didn’t know is that even in a catastrophic injury case like this, 100% of her medical bills should be paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance.  Beyond that, hiring a lawyer, no matter what firm you choose, costs nothing up front. Lawyer fees are capped by State law at 20% of whatever settlement we get for you.  Up until that point you aren’t paying for anything to have an attorney represent you.

There could be costs for bringing the case that include subpoenas for medical records or taking the deposition of a doctor.  That could run from less than $100 to a few thousand dollars.  But that’s not money that you have to give your lawyer up front either.  No reputable Illinois workers’ compensation law firm would ask their clients for help with the expenses.  We advance the costs for you and get reimbursed when there is a settlement.  If we lose the case then we are simply out that money.

The bottom line is that it doesn’t cost you anything to bring a case.  There isn’t even a filing fee with the State as there is with lawsuits. 

Now, we are selective with the cases we get involved in because there is usually not a need for an attorney if you just have a contusion on your arm.  But no matter how big your injury is or isn’t, it does not change the fact that you don’t need to be rich or have any money at all if you want to exercise your rights to benefits after you’ve been injured on the job.

Let your lawyer be the jerk, you should be nice

One conversation that sticks out in my brain from my early days as an attorney was with an insurance adjuster.  I started off my career working for a prominent Chicago workers’ compensation defense firm which is great training for learning how to properly handle a case as well as to learn how insurance companies really work.  When I decided to start representing injured workers I was well prepared.

In the conversation with the adjuster (I want to say it was in 1999, but this lesson is still true today), we were discussing making a settlement offer on a case.  The petitioner’s attorney actually made a reasonable demand and I felt that we could get the case resolved for about 70% of the true value which would have been great for my client.  The worker’s attorney had a reputation for not being willing to work hard to get a good result.

Problem was that this adjuster didn’t want to give out a penny to the injured worker.  The accident wasn’t disputed and all benefits had been paid.  And she agreed it would be a great settlement.  The problem was that when the case first started and no attorneys were involved, the worker was a real jerk to her when his check was two days late.  I certainly get why he was upset, but he called the adjuster every name in the book, many of which are not suitable for print in this family friendly blog.

And that rudeness is all that the adjuster remembers.  Surely it was an emotional reaction by the worker and they didn’t expect it to hurt them later on. 

But think about it.  If you were waiting on someone at a restaurant and they called you a terrible name, would you be motivated to help them?  If you were about to pull in to a parking spot and someone stole it from you, would you want to help them carry their groceries to their car?  No, you’d be focused on the slight.

When it comes to a work injury, it can be very emotional for you, especially if you are getting screwed over.  If you need to vent or rant and rave, you should do so to your lawyer (if they won’t listen to you that’s a whole other problem).  It’s then your lawyer’s job to solve your problem.   We can do it in a forceful way that won’t burn a bridge that will come back to punish you.  A good attorney can fight for you, but not make it so the insurance company wants to dig in their heels and try to really stick it to you.

In my case way back when, the adjuster did eventually agree to settle, but I’ve seen other times since where the dislike for the worker has caused a ton of problems for the case. 

This doesn’t mean you role over and do whatever they want (e.g. you shouldn’t give a recorded statement).  But it does mean that you should think long term and if things aren’t going your way, use the legal system to your advantage.  We can file petitions for penalties if you aren’t being paid when you should or you are denied medical treatment.

And if any yelling needs to happen, we should be the ones to do it for you.  It would feel good for you to do it in the short term, but it will hurt you in the long term.

 

Illinois work comp claims are not a lawsuit

On average, I talk to 50 new people a week about their workers’ compensation claims.  Some need representation, some just have a general question.  I’ll talk to anyone for free and confidentially.  You may not like what I have to say, but you’ll always get the truth from me.

In any given week, I’d estimate that 10 out of the 50 people that I speak think that if they go forward with a claim they will be suing their company.  I hear a lot of stuff like:

I was hurt at work back in 2013 I was the passenger in the company work truck there was no stop sign so the driver of the truck did not stop which cause us to be t-boned I have been going back and forward to the doctor for my neck and back and might need surgery. Can I still sue my old job for injuries?

While this worker might be able to sue the driver of the other truck, Illinois law bars you from suing your employer or co-workers for negligence.  The trade off is that Illinois workers’ compensation is a “no fault” law where you don’t have to prove negligence to win.

Some people want to sue their employer, especially like in the example above if it was an old employer.  Other people love where they work and would never sue their boss.  Still others just “aren’t the suing type.”

Well no matter where you fall on the suing scale, workers’ compensation claims are not a lawsuit.  They are a claim for benefits just like using your health insurance when you get sick or a short or long term disability policy if you miss an extended time from work due to illness.  There is no lawsuit, no Judge, no jury. 

