Tripping On A Curb While Working In Illinois

One of the principles of Illinois workers’ compensation law is that if you get injured doing something that most people in Illinois have to do every day, it’s not a case. So if you are walking and your knee just gives out for no reason or your feet hurt from standing all day, that’s usually not covered.

Of course there are exceptions and the big one is when you have to do something excessively.  So walking and getting knee pain isn’t a case.  But if your job requires you to walk most of the day, then you’d probably win.  We’ve had clients wear pedometers to determine how far they walk in a given day.  Many end up walking 6-8 miles or more which is a lot and certainly more than most people walk in a given day.

Another example is tripping on curbs.  Most of us at some point in the day will step up on to a curb or down from one. It’s an “act of daily living” and as a result if you trip doing that while working, we’d normally have a hard time getting Illinois work comp benefits for you.

But ……….

If you have the type of job where you are required to deal with curbs a lot and you trip on one, it will be considered a work related injury.  How many times is a lot?  It’s not defined other than having to do it to a greater degree that the general public.  Just like with walking, the more you have to do it, the better your chances are.

In a recent case, a City of Chicago plumbing inspector won benefits when he tripped on a curb while walking back to his car at a job site. You can imagine that he goes to a lot of buildings and job sites every day and has to deal with curbs well more than most people.  So while it’s not clear how many times he dealt with this, it clearly was a lot.

If you get hurt tripping on a curb you can bet that the insurance company will deny your case. They have nothing to lose because whether you do more than the general public is often open to interpretation.  So if that happens to you, you need an experienced attorney who is willing to take your case to trial.  And they should know about this recent case (Nee v. City of Chicago) because it’s a weapon that needs to be used to win the case.

If Your Case Is Ready To Settle, Now Is The Time

I publish something like this post every year at this time, but do it because it’s so important.

If you want to settle your Illinois workers’ compensation claim and your case should be settled (meaning you aren’t receiving treatment any more and are either back to work or have done a long time job search) then there’s no time better than now to do it.

Insurance adjusters don’t care about you, but like you they do want to make the most money they can.  They usually get year end bonuses based on not how good of a job they are doing, but based on how many cases they are able to close. For an insurance company, an open case means risk and they don’t like risk, they like certainty.

The bonuses happen at the end of the year so around this time two things happen.  1. They are calling their defense attorneys and pushing them to get cases resolved. 2. Even the lazy insurance adjusters who never return phone calls are willing to talk settlement. In fact some insurance companies will set up “settlement days” at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission where they will invite us to come in and settle as many cases as possible.

While they won’t just throw money away, your best chance to get full value without going to trial is right now.  In fact one defense attorney I know told me that his big corporate client wants this done ASAP.

So if your lawyer has told you that it takes one to two years after you are all better to get a settlement, know that they are lying and that now is the time to make it happen. If they won’t do it for you or you don’t have confidence in them, we’d be happy to do it for you.

If you need help with anything related to work comp, contact us any time. It’s free, we talk like human beings and it’s confidential.

Amazon Workers’ Compensation Claims

Amazon is an amazing company. It’s gone from an online seller of books to the main seller of everything.  The demand for their products is incredible and it’s been great for all of the jobs that it has created.

Most of the Amazon jobs involve working in their Warehouse. They have locations in Joliet, Waukegan, Chicago, Naperville and many other places.  The warehouses are huge and the jobs usually involve a lot of walking and lifting.

In the last year we’ve probably spoken with more Amazon employees than we had in the previous five years and that’s due to all of the new jobs.  We’ve noticed a lot of patterns that help us represent injured workers for Amazon, some you’d expect, some you might not think about.

The one you’d expect the most is that there are a lot of lifting injuries.  Many workers are packing and moving boxes all day so we see a lot of back injuries.

The one you might not think about is that we’ve also seen many plantar fasciitis cases.  This happens because a lot of employees  there have to do excessive walking as part of their jobs.  When you are walking 6-8 miles a day or more on concrete floors you can get this injury and seeing it in one case and then another and another allows us to benefit all of the employees with similar problems.

When you are speaking with the same insurance adjuster about all of the cases and can reference three or more clients who have been hurt at the same company in the exact same way, it helps knock down any potential defenses the insurance company might bring up.  If you go to trial in one case and the Arbitrator finds their IME doctor wasn’t credible, they are more likely to roll over against you on the other two and pay benefits.

Bottom line is that having experience with this company and these cases has paid off.  There are lawyers in our network who knows this company well and are getting great results.  That can give you an advantage or even be the difference between winning and losing.

Of course we are also seeing a lot of injuries from repetitive use of the hands to along with standard freak accidents like a slip on a wet floor or getting crushed by a forklift.

So if you work for Amazon (or anyone) and would like to speak with one of our lawyers for free, call us any time at (312) 346-5578.

