Featured Post

One Chicago workers’ compensation law firm only cares about profit

There is a workers’ compensation law firm in Chicago that gets a high number of clients.  That’s because they advertise a ton and seemingly will take any case that comes through the door. 

They need a lot of lawyers to handle all of those cases, but when you are taking claims on that involve a contusion to the arm, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to handle them. 

What ends up happening is that this firm hires a bunch of lawyers that have two or less years of experience, including often hiring attorneys that are fresh out of law school.

This means that these lawyers are getting trained by handling cases.  They are bound to make mistakes which comes at the expense of the clients.  In other words, if you hire them, you could be paying to train these low level people.

I believe this firm does this because they don’t have to pay these younger lawyers very much.  From what I’ve seen, they don’t get the best training because many of these attorneys leave not long after they have been hired and I hear stories all of the time that they aren’t really clear on what the laws are.  One such attorney left this firm a couple of years back, started his own firm and was soon thereafter suspended from practicing law.

Now getting an experienced attorney doesn’t guarantee you a result, just as hiring a young one doesn’t mean that things won’t go well.  But I’m a big believer in predictors of success.  And the truth is that most younger attorneys won’t get you the same result that you will receive from someone who has been in the business at least ten years.

So before you hire a firm, ask who is going to be working on your case.  A lot of these firms claim that a very senior partner will supervise a young associate, but in reality that doesn’t seem to happen very often.  

Make sure that someone experienced is going to be looking out for your case and will be responsible for the day to day handling of it.  You are paying the same fee no matter who is assigned to you, you might as well have the best.

This is all part of you looking out for you.  If you don’t nobody else will.

“The best” RSD lawyer in Chicago

I get calls like this all of the time.  “Who’s the best RSD lawyer in Chicago?’  Or Peoria, Rockford, Urbana or any other city in Illinois.

The answer is always the same.  It depends.

The best RSD (or CRPS) attorney in Chicago for a work injury wouldn’t be the same as the best one for CRPS from a car accident.

Even for just a work injury, there are other factors in play to.  Who do you work for?  When were you hurt?  Is it expected that your case will go to trial?  Is your case denied or accepted?  Are you having issues with a nurse case manager?  The list goes on an on.

It’s lazy to only focus on the RSD aspect.  Of course that matters and it’s important that you hire someone who not only understands the medicine, but has won cases involving this unique injury as well as taken the depositions of doctors on that type of case.

But if that’s the only qualification you are looking for, you are selling yourself short.

In general though, nobody is the best.  Instead we think about who is best for you.  That can be more than one firm and that’s ok.  It’s just important that you get with a great firm who will fight for you.

Injuries like RSD often get denied by the insurance company because there are many hack IME doctors who will state that the problem either doesn’t exist or isn’t work related.  I’m sure they wouldn’t trade places with you.

Because these cases are often rejected, the only way to get benefits is by going to trial.  So if your lawyer has no experience doing that or is reluctant to do so, you’ll get screwed.

So experience with the injury matters and we take that in to consideration before we refer someone in our network to you.  But it’s not the only thing that matters.

Common workers’ compensation acronyms and abbreviations

Our goal is always to explain things in plain English and in a way that makes sense. Hopefully, we don’t toss around legal terms without explaining what they mean. If we do, we apologize. Here is a list of some of the most common acronyms used in Illinois workers’ compensation cases, along with (we hope) a basic explanation. If you want to know more, you can always call us and ask.

TTD. Temporary Total Disability. TTD is what you get if you can’t work while you recover from your injury. TTD benefits are checks for 2/3 of your average weekly wage while you can’t work. Your doctor needs to agree that you cannot work. Your employer’s insurance company might argue that you are not entitled to TTD, either because you can work light duty or because your injury was not related to work, etc. This is common but doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be getting TTD.

PPD. Permanent Partial Disability. This is what you get if your work injury leaves you with a permanent disability, such as the loss of the use of a part of your body. PPD is based on a calculation that includes your average weekly wage and the extent of your disability. PPD is generally paid as a settlement at the end of your case.

PTD. Permanent Total Disability. If you are seriously injured and disabled and can’t return to any kind of work at all, then you are entitled to ongoing PTD payments.

FCE. Functional Capacity Evaluation. This is a test that your doctor will use in order to determine your ability to do your job. It will determine what restrictions, if any, you will need when you return to work.

IME. Independent Medical Exam. When the insurance company disagrees with your doctor’s medical opinion, they can try to dispute it with a second opinion. In order to do this, they require you to attend an IME. This is where a supposedly impartial doctor gives that second opinion. If you have a credible doctor and you are being honest about your injuries, then there is no reason an IME opinion should win out over your own doctor’s.

