Illinois Slip and Fall Accidents at Work

Sadly, before we know it, snow and ice will be on the ground and you will hear about many people slipping and falling with some getting injured. Hopefully that does not happen to you.

For workers in Illinois, slip and fall accidents are a year round occurrence.  Every week we get called from someone who has slipped at work on oil or grease or a wet floor or something else and sustained an injury.

In order to win a workers’ compensation case for a slip or trip and fall, there is one very important thing you must know.  You have to know what caused you to fall or at least that something caused you to fall.

In other words, if you tripped over your own two feet, that’s usually not a case. If you have no idea at all why you fell, you probably don’t have a case. That is called an idiopathic fall which in plain English means there’s no explanation.

You don’t have to know 100% for sure why you fell, just that there was some error or defect that caused you to fall.  In other words, you might not know what substance was on the ground, but you do know that the floor was slippery because your feet slid.

It’s certainly better for the case if you can prove why you fell, e.g. you later learn that the floor had just been mopped or was recently waxed, but it’s not the be all end all to the case.

What we see a lot is honest people telling us that it all happened so fast that they aren’t 100% certain what happened.  If you give a recorded statement and say that, you will probably lose your case. ** Never give a recorded statement.**

When explored further, these same honest people will tell us that yes they felt their feet slide, they just aren’t sure why.  A further investigation can often determine what exactly caused that, but the general statement that you slipped on something, if you testify credibly, is often enough to win the case.  However, we’ve seen cases lost when an employer has testified that they inspected the area and found nothing wrong so if you know why you fell it strengthens your case.

There are of course more of these cases in the winter when people are dragging water in to their places of employment from snowy shoes, but these accidents truly happen year round.

Bonus tip, if you don’t know why you fell, but were rushing to a meeting or carrying a bunch of materials for work, that’s often enough to win the case.

Have we made you more confused than you were before?  Do you have any questions? You can speak with our attorneys for free at any time by filling out the form to the right or calling the number at the top of the page.  We would be happy to help you with your case and cover all of Illinois.

IL Work Comp – Dealing With A Bogus Preexisting Condition Defense

One of the biggest reasons an Illinois workers’ compensation case gets denied by an insurance company is because the injury is to a part of someone’s body where they have a preexisting condition.

Sounds scary and like a tough defense to overcome, but it’s not once you have context.

Having a previous problem IS NOT A BAR TO RECEIVING BENEFITS. I’m not the all caps yelling type, but it’s important that the point be made.  If your job duties cause a problem you win your case.  If they aggravate or accelerate a preexisting problem, you also win your case.

I’ll use myself as an example. I have a torn rotator cuff and have had back pain in the past.  I haven’t needed needed to see a doctor for either problem in the past five years though and can live a normal life that includes working out almost daily. So if I had a job that required me to do a lot of overhead lifting and it made my rotator cuff problem worse, I’d win the case. I have no need for surgery or physical therapy now, but if the job was the reason I had to do that, I’d win.  Every time.

This happened in a recent Appellate Court case with a taxi driver who had a back injury.  He was driving when his car was rear-ended by another vehicle.  In this case the driver had been experiencing back pain even before the accident happened. The Court said that a worker doesn’t have to show that they were completely pain free or that the job is the sole or even main factor in needing treatment.

To win your case you have to be able to do what this driver did. Show that the job was a causative factor.

In this case it was indisputable that he had a car accident on the clock.  His doctors hadn’t taken him off work for any reason before the accident, but did so after the accident.  When a chain events related to work shows a need for medical treatment you have met your burden of proving that at a minimum the job aggravated your condition.  That is enough to win no matter what an insurance company tries to tell you.

This is a great and sensible decision by the Court.

Bottom line is that you should never, ever let an insurance adjuster tell you that you don’t have a case and take it as gospel.  They might be right, but often they are just trying to deter you from going after benefits and other times they just don’t know any better.