One Reason Your Lawyer May Be Eager To Get A Settlement Offer

Everyone wants to settle their Illinois workers’ compensation case if they can. It’s how you get paid, it’s how we get paid and it brings closure. Of course, you don’t want to settle your case too soon.  If you do you won’t have anyone to pay your medical bills and you almost certainly would be settling the case for less than it’s worth.

We advise clients not to think about settlement until they are at maximum medical improvement which in plain English means you are as good as you are going to get.  Even then we typically wait a month or two depending on the severity of your injury before we think about making a settlement demand.  If you go back to work and the problems come back, there is no point to settling just yet.  Thinking about your long term health is the best thing we can do for you and the best thing you can do for you.

Some attorneys take a different approach. They’ll seek out a settlement offer whenever they can.  Why are they different?

There are certainly a handful that just suck at their job and will sell out a client to make a quick buck.  But that’s not the biggest reason this happens.

When you don’t like your lawyer and they aren’t doing a good job for you (e.g. don’t return calls, don’t follow through on what they say they will do, yell at you, etc.) it’s not usually a one time thing for them.  These are work comp attorneys who are often getting fired by clients.

You can switch lawyers in an Illinois work comp case and it costs you nothing.  The first lawyer and the second lawyer have to fight over who gets what from the 20% fee.  It doesn’t affect you in any way.

But if there is already a settlement offer on the table, the first lawyer typically gets 20% of that offer and the second lawyer only gets paid if they can get a higher offer.  So while your bottom line still doesn’t change, it makes getting a new lawyer much harder and your current crappy attorney knows this.

For example, if your first lawyer gets an offer of $50,000 and a new lawyer takes over and gets an offer of $125,000, you will get 100k and the first lawyer would get 10k and the second would get 15k.  A new lawyer will take over a situation like this when the case is clearly worth more money.

The problem comes in when there is a potential defense to your case or it’s possible that if you go to trial the case would only be worth a little more than what was offered. That will make it so most good attorneys won’t want to take over because they’d be doing a bunch of work and the first lawyer would get paid.  You lose in the end because you have a bad lawyer and nobody to fight to try and get you close to full value.

So as odd as it sounds, if you don’t like your lawyer, the best thing you can do for yourself is tell them not to make any settlement demands until you tell them to.  Most attorneys don’t do this already, but the ones who are losing clients all of the time seem to do it more and more.

You may be wondering how we know that this is happening? It’s because there are about five law firms who are always getting fired by their clients and those clients tell us the same stories over and over.  Of late we’ve been hearing from many of them that an offer has been made to settle even though they still need medical care.

Long post.  If you have questions about anything, call us for free any time or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

Hurt At Work In Illinois, Can I Quit My Job?

Most people we talk to like where they work and if they have gotten hurt on the job, they just want to get better and get back to work.  When we represent you in that situation we do whatever we can to make sure that bringing a claim does not create any awkwardness for you at work.  Remember, these cases are NOT lawsuits.

Sometimes though you work at a terrible place and then get injured.  Maybe you have restrictions that the boss isn’t following. Maybe they try to make you feel like garbage for getting hurt.  Maybe it’s always been a bad place to work at.

The question is, how will quitting your job affect your workers’ compensation case in Illinois?

The answer is that it depends how serious your injury is. They will always have to pay any reasonable and related medical bills if you are hurt at work.  But if you are authorized off work by your doctor because of your job injury, the moment you have any restrictions, your TTD benefits can get cut off.

So let’s say that you hurt your back and have to have surgery which will per your doctor keep you off work for eight weeks.  The insurance company will immediately send you to an IME doctor who will state that you can work with no lifting more than five pounds.  Now even if that job didn’t exist at your old employer, you can bet they will say that they would have found work for you within that restriction and if they do, no matter how BS it is, you will be without pay.

When it comes time to settle the case, if you have permanent restrictions and the employer won’t take you back, it could make your case worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.  If you have quit though they’d say that they would have taken you back had you not quit so while you will still get a settlement, it won’t be as much.

Bottom line is that we get that some jobs can be toxic.  Sometimes you need to quit.  We just recommend that you don’t do it without talking to an experienced work comp attorney first because it could affect how much your case is worth.

If you want to talk about any Illinois workers’ compensation issues with one of our attorneys for free, call us any time at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you.

IL Work Comp – Can You Appeal What The IME Doctor Says

I had a recent talk with an injured worker who had a very serious neck injury and has been off of work for two years.  His medical bills have all been paid and the case has been accepted.  He had one neck surgery that did not solve his problem so now his treating doctor and a pain management specialist are recommending that he have a cervical fusion.

This is an expensive procedure so of course the insurance company sent him to an IME doctor who looked at him for five minutes and determined that no additional neck surgery is needed.  So now he’s stuck in limbo with two competing doctor opinions even though it’s obvious to anyone who is looking and unbiased that the treating doctor is the one to listen to.

