When The Insurance Company Wants You To Wait

Here’s an easy question.  If you are hurt on the job, who’s the most important person on your case.  Let’s go multiple choice.

A. Your doctor.

B. The insurance adjuster.

C. Your lawyer.

D. Their lawyer.

E. None of the above.

If you said E, you’re correct.  The most important person on your case is you.  You are the injured person.  Your life is being affected.  You are the one in pain; the one who has to worry about paying their bills; the one who has to worry about what is going to happen if you can’t get better and have to find a new line of work.

For whatever reason we see some doctors and lawyers acting as if you are inconveniencing them with your case.  I heard a story of one attorney who yelled at his client because the client’s trial was going to interfere with his spring break plans. Of all the things to be upset about.  I can’t imagine telling a client, “Sorry, I can’t help you this month. I know you haven’t gotten a check for three months and need your surgery approved, but it’s way more important for me to go to Mexico.  I’ll send you pictures.”

The worst offenders though are the insurance adjusters. On the one hand, many of them are young and poorly paid and they don’t have a lot of experience. So part of me wants to cut them some slack.  On the other, much bigger hand, some adjusters seem to take joy in delaying payment of benefits.  They’ll tell you that they are “investigating” your case when there is nothing to investigate.  They won’t call back a doctor’s office who is looking for approval for a medical procedure.  They’ll “forget” to enter your information in the system to have your TTD check processed even though that’s usually a bunch of b.s.

Not to say that there aren’t ever fraudulent claims, there are. We would never knowingly get involved in one.  But some of these insurance people treat every case like it’s made up even when the medical records show a serious problem and the employer agrees that the worker was injured while performing their job duties.

So what are you to do?  Even though I hated tests when I was in school, to celebrate the end of another school year let’s take another quiz.

A. Nothing. Eventually they’ll do the right thing.

B. Punch the wall.

C. Give up.

D. Have your attorney file a petition for penalties and fees for an improper delay of benefits.

I hope the answer is obvious.  They can act like jerks, but you can make them responsible for their bad behavior. It’s way better than punching a wall.

If you have any questions about Illinois workers’ compensation law, fill out our contact form or call us any time at (312) 346-5578.  There’s never a charge and we help with cases everywhere in Illinois.

When You Get Hurt Doing A “Bo Jackson Move”

Every month I get a publication called the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin.  It compiles a list of recent and important decisions about Illinois work comp law.  Any lawyer who claims to be focusing on Illinois work injury cases should be getting and reading this.  They provide a good insight as to what might happen if you take your case to trial.

One of the recent cases covered the law of horse play. The general law is that if you are goofing around at work and get hurt, then you can’t receive work comp benefits for your injury.  I think most reasonable people would agree that makes sense.  If my job is to patrol a factory on a golf cart as part of a security detail, but I decide to do donuts with the golf cart, if it flips over I can’t reasonably say that my injury was part of my job.  It would be the same if I got hurt in my current job as a lawyer after I challenged the mail delivery guy to an arm wrestling match.

Like most areas of law, horse play can have some gray area where it’s not clear whether or not benefits should be awarded.  In a recently highlighted case, a gym teacher at a school was waiting outside the locker room when one of his students ran up the wall and  jumped.  This is known as the Bo Jackson move as he used to do that when playing baseball.

The gym teacher told the student he could do the same thing and his students challenged him.  As fate would have it, when he gave it a go he felt a pop in his ankle which was later diagnosed as a torn Achilles tendon.  He filed for benefits and the case was denied.

At trial the teacher testified that he likes to challenge his students and wants to be a physical fitness role model.  He also said it’s not unusual for him to participate in activities with school students and it’s not against school rules.  This was confirmed by the principal who said this activity could also link up with his goals of building rapport and motivating students although he also said it’s not one he’d recommend.

Quite honestly I would have expected that he’d win his case off this testimony, but he lost.  The Arbitrator denied benefits because he found that the activity wasn’t initiated by the employee ( I don’t see how that should matter) and because the teacher who controlled the class curriculum admitted that this wasn’t part of the curriculum (that makes a little more sense).  Also, the injury happened the second time he ran up the wall after being challenged by his students to go higher. The Arbitrator felt that this made it horse play and that he was doing this for his own personal reasons rather than for his job.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the teacher admitting that there were less risky ways in which he could have built rapport with the students.

My argument in favor of the teacher would have been that while it’s possible it could have caused an injury, so could playing basketball, football, softball or any other physical education activity.  He’s a gym teacher trying to do an athletic move, so it’s reasonable that he did so as he was trying to bond with the students.

I looked up the attorneys who handled this case.  The defense firm was one of the top firms out of Chicago.  They have approximately 70 lawyers in four different offices, most of whom only focus on work comp.  Of course only one of them handled this case, but it would have likely been someone with great experience and resources.  The attorney for the injured worker was someone out of Springfield who I had never heard of.  As far as I can tell he handles multiple practice areas and I do wonder how much experience he has with this type of case.

I’m not saying that it was a dead bang winner, but when you have a reputable defense firm going up against someone who isn’t as known and might not know the best arguments to make, it doesn’t give you the best chance of winning the case.  Again, I don’t know this guy or case well enough to say that happened for certain, but it’s my strong suspicion.

Either way, this hurts future injured workers as this “Bo Jackson case” can be used against someone else who gets injured when they do something that isn’t exactly what their job required.  And that is why I rant against lawyers who don’t know what they are doing.  They not only hurt their clients, but they also can hurt mine.

When Your Lawyer Doesn’t Call Back

In general I tell people not to be paranoid in their Illinois workers’ compensation cases. Typically if a lawyer isn’t calling you back or is never around it’s just a sign that they are lazy, have too many cases or are taking more vacation than they should.

But then you read about some lawyers who are literally stealing from their clients and I get why some people get nervous.  The most recent example was in the Chicago Tribune about a disbarred, disgraced Chicago injury attorney who stole more than $1 million from his clients.  This lawyer had a good career with fancy Loop offices that apparently impressed his clients.

Like a lot of lawyers that I come across, he seemed to not like his job and hoped to do something else.  Most of these attorneys don’t actually do anything else, but instead become grumpy toward their clients and often don’t give the cases the care that they deserve.

The lawyer in the article, Jordan Margolis, went a step