MMI. Maximum Medical Improvement. Not everyone fully recovers from a work injury, but they usually get to a point where they are as good as they are going to get. In other words, further medical treatment isn’t going to make a difference (in a doctor’s opinion). This is called MMI, and it’s at this point that claims tend to settle. It’s important that you don’t settle until you believe you have reached MMI because you won’t get further medical coverage after settlement.

AWW. Average Weekly Wage. When you get benefits for lost wages they are calculated by using your average weekly wage. Your AWW is based on the 52 weeks prior to your injury. Although it might sound straightforward, make sure the calculation is done correctly. The insurance company wants to work off of a lower AWW (in order to pay you less), but they might not be including everything that they should.

 

Need a Polish speaking workers’ comp attorney in Chicago?

Within the span of two days recently, I had two calls looking for lawyers who speak a foreign language and could also handle a workers’ compensation claim.  That is understandable because if you don’t speak English well, you want to be able to communicate with your lawyer.

The first caller wanted a Polish speaking workers’ compensation lawyer in Chicago. The second wanted a law firm that spoke Serbian and also had offices in Chicago.

The problem with the requests is that the callers were placing a higher value on the ability to speak the language than they were the experience of the attorney.

Illinois workers’ compensation laws aren’t brain surgery, unless you don’t regularly deal with them.  The “smartest” lawyers graduate law school and end up working at huge firms like Jenner & Block or Sidley & Austin. Those attorneys handle complex cases and deal with mergers of multi billion dollar companies.  But if you asked them how to calculate a TTD rate or what role a nurse case manager should have, they wouldn’t be able to help you.  I can’t do their job and they can’t do mine.

The point is that no lawyer knows how to handle every case that walks through the door. So while I understand the desire of people to have an attorney who speaks their native language, it’s way more important that the lawyer know how to handle the case and what the laws are.

Now we do have attorneys in our state wide network who speak many different languages.  But the point is that you’ll see firms who take any case that walks in to their office, even if they don’t know how to handle it.  They make clients feel comfortable by speaking the same language, but they really aren’t doing what is best for the injured worker.

It would be like going to a doctor because he/she speaks Polish to deliver your baby and then asking the same doctor to do your back surgery. It’s just not a good idea or safe.  But we see immigration lawyers who want to also handle job accidents all the time.

What I tell people, no matter their situation, is to take a long term view toward their case.  Think about what’s best for you in the long run.  That includes getting all of the medical care that you need.  It includes making sure that you are able to work again.  And it means making sure you know your rights and you have someone in your corner who does as well and can protect you.

Ask an Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer

I get questions all of the time and I’m happy to answer them whether that leads to us representing you or not.  You can always click the contact box at the top of the page to e-mail us or call at 312-346-5578.  We aren’t a stuffy law firm and if a lawyer is available, they’ll answer the phone.  If we are with clients, our receptionist will answer and usually we will call you back within 20 minutes or less.  And it’s all free and confidential.

Here are some great and common questions I’ve received over the last few months.

Who should I report my accident to?  I heard I only have 45 days to do so.  Should I wait?

All work related accidents have to be reported within 45 days of them happening or you lose your rights under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  You should report the accident right away or it can look suspicious.  You don’t want to give the insurance company any reason to question your case.

As to who you should report the accident to, it should be any supervisor and it’s best if it’s in writing.  Again, you don’t want to create any possible defense to your case with a he said/she said situation.

I’m a part time worker.  Do I qualify for workers’ compensation benefits?

Yes.  Every employee is eligible from the moment they start working.

Do I have to pay taxes on my settlement?

No, all settlements are tax free because it’s considered income.

Why is there a new Arbitrator on my case?

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission rotates the Arbitrators.  So while month to month the Arbitrator will likely stay the same, if your case drags on for a couple of years, especially if your case isn’t in Chicago, it’s likely that the assigned Arbitrator will change.

What is your consultation fee?

It’s $0 and any lawyer who tries to charge you for a consult is a thief.  Our fees are set by state law and there should never be a consult fee, even for the worst lawyer in the world.  Also, beware firms that ask you for money to pay for expenses.  That’s often a terrible sign for the health of their firm or their knowledge of the law.  We advance all expenses and only get reimbursed if we win.

Am I crazy or did the insurance company pay off my attorney?

You are crazy, :).   This simply does not happen.  Even the scummiest attorneys wouldn’t do this and even if they would, no insurance company would do this because they’d be risking their entire business over one case.

I signed an agreement that says I’m an independent contractor.  Can I still file a case?

It depends if you are really an independent contractor or not.  Often they call you that, but if they have a right of control over you then you are likely an employee.  If that’s the situation then you can file for benefits.

I burned my face at work the other day.  How much is my case worth?

Like any other case, it depends on your ultimate recovery.  For burns, we have to wait a minimum of six months from the accident date before your case can be settled to see what type of scar develops.  Burns on faces can be worth a lot, but hopefully you make a great recovery.