So his question to me was, “Is there an appeal process that allows me to get a new opinion to decide which of these doctors should be believed.”

The answer is that you don’t “appeal” anything.  You get your medical records, probably take your doctor’s deposition and then go to trial.  The appeal process is going before an Arbitrator and letting them decide which opinion to go with.  Sadly there is nothing else that can be done other than trying to reason with the insurance adjuster which in most cases does nothing.

If their IME doctor is clearly a hack (e.g. doesn’t practice medicine anymore, just does IME’s) or goes against a previous IME of theirs we can file a petition for penalties and fees which will punish them for their delay.  Beyond that, it’s just a matter of getting your case ready for trial ASAP and going from there.  Sometimes we’ll do a pre-trial before an Arbitrator and they will tell the insurance company lawyer that they are going to lose, but in most cases you don’t get results without following through with an actual trial.

For you this means a potential delay in medical care and a day in court. It takes 3-6 months usually for the trial to happen and then depending on the Arbitrator it can be a couple of weeks to a couple of months before they issue a decision.  If you have group insurance we’d advise you to get the surgery if you can and we’d get them reimbursed for anything they spend.

Because you need a case already on file with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission before you can get a trial date, this is why it’s a good reason to get a lawyer before you need one.

Bottom line is that disputes happen in work comp cases, even when they seem ridiculous.  The way to solve those problems is a trial.

When A Collection Agency Comes After You For Work Comp Bills

A guy called me about his work related injury.  I’m not sure he told me everything because he said he was hurt six months ago and his case has been declined even though it sounded like he had a very straight forward, good claim.

He told me that he wasn’t worried that the claim was denied, he was upset that a collection agency was coming after him for the hospital bill from when he first hurt himself and they had put something on his credit report and refused to remove it.

It sounds like a nightmare, but it’s actually one of the easiest problems there is to solve.

There is a law in Illinois that says if you have an active workers’ compensation case, it’s illegal for a medical provider or collection agency to sue you to try and collect payment or to negatively affect your credit rating.  So why is this happening to him?

To have an “active case” you need to formally file your claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  This is the first thing we do for clients when we file a document called an application for adjustment of claim.  It’s free, takes no time at all to do and once it’s done we can send a copy of it with a short letter to any creditor and let them know you have an active case and that any attempts to collect from you violate the law.

This almost always stops them from going after you or harming your credit.  And if they continue to do so we can refer you to a consumer fraud attorney we work with who would sue them on your behalf.  That almost never happens though because the law on this is crystal clear.

It’s a great protection for injured workers in Illinois and we also try to smooth things over with the medical provider by getting a copy of the bill and letting them know that we are working on getting it paid.  So it usually ends up as a win for you and a win for them too.

So don’t stress if creditors are breathing down your neck after you got hurt at work. Get a case formally filed and make sure they know about it.  After that just focus on getting healthy.

Questions? Comments?  Did we make no sense?  Need help?  Contact us any time for a free consult with one of our attorneys.  We help everywhere in Illinois.

Settling An Illinois Work Comp Case and Dodge Ball

A recent caller to my office wanted to know how long he had to file his case.  He had heard it was two years from the accident date (FYI it’s a minimum of three years) and that time was fast approaching.  All of his medical bills had been paid as had his time off work.  He had a surgery on one leg and a recommendation to do it on the other leg which he passed on.

He wasn’t ready to hire use because he was worried about getting fired and losing out on his vacation and bonus pay.  I don’t believe that would happen, but I get why he’s thinking about it. He said he’d look to settle before the three year mark is up after he quits his job.

We started talking about what his case might be worth and he had heard there is a chart that determines what each case is worth.  I let him know that while there is a chart that determines what each body part is worth, the total value of the case is based on a ton of items including his medical care and recovery.  It’s also based on your leverage and that is when dodge ball game up.

What I said to him as that he has to picture settling an Illinois work comp case as a game of dodge ball.  It’s all about your leverage and advantages and not giving any help to your opponent.  Imagine you and I were playing dodge ball and we were the only two left.  If you had all five balls, you’d like your chances. You would never roll two over to me just to give me a chance.

Well his work comp case is kind of like that. He has a big injury that has been accepted.  That’s one ball.  Nobody disputes that his leg troubles are from the job.  That’s two. He’s working right now at the same company and since they might be worried that he’ll get hurt again, they’d likely offer him a severance to quit.  That’s three.  He needs future medical treatment.  That’s four.  No doctor has said anything against him. That’s five. He’s got all of the balls.

His case is definitely worth something, but currently he has all of the leverage to make it worth more.  If he quits there is no chance of getting a severance or having them fear he will get hurt again.  If he gets in another accident away from work and hurts his leg worse, suddenly it can be disputed that his leg complaints are from the job.  If he needs additional medical care, especially if it results in that surgery he put off, the insurance company wouldn’t have to throw additional money in for future medical care.  They also would be able to find a hack doctor to stay most of his leg problems are related to the new accident.