It is certainly possible that you might have a hearing one day with an Arbitrator to determine if you are entitled to some benefits, but again, it’s no different than having a hearing to determine if your health insurance company should pay for a surgery.  Yes it’s different types of benefits and a different hearing, but the general idea is the same. It’s not the craziness of what many lawsuits are.

Until I talk to you, I can’t tell you whether not pursuing a claim would be viable or a good idea.  But I can promise that it’s never a lawsuit and it’s never going to cost you anything to bring a case.  So if you don’t at least explore your options to make an educated decision then you are not looking out for yourself.  And if you wait too long, you’ll lose your rights forever.

 

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Plantar Fasciitis and Illinois workers' compensation

I tell people never to take legal advice from a non-attorney, so please don’t take this post as medical advice as I’m not a doctor.

That said, I’ve seen many cases of plantar fasciitis and had scores of people contact me for help with that injury.  It’s different than lifting a box at work and hearing a pop in your back.  And by different, I mean it’s not as straight forward in terms of proving your problem is work related and that you are entitled to benefits.

Plantar fasciitis causes pain in the bottom of the heel. The plantar fascia is a thin ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. It supports the arch in your foot and is important in helping you walk. Problems in this part of your foot often come from the general wear and tear of daily living.  So in order to prevail in an Illinois work comp claim, you have to show that your job duties caused, aggravated or accelerated your condition.

Sometimes this is easier said than done. If you are overweight, you are risk for this injury.  Same is true if you are in great shape, but run a lot.

But another group of people that are at risk of getting PF (can we agree to call it that) are active workers who are on their feet all day such as laborers or restaurant workers.

To win your case, you have to show that your work activity is beyond normal.  So if you stand at a cash register all day and get PF, there is nothing about the act of standing that is considered abnormal.  On the other hand, if you are walking around all day, especially if it’s on hard or uneven surfaces or if you are wearing unusual footwear such as steel toed boots, then your job likely puts you at an increased risk of getting injured and your chances of winning a claim are strong.

If you start to have foot or heel pain and you think it could be due to your job, you should immediately seek medical attention AND be sure to give your physician a detailed description of your job duties.  Don’t say “I’m on my feet a lot.”  Do say, assuming it’s true, “I am on my feet all day while moving heavy materials.  I brought a pedometer in to work the other day and discovered I walked seven miles during my eight hour shift.”  That second sentence paints a clearer picture for the doctor as well as the insurance company.  Again, it’s incredibly important to be truthful, but at the same time you have an obligation to yourself to determine what some of the facts are.

We created our statewide network of experienced work comp lawyers for cases like PF problems.  If your attorney doesn’t have experience with these claims you are at great risk of losing. We can’t promise you a result, but we do promise that whoever we recommend to help you, it won’t be their first rodeo with PF so to speak.

 

Injured while working on a U.S. government contract overseas?

Employees working for private companies under U.S. government contracts overseas are entitled to their own form of workers’ compensation. Most employees in the U.S. fall under an individual state’s laws, but it’s different for those working in Iraq, Afghanistan and other foreign countries where the U.S. has a presence. These employees, although working for private companies, fall under the broad category of national defense or security.

The most common examples are those working on U.S. military bases abroad. The law also includes employees working on infrastructure projects for the U.S., such as building roads and schools in war-torn areas, as well as those working for “morale” or “welfare” organizations such as the USO or American Red Cross.

What this all means is that if you are an employee in one of these categories, and you get hurt on the job, then you are entitled to certain benefits under a federal law called the Defense Base Act. This law promises injured workers coverage of medical bills, payment for lost wages, ongoing compensation for permanent injury, and death benefits for families of workers who suffer fatal work injuries.  We don’t handle these cases in house, but through the network I’ve created of like-minded, hard working attorneys, I do know firms that can help with these claims.

Virtually all government contracts require employers to have Defense Base Act insurance for their employees. The employer’s insurance company pays out benefits. If you are injured doing one of the jobs that fall under this law, then you have to file a claim for benefits with the insurer. There are some strict deadlines. You generally only have one year from the date of your injury to file a claim. There are some exceptions, so check with an attorney. Also, the law requires you to notify your employer of an injury within 30 days. There is a specific form for doing this. In many cases, an injury can and should be reported immediately so medical care can be provided.

The law includes coverage of medical bills. However, there is a restriction on the number of doctors you can see. You are allowed to choose your own doctor but only once. Any referrals to specialists or physical therapy from that one doctor are allowed, but you can’t choose another primary doctor. This is meant to prevent workers from shopping around for a doctor who gives them the diagnosis they’re looking for. On the flip side, don’t let the insurance company trick you into choosing their doctor as your one choice. You don’t want a doctor who is in bed with the insurance company.

You don’t have to navigate this alone. We don’t suggest dealing with the insurance company without an attorney. The insurance company’s best interests are not the same as yours, so even if they seem nice and helpful, they can’t possibly be on your side. They make money by denying claims and turning down requests for medical treatment.