 

I’ll post common questions every couple of months.  But if you ever want to talk about a case, do not hesitate to get in touch.

Indiana employers trying to screw Illinois workers

Indiana has the worst, IMO, workers’ compensation laws for workers in the country. I haven’t met one attorney who will take a work comp case there because the laws are so bad against employees in favor of employers.

They also have bad medical malpractice laws with draconian damage caps that don’t compensate victims of severe malpractice.  So you’ll see some bad doctors move to Indiana in hopes of limiting their liability.

We’ve seen some companies do that too, thinking they can avoid compensating their employees if they are hurt.  But the problem for them is that they continue to do work in Illinois so they are subject to our laws.  No matter where your employer is based, if you are hurt working in Illinois you get benefits here.

Some companies are blatantly lying to their employees and telling them falsely that they can’t pursue Illinois benefits because the company is in Indiana.  One northwest IN company had employees sign a document that said they wouldn’t bring a case in any state but IN.  That, fortunately, is not enforceable in Illinois.  You can’t waive your right to benefits.

A different company by Terre Haute, according to a caller to my office, just flat out said that Illinois law wouldn’t cover them.  This was for a poor guy that got hit in the head by a piece of steel and knocked out.  He appears to have a brain injury and should have been sent to a neurologist a while ago.  But the employer is trying him to jump through the hoops of IN law that don’t appear to give a crap about your health.

We connected that caller with a central Illinois work injury attorney in our network who should be able to help him.  But it’s a shame that it even had to come to that.  I don’t understand how businesses, even if they are focused on their bottom line, can just toss away their employees health in the way that they do.  This case was especially sad because it appears the employer was at fault.

Bottom line is that you should never take legal advice from your employer.  They aren’t looking out for you and in some cases they are actually working against you.

IL work comp – you aren’t a doctor

I talk to people every day who have unfortunately sustained terrible injuries.  But every now and then I get someone who tells me what’s wrong with them and I’ll ask who their doctor is.  This can be insightful as I know hundreds of doctors throughout Illinois and every now and then I know if they are treating with a bad one or a good one to the point that it’s helping or hurting their case.

About one out of every 50 people stumble when I ask this question though.  I’ll hear something like, “I don’t have a doctor because I don’t like going to doctors and besides, I know my body better than anyone.”  That’s how they let me know their leg is broken or their back is injured.

You can’t prove to an Arbitrator or Judge that your leg is broken without an x-ray.  You can’t show a back injury without a doctor stating you have one and usually you need a MRI.

I’ve heard from countless people that hope to prove their case based on what they have to say.  A common call is from someone who wants to receive TTD benefits because they haven’t worked for a month, but no doctor has said they can’t work or that they need restrictions on their job. You can’t say “I don’t feel well” and expect to be paid.  Only a doctor can take you off of work because they are (hopefully) independent.

If this post sounds harsh, you should know that I am the type of attorney who will never tell you what you want to hear but will always tell the truth.  I don’t doubt most of the people who call me, but haven’t been to a doctor.  But a Judge will.  You prove that you are injured based on what your medical reports say.  Your testimony is relevant too, but it won’t prove nearly as much as what your doctor thinks.

I hate going to the doctor too and I’ve had MRI’s and epidural steroid injections so I know that some of this treatment isn’t a lot of fun. But if you want to receive workers’ compensation benefits, you can’t be a tough guy/girl. If you aren’t feeling well, see a MD and find out what is wrong with you.  It’s best for your health and best for your case.

Not for profits and Illinois workers’ compensation laws

I admire greatly not for profit companies and the work they do.  One of my closest friends from college has worked for a not for profit Chicago hospital for almost 20 years and the work his company does is amazing.

The key word in the last paragraph is company.  A not for profit is still a business.  A recent caller to my office was told by his employer that because their company was a non profit organization, they didn’t have to pay workers’ compensation benefits.

This is simply false.  If you are an employee in Illinois, no matter the type of business (except some farm workers and Chicago cops and firemen) you are covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act from the moment you start working.  It doesn’t matter either if you are full or part time or if you are a manager.

And unless you are one of the owners of the business, you can’t waive your rights to receive benefits.

Unlike some business owners, I don’t think that the boss of my caller was bad intentioned, just misinformed.  I believe she worked previously in a different state where this was the law.

But in Illinois, an employee is an employee.  If you are told that you fall in to some magical exception that bars your rights, then you are probably being lied to or talking with someone who is misinformed.

You can always contact us with any questions about your case by clicking on the contact button at the top of the page.  Or call us at (312) 346-5578.

Illinois workers’ compensation statute of limitations

I should call this post saved by the insurance company.