Now we’ve got a fight on our hands and a case that can be settled for a really high amount will either go to trial or get settled for a lower, compromised amount.

I never tell a client to settle too soon.  You want to be finished with your medical care and feeling well.  But delaying that for a year on the other hand also poses risks, especially when all of the leverage is currently on your side.  Under his worst case scenario he goes from five balls to one.  He’ll still get a settlement, but he will have lost a lot of money.

Bottom line is that he has a decision to make. He’s trying to protect his vacation pay and bonus.  But if someone runs a red light and slams in to him, he may cost himself tens of thousands of dollars.  So don’t settle too fast, but don’t think about it too late.  Or it can cost you.

IL Work Comp – Is Your Employer Making a Bogus Job Offer To You

The most common question we get is “what is my case worth?” The answer depends on the medical treatment you receive, the permanent nature of your injury, your need for future medical care, your age and what’s going to happen with your job including is there a job to return to.  Of course your pre and post injury wages matter too.

If you have a major injury with permanent restrictions, your case probably has a lot of value, especially if you were earning a good wage at the time you were injured. That said, if you have permanent restrictions and a job to go back to, your case might be worth in the high five figures.  If your restrictions prevent you from going back to your old job and you have to get new work at a much lower pay rate or can’t find a job at all then your case is likely worth in the low to mid six figures.

There’s a big difference between a case worth $90,000 and a case worth $400,000.  Our goal is to get the most money in your pocket based on what your case is actually worth.

Insurance companies and some employers of course know this too.  So they will do whatever they can to make it seem as if there is a job for you because that could really cut what is paid on your case.  If you settle that job might magically disappear.

If you’ve been working as the head of a maintenance department for years and badly hurt your back while doing heavy lifting, it’s not unreasonable to expect that your doctor would give you permanent lifting restrictions so you don’t re-injure yourself, especially if you had a surgery or two. If your employer won’t take you back and you can only find a low paying job you’d be able to get wage differential benefits.

Now imagine that you tell them your restrictions and for over a year they have no job for you.  You look for over 300 jobs on your own and can’t land one.  Your lawyer files for a trial and is going to ask that an Arbitrator says you are permanently disabled.  Two weeks before the trial the company suddenly has a job for you within your restrictions.  Not only that, it’s a job that never existed in the ten years you worked there.  Finally the job offer doesn’t describe what any of your job duties will be.

Does it sound fishy to you? It should. It’s clearly a sham job offer that was made to try and lower the value of your case.  And if you think that doesn’t happen, that scenario is from a real case that was recently decided.  The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission fortunately saw through all of this and didn’t punish the worker.  They decided he was permanently disabled.

Bottom line is that the insurance company will play games on your case from beginning to end and you need to look out for that.  If you have questions or want our help, click the contact us button or call us at (312) 346-5578.  We help injured workers anywhere in Illinois.

Governor Rauner Doesn’t Want Cheap Work Comp Insurance

We normally blog about work injuries, but sometimes things happen that can affect injured workers so it’s worth talking about. If you have any questions about a claim call us at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form. We cover all of Illinois.

By a big majority, the Illinois House and Senate recently passed a bill that would have allowed Illinois employers to buy workers’ compensation insurance from a State run group that would be a non-profit. In other words, businesses wouldn’t be gouged by insurance companies who are looking to make a profit even when their costs are going down.  It would all be started with a $10 million loan.

Sounds pretty good, right?  Workers still get their benefits and employers pay less.  A version of this exists in California, Texas, Minnesota and other places and the consumer group Americans For Insurance Reform have said it results in lower overhead and costs.

Despite this being good for businesses, Governor Rauner rejected it with his veto power so if the bipartisan group that passed this legislation can’t override that veto it won’t become a law.

The only sensible reason I can think of for this veto is that he’s looking out for insurance company profits.  Places like Travelers, Zurich, Gallagher Bassett, etc. would have to lower their premiums or lose business.

If you are an employer, do you really care who is insuring you?  Of course not. There’s no advantage to having one company over the other with the exception of price.  Sure service matters, but the free market would sort this all out.  I’m literally stunned that a Governor who has campaigned on work comp insurance costs being too high has vetoed a bill that would quickly lower those costs.  This isn’t a guinea pig project, it’s working in many other states.

Unfortunately this is politics and it’s why I and most everyone I know hates politics.  Rauner won’t rest until he cuts your benefits so his insurance company donors won’t have to pay you much while still collecting the same premium profits.  It’s pathetic.

Enough of this rant.  While this will affect injured workers in the long run, I’ll get back to posting on stuff that affects you on a daily basis.

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