A pre-existing problem is not by itself a bar to getting benefits.  You have to look at the facts of your situation.  If you weren’t missing time before, but now have to it’s a good sign the job made things worse.

As always call us at (312) 346-5578 or fill out the form to the right if you have any questions.  Our state wide network of lawyers handles work comp cases in every county in Illinois.

Illinois workers comp FAQ

We’ve been getting a ton of great questions lately.  I thought I’d put a few of them out there for everyone to see.  In no particular order here are 10 recent ones:

Can employer go in to the doctor exam room? They said they can, but that doesn’t seem right. Not only is this a violation of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, they also can’t directly talk to your doctor without your permission.  Same goes for the insurance company.

Can they find out I’ve been to jail and will that matter to my case? Yes, there are public records for finding this stuff out.  Does it matter? Only if the case goes to trial and you are a convicted felon or convicted of a crime that involves dishonesty.  It usually doesn’t come up, but it certainly could hurt you as it goes toward your credibility.

Do I need to show up to the status call? No, that’s part of your lawyer’s job and nothing happens there that any injured worker would be a part of unless it’s at a hearing location (some of the downstate ones) where trials happen on the same day as the status call.  A trial hearing can be set at the status call and you should show up to that if your case may go to trial.  Some firms have their clients show up when they aren’t needed and it’s a complete waste of time.

My husband’s thumb was amputated at work.  Do we need a lawyer? In an amputation case, the insurance company has to pay out a certain minimum amount.  We as lawyers can’t touch those dollars.  Where you’d need an attorney is if it prevented him from doing his normal job or lead to a disability in the hand or some other problem like PTSD.

Should my lawyer charge for things like storing my file or postage? No, that’s ridiculous and potentially illegal.

If I don’t like my lawyer, what will it cost to fire them? Nothing.  Total lawyer fees can never exceed 20% total no matter how many attorneys are on the case.  You should though secure a new attorney before you get rid of the first one.

Years ago I hurt my shoulder and got a settlement for my arm being injured. My husband just tore his rotator cuff and got a settlement for a man as a whole which seems like it’s worth more.  Did my lawyer screw up?  No, the law has changed on shoulder injuries.  Nothing to see here.

My boss yells at me and calls me stupid.  I’m really stressed out.  Is this a work comp case? Unfortunately it’s not.  To win a mental stress case you need to show a one time, severe and sudden event.  I don’t agree with that part of the law, but that is the law in Illinois.

I was hired in Illinois 20 years ago and then transferred stores to Wisconsin.  I just tore my ACL at work.  Can I bring that case in Illinois? Yes, under Illinois law, if your “contract for hire” took place in Illinois you can file your claim here as long as there wasn’t an interruption in your employment (e.g. assuming you didn’t stop working and then re-apply in WI).

I was hurt in 2008.  Is it too late to file a claim?  Probably too late, but not definitely.  Depends on if they made a payment toward this injury in the last two years or not.  If yes then we can still file and should rush to do so. A payment is usually a medical bill of some sort being paid, but also could be TTD benefits.  If not then you are out of luck.

And if you have any questions we love to help people! Call us any time for free at (312) 346-5578.  We’ll always tell it to you direct and hopefully in plain English.


IL Work Comp – Why You Don’t See Many Lawyers In The Suburbs

There is no law that says your attorney has to be located anywhere.  Theoretically they could work out of their house or their mother’s basement or a coffee shop.

When hiring a lawyer though you want to look for predictor’s of success.  An attorney’s location can often be a telling sign.

I get why clients and lawyers often don’t want to come downtown to Chicago. It can be a grind and a hassle. Fortunately for clients you almost never actually have to come in to the City itself unless you want to or your case is going to trial in Chicago.

For lawyer it’s not that simple. For any work related injury in Cook County, the hearing location for the case will be in Chicago at the Thompson Center. That is smack dab in the middle of the Loop and across from main courthouse, The Daley Center.  You know what else is there?  Thousands of law firms.