The good news is that you can hire an attorney who has a lot of experience in Defense Base Act cases, who knows how the insurance companies work and who knows the best way to ensure you’re getting all of your benefits. What’s even better is that the insurance company is the one paying for your attorney. If you have questions about whether your job and injury fit within the Defense Base Act, or if you need help finding a lawyer who is known for their success in handling these cases, whether it’s for you or a loved one, feel free to give us a call.  We will do whatever we can to point you in the right direction.

 

Frustrated with the insurance company? You're not alone

Communicating with the insurance company is arguably one of the worst parts of a workers’ compensation case. Your job caused your injury, and Illinois law specifically says that you get benefits to help you get healthy and back to work, but the insurance company seems to be working against you. Why is it so hard?

Employers pay the insurance company to cover their employees if they are injured on the job. This coverage includes a few different benefits, such as wage loss payments and coverage of medical bills. You can also get a settlement at the end of your claim if your injury is serious and/or permanent. The problem is that the insurance company makes money by refusing to pay you these things. Their interests are exactly the opposite of yours.

The trouble often starts with getting them to call you back or to answer your questions. Then you call back a few weeks later and someone new is assigned to your case. This happens over and over again because of the high turnover at these companies. Then, they make promises and pretend they care, just to turn around and deny medical treatment that you need in order to recover.

It sounds like it should be illegal, and some of it can be, but a lot of this continues to happen. Many injured workers don’t know that they’re been messed with. It’s probably the first time they’ve ever dealt with workers’ compensation insurance, so how would they know? The insurance company counts on this to make money. They also count on the fact that you will get frustrated and give up, that you won’t hire a lawyer and that you’ll never really know all of what you’re entitled to. All of this is to say that the insurance company isn’t there to help you. They’re not on your side.

One of the best things you can do for your case, in our opinion, is to hire an experienced lawyer and focus instead on your health. Dealing with the insurance company causes a lot of unnecessary stress and takes a lot of energy. When you formally file a case with a lawyer, we can file trial motions that will correct their bad behavior. If you aren’t getting your benefits, or your medical treatment isn’t approved, we can deal with them. We know their tricks and how they handle claims.

If you’re getting no answer from the insurance company, or you feel like they’re stringing you along, you’re not alone. Talk to an experienced attorney who handles these cases all the time. Having an attorney also makes a difference when it comes to negotiating a settlement of your claim. In our experience, it makes you much more likely to get a fair amount. If you go it alone, you’re giving the insurance company too much power. 

We’re happy to be the ones you talk to, but I’m not writing this post to get business.  I’m writing it because it’s the truth.  So if we or an attorney in our state wide network isn’t right for you, find someone experienced who is.

How long does it take to get to trial after a 19(b) petition is filed?

Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, there is no set answer to this question, but I can tell you that it doesn’t or rather shouldn’t take a year and a half.

That’s how long it had been for a recent caller to my office and there was no indication that she’d be going to trial any time soon.  I could see online via the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission website that a 19(b) trial motion had been filed, but that was way back in 2013. 

A 19(b) is what’s known as a petition for immediate hearing.  Basically, it allows your lawyer to get your case ready for trial and have an Arbitrator decide a dispute.  It’s not the end to your case, but rather a way of determining if you in fact did sustain a work related injury or whether or not you are entitled to benefits.  The most common scenario is when your doctor says you can’t work and an independent medical examination (IME) says you are fine.

To get ready for a trial in this scenario usually requires your attorney to gather all of your medical records and take a deposition of your doctor and the IME doctor.  That’s mostly it.  On average that should take three months or so and usually it shouldn’t drag past six months.  That’s hard to take if you have no money coming in, but not as hard to take as 18 months would be.

So why was my caller waiting so long?  In her case, the firm she hired is rather lazy by reputation and tends to take every case that comes through the door, no matter the quality.  When you have a couple thousand cases, you can’t help everyone and what ends up happening at firms like this one is that the tough cases get the shaft.

I’ve heard of other firms that take cases in all parts in Illinois, but refuse to actually travel to the hearing locations for a trial.  In other words, the best work comp firm in Chicago is of no use to you if your case is being heard in Springfield and they won’t go there for you.

Still other firms don’t want to spend the money to go to trial.  Taking a deposition of a doctor or two can cost a couple of thousand dollars.  That is money that is supposed to be paid by the attorney and then reimbursed to them at the end of the case.  Some younger firms can’t afford to do this.  Other times your case isn’t that strong or doesn’t have a ton of value so they don’t want to spend the money to make a trial happen.  My take on that is then they shouldn’t have taken your case to being with.

Whatever the reason, you have every right to ask your attorney for a firm and realistic time table as to when you will be able to testify. If they tell you it could take years, they are simply lying to you.