A woman called me wanting to know if it was too late to file a claim.  Generally you have three years from the accident date or two years from the last payment of compensation (such as TTD benefits or payment of a bill) to file a claim.

What happened to her is she was badly injured in 2006 and treated for five years.  All the bills were paid as was most of her time off of work.  She stopped treating in 2011 and was given a low ball settlement offer at that time.  She declined it, but then got really sick and put everything on hold while she dealt with cancer.

She called back this year to say that she wanted to take the settlement offer and two things happened.  First, the insurance adjuster told her that she waited too long and the offer is now off the table.  Second, the adjuster told her that looking in the file, they realized they do owe her one week of TTD benefits and sent her a check for that.

That was a huge mistake by the insurance company.  Even though the case was essentially dead, by sending the check, the case had new life.  She has two years from when that check was paid to file the case now.

It was really a big goof up, but it’s for the benefit of an injured worker so I’m of course thrilled that it happened.  Beyond that, the original offer was terribly unfair so we can get her a much better deal.  She’s downstate, so I referred her to a lawyer in our statewide network in central Illinois who has a history of getting great results.

For you, you don’t want to wait too long to formally file a case because stuff like this can happen.  Also, the sooner your case is filed (which means filing an application for adjustment of claim with the state, this is the first thing a lawyer does) the higher priority you have to get a hearing before an Arbitrator if you ever need to.  This can be really important, especially if you want to keep your medical rights open in case you have trouble in the future.

Bottom line, don’t mess with the statute of limitations by waiting too long.  Most people won’t get a miracle from the insurance company if they blow it.

There are crappy lawyers elsewhere too

To be clear, I think most attorneys are great.  It’s just that the bad ones stand out and give the good ones a bad name.  It’s kind of like how a terrible referee in a football or basketball game will be noticed, but if they are doing a great job you don’t even notice that they are there.

A woman from New Jersey called me about her workers’ compensation attorney.  At first I thought she was in Chicago.  She had a simple question as to when her settlement check would arrive as it had been more than 30 days since the Judge approved the contract.

I let her know that it typically happens in less than 30 days, but that she should call her lawyer as he would know for sure and could put pressure on the insurance company.

She let me know that throughout the case her attorney almost never has called her back and when he does, he yells at her and makes her feel dumb.  Until I learned that he was in NJ, I had some guesses as to which Chicago lawyer it was.

She finally called me because he refused to call the insurance company on the status of the check, saying that he “didn’t want to bother them.  It will come when it comes.”

How lame and pathetic.  This is what his job is. Beyond that, doesn’t the lawyer want to get paid too.

Most attorneys aren’t like this fortunately, but a handful are and they are losing clients left and right because they get fired all of the time.  In this case the lawyer didn’t get fired, but there’s zero chance my caller would go back to him in the future or refer anyone to him.  So it’s just bad business aside from the fact that it’s immoral.

For you as an injured worker, you should realize that if you have this type of attorney you are not alone.  It’s not just happening in Illinois, but elsewhere too.  Again, most law firms give good service, but if yours does not, you can switch and it won’t cost you anything.

You can’t sue your employer for your injury, but here’s what you can do…

Worker’s compensation is a way for injured employees to get money for work injuries (for medical costs and lost income) without filing a lawsuit. The good thing about this is that you don’t have to file a lawsuit in order to get compensated. The downside, for some, is that you can’t collect the types of damages you could sue for in a lawsuit, such as pain and suffering. Illinois law prohibits injured workers from suing their employers for a work injury.

What you can do is collect benefits that you are entitled to under Illinois workers’ compensation law. Notify your employer of your injury as soon as possible (the law says within 45 days). Then, file an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Illinois workers’ compensation commission. If you don’t start getting benefits, if your claim is denied, or if your injury is serious and/or permanent, get an attorney to deal with the insurance company for you because the insurance company’s goal is to avoid paying you.

You are entitled to workers’ compensation if you are an employee and your injury is work related. It doesn’t matter if the injury was your fault. And it doesn’t matter if it was your employer’s fault. These issues are at the center of injury lawsuits based on negligence, but in a workers’ compensation claim, they are irrelevant. This can be good because it saves a lot of time and doesn’t punish you if you made a mistake that led to your injury. On the flipside this can be frustrating for a worker who was injured because of an unsafe work environment or something the employer did. The employee can’t “make them pay” via a lawsuit.

An exception to the no-lawsuit rule is that you can sue someone other than your employer. If a property owner or equipment manufacturer was at fault in causing your injury, then a so-called “third party” lawsuit would be allowed.

Benefits available to you under Illinois workers’ compensation include temporary total disability payments, which are equal to 2/3 of your average weekly wage. All related and reasonable medical expenses should be covered. The law says that you can’t sue your employer for a work injury. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In many cases, the system works as it should, getting workers the help they need until they can get back to work.

 

LexBlog