Why are we all within walking distance of the courts? It’s because if you are handling these cases you are going to court.  That could mean having to be there at 9 a.m. and then back and 1 p.m. and then back at 4 p.m.  If your office is in Evanston or Northbrook or Schaumburg, etc. you can’t go back and forth from court to your office.  That means you aren’t productive, can’t meet with clients and generally will have a challenge running a law practice.

In many cases when you see a suburban lawyer saying that they handle work comp cases it often means one of three things

  1. They don’t really do it, they just dabble in it.
  2. They will either send young associates to cover a lot of matters or avoid going to court unless it is absolutely necessary even if it’s not in the best interests of the client.
  3. Their practice is messy which leads to a lack of returned phone calls and lack of preparation.

All of these things are bad for a potential client.  You have to look out what’s best for you. While you can get a suburban lawyer for a Cook County case and it may be more convenient for you, we suggest you think about what’s best in the long run for your case.  Having an attorney who is in court almost every day and can easily go to court without it disrupting their life is best for you.

That doesn’t mean that every Chicago based attorney is good, it just means they fit one piece of the profile criteria you should consider.

Oddly enough, for court hearings in Wheaton, New Lenox, Waukegan, Geneva and other suburbs, 90% of the lawyers who attend those hearings are actually Chicago based. That is because unlike the City, those locations only have hearings a few days a month.  The lawyers in those burbs don’t have enough business to just do work comp.  So the attorneys with the best reputations tend to be in the City.

Is this confusing. It can be. We are happy to talk you about this or any other issue at any time for free.  Fill out the form to the right or call the number at the top of the page for a free consultation.

Rhabdomyolysis and Illinois Workers’ Compensation

90% of the cases an Illinois work comp attorney will see have common injuries.  Carpal tunnel, herniated discs, torn rotator cuffs, knee injuries, etc.  But one in ten or so have more unique injuries and if your lawyer doesn’t know much about that type of problem and doesn’t have a history of handling similar claims, it could be trouble for you.  One such example is an injury called rhabdomyolysis.

If you have a job that requires a lot of physical activity, and were injured on the job, rhabdomyolysis is a very serious condition you may have acquired during the injury.  Rhabdomyolysis is a syndrome that takes form in the body after a muscle injury causes the fibers in your muscles to die and release their contents into your blood stream. This can be extremely dangerous and lead to serious complications.

Routine heavy lifting, muscle strain, even a fall or crush injury could cause enough damage to a muscle for it to begin releasing the toxins into your body. These toxins can cause everything from kidney failure to heart failure and even nerve damage. Some symptoms include muscle pain, weakens, and dehydration.  You see it a lot with weight lifters and athletes who do a lot of reps in the gym.  You also see it with workers who do extensive lifting or

The key to making sure you can remain healthy is early detection and diagnosis. If you are seen by a doctor who is able to determine rhabdomyolysis before the syndrome progresses, you can expect a full recovery from the damage. If you are not treated in a timely matter, you risk life long lasting damage.  In most cases, the treatment involves a trip to the hospital for fluids and additional medications.

If you were injured on the job by either heavy lifting or a crush injury, make sure you go to the doctor immediately as this will reduce your risks of having permanent damages. Also, make sure you let your doctor know that it is an on the job injury so that workers compensation can be contacted. Any time you are injured on the job, workers compensation should pick up your medical bills and also pay you during your down time.

If you are having issues getting  your injury covered or just know that you need representation we would be happy to help you.  Fill out the form to the right or call us at (312) 346-5578.

Is This A Good Illinois Workers’ Compensation Case?

The most common question I get from a caller after wanting to know what their case is worth is someone asking if they have a case at all. EVERY case is fact specific so I’d never assume you don’t or do have a case based on what you are about to read.  You should always contact us or another law firm to get an opinion.  You can talk with one of our lawyers for free at any time by filling out the contact form to the right or calling us at (312) 346-5578.

Here are some scenarios from cases that were recently decided at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. Read the facts and see if you can tell if the injured worker won or not.

Facts: A woman found a tick in her hair.  She ended up with a disability from Lyme disease.  She works at a fish hatchery in a wooded and swampy area.

Verdict: She wins.

Why?: While you can get bitten by a bug anywhere, if your job exposes you to an increased risk of tick bites as compared to the general public and there’s no evidence that the tick bite did in fact occur somewhere else then you’ve established a winning claim.

Facts: A worker was cleaning up her desk in a slightly bent position. When she stood up her back went out on her.  An MRI showed multiple herniated discs.

Verdict: She loses.

Why?: The act of standing up is an act of daily living that doesn’t present an increased risk of causing an injury. I question if the lawyer in this case blew it because the worker also did a lot of lifting in her job and I wonder if her surgeon was asked how that work contributed to the back problems.

Facts: A forklift driver stepped down about three feet or more from his vehicle when he felt a pop and immediate pain in his knee.

Verdict: He wins.

Why?: When you have to step down from a height in an awkward position, you are exposed to a greater risk of injury than that of the general public.  Unlike the case above, this was not an act of daily living which most people deal with.

Facts: A janitor claimed that both his carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndrome were due to his job duties.

Verdict: He loses.

Why?: In this case, the Arbitrator felt that there wasn’t enough detailed information presented at trial or to the doctors about the work activities including the frequency, duration and how each task was performed.  It’s important for doctors to have detailed information when making an opinion.  You have to prove your case.  I again suspect an inexperienced or lazy lawyer messed this one up.  It seems like a dead bang winner, but if your attorney does not do their job you lose.

Facts: An injured worker on light duty was threatened with being fired and before that could happen they quit.  They went to court seeking TTD benefits since they had restrictions.

Verdict: He lost.

Why?: If you are on light duty and get fired, your employer has to continue paying you TTD benefits.  When you quit while being accommodated for light duty you have taken yourself out of the work force which means you lose your rights to TTD.  This worker should have let himself get fired if he wanted benefits.

Last one.

Facts: An injured worker filed for penalties and fees against the insurance company for repeated delays in authorizing medication needed to help treat the work related injury.

Verdict: She wins.

Why? An insurance company has to have a good reason to deny or delay medical care and if they don’t they should be punished. There was no reason for the delay at all in this case.  As a result, penalties and fees of over $16,000.00 were ordered on top of what the case was worth.

Kyphoplasty and Illinois Work Injuries

Did you fall at work or get in an accident and now your back is hurting? You may have a compression fracture. A compression fracture can cause minor back pain that leads to chronic pain, deformity, loss of height, and many other lifelong issues. Typically, these fractures only produce damage to the front of the vertebrae, leaving the spinal cord and nerves stable and unharmed. However, the vertebrae will be unbalanced and not at the correct height. This is what causes the pain.

One possible remedy for this type of injury is called Kyphoplasty surgery. This surgery is designed to stabilize the vertebrae by using a small balloon inserted into your back. In essence, the procedure is similar to jacking up your car. The balloon is inserted then slowly filled which raises the vertebrae to its correct position. Once it has been raised, the balloon is removed and special cement like substance is injected to keep the bone stabilized.

This procedure should be done within 8 weeks of the injury for the best results. Pain relief in some patients is immediate while others have reported it takes a few days for the pain to subside. Once the person goes home from the hospital they are allowed to do all of their regular household activities, but no heavy lifting for 6 weeks. Depending on the severity of the fracture, and the type of employment you have, you may need to take 1-6 weeks off work after the surgery. Of course it could be worse if there are complications.

If you sustained this injury on the job, make sure you report it to your doctor as workers compensation will cover your medical bills for the surgery, recovery, and any needed rehabilitation as well as lost time compensation.

We are not writing this post to try and give medical advice.  Lawyers should not do that.  We do though want to highlight that this is a unique procedure which not every lawyer has experience with.  It’s important that no matter what your injury is that you have a lawyer in your corner who truly understands the medicine involved and the significance of what you’ve been through.

Why is that important? When it comes time to settling your case, a big part of it is based on what type of medical care you’ve had, how invasive it is and what your long term outlook is.  If your lawyer is guessing on what Kyphoplasty involves or just doesn’t know it likely means less money in your pocket at the end of the day.

We don’t promise a certain dollar amount, but do guarantee that we go for the most amount possible and that the lawyers in our state wide network understand unique injuries and unique treatments like Kyphoplasty.

If you’d like to talk to one of our lawyers about your problem, we’d be happy to do so, for free.  Fill out the form to the right of the page or call the number at the top.  We help everywhere in Illinois.

How Can I Find A Lawyer’s Win/Loss Record?

An injured Illinois worker who appeared to be having a bad experience with his current attorney wanted to know if I knew a way to look up his lawyer’s won/loss record or that of any other attorney.

It’s a great question, but it’s not possible to do it.

There is no way to accurately measure a win or a loss in a case except when the Arbitrator finds in favor of the insurance company on all issues.  Otherwise, the reality of how cases work makes it impossible.

First off, about 95% of cases settle.  I’ve seen some shady lawyer who claim that they have recovered money for their clients in 98% of the cases they’ve handled.  That sounds impressive until you realize that in even the worst case around, the insurance company will usually offer a small amount like $100 or $500 to just make the case go away and not have to pay a defense lawyer. So if you are hurt at work and your bills don’t get paid, but the insurance company gives you $100, would you consider that a win?  I wouldn’t, but a law firm can still claim that as a “win.” In other cases you might get $100,000.00, but if it’s worth $200,000.00 is that really a win?  Not for me.  Not a loss either, but either way it’s impossible for anyone who keeps stats to know if it was a good result or not.

Second off, let’s say we go to trial and the issues are 1. Did you have a work related accident?  2. If you did, should the insurance company pay for the surgery you had? 3. Should the insurance company pay for the 30 weeks of work you missed? 4. What is your case worth?

If at trial the Arbitrator says yes you were hurt at work, that’s a win.  But if he doesn’t say the surgery you had was needed, that’s a loss.  If he only orders them to pay for 20 of the weeks you missed not all 30, that’s not really a win or a loss. And if he awards you $40,000.00 in damages, but your lawyer wanted $60,000.00 and the insurance company was offering nothing, that’s also not really a win or loss.  It’s mostly a win, but not as good as you probably hoped for.

Anyone who looked at that result and saw that the accident was found to be work related would have to assume it was a win, but again that’s not really clear cut if you know all the facts.  Nobody has the ability to talk to all of the lawyers in the 4,000+ cases which go to trial every year and find out how they and their clients feel about the results.  And even if you could, most people wouldn’t be honest about it.

What you really want is an experienced attorney who focuses their practice mostly on work related injuries and someone who will fight for you.  That means they are communicating and doing the work necessary to increase your chances of the best result possible.  Unfortunately you often don’t know that they aren’t the right fit until after you’ve hired them.

Bonus tip, if any attorney tries to market themselves to you by saying how they’ve never lost a trial or their success rate is 98%, run in the opposite direction.

As always, fill out our contact form to the right or call the number at the top of the page if you want a free consultation about anything related to Illinois workers’ compensation law.

How You Can Win Against A Billion Dollar Company

There are a lot of misconceptions about Illinois workers’ compensation claims. One of the biggest is that it’s a lawsuit.  It’s not.  Pursuing work comp is a claim for benefits that really isn’t much different than something like health insurance or any other protection that a worker is provided.

So while many injured workers who contact us think they are getting involved in what will be a hotly contested lawsuit, that’s not usually the case.

Because people believe this though, a common concern I hear is from people who want to know how our law firm will be able to win a case against their employer who is some billion dollar plus corporation that has all the resources in the world and can afford the “best” lawyers.  How can we compete with that????

The reality is that because these aren’t lawsuits and the cases aren’t potentially worth millions, there isn’t much a difference between handling a case for an employee of a mom and pop shop or one who works for a giant, international corporation.

In both cases, the laws are the same.  In most cases there is an insurance adjuster who is handling the case and calling the shots on that side of the case.  They might hire an attorney, but they aren’t going to get one that costs $500 an hour and works at a huge firm because they’d end up spending way too much in lawyer fees.  There are some big companies like Walmart who treat their employees terribly that can be a little bit of a pain to deal with, but if the case facts are on our side, we’ll win.

The reality is that if a defense attorney does come on the case, it will be one of them and one of us.  They can send you to one of their doctors who may be a hired gun that will mess with your benefits, but insurance companies do that no matter who the employer is.  Some really big companies are self insured which means they don’t have an insurance company and pay the costs of their injured workers.  But even then they usually hire an insurance adjuster called a third party administrator to handle the case.

Bottom line is that you should never lose a case because of who you work for.  If the facts are on your side you should win, if not you should lose.  There’s no jury to be persuaded by a fancy talking, big time attorney. If you go to trial your case will be heard by an Arbitrator and it’s your medical records, credibility and history of how you got hurt which will decide the outcome.

So don’t sweat it.  I promise you that size (of employer) does not matter.

One final thought, another thing we hear from people with crummy cases is a belief that their billion dollar employer will just settle with them because what’s a few thousand or ten thousand to a company like them?  That’s not how it works and I can assure you that wealthy companies don’t just give away money.   And much like with good claims, it’s usually their insurance companies that are calling the shots.

If you are scared, nervous or just have questions about this or anything else related to Illinois work comp, call our lawyers for free at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our form to the right and we’ll call you.  It’s always free and confidential.

IL Work Comp Settlements- This Makes No Sense

I recently had a consultation with a very nice injured worker who had a very serious injury case.  They really liked their lawyer, but for some reason he wasn’t very aggressive when it came to doing something about the tens of thousands of unpaid medical bills that he has.

This worker appears to be permanently disabled and while the lawyer had been mentioning that he’d recommend a settlement for a certain amount, out of the blue he called him with the offer from the insurance company and told them he needs to immediately accept it.  He says this even though that amount is around $50,000.00 less than what he previously said the case is worth.

I don’t have enough information to tell you if the offer was a good one although from what the caller told me it seems like it was within the range of fairness.

What makes no sense is that the lawyer told him he had to immediately take the offer.  This case is many years old and suddenly there is some urgency?

I can tell you that I’ve never seen an offer be taken off the table unless new evidence arises.  There should never be a rush to take a settlement, especially in a case like this where the worker is getting TTD benefits still, has outstanding medical bills and will need what is called a Medicare Set Aside to pay for his future medical needs.

Beyond that, before any injured worker signs a settlement contract, they should know very clearly from their lawyer all of the details.  In this case, the caller did not.  He wasn’t sure what the lawyer fees were going to be.  He didn’t know the expenses that the lawyer was claiming.  It wasn’t clear if the lawyer was going to try to take money from the Medicare Set Aside.  It wasn’t 100% clear what medical bills remained unpaid.

Everyone wants to settle a case if they can.  I don’t get paid if I don’t settle your case or win at trial.  I and every lawyer I know likes to get paid. But an attorney in Illinois work comp can’t rush through a settlement so they can get paid.  The best interests of the client must always come first. It’s not in the best interests of the client to agree to a dollar amount and worry about the fine print later on.

You are the boss of your case.  You are the one that has to be happy and live with the result.  Don’t let anyone pressure you or rush you.  If you aren’t happy with a settlement offer then you should wait or go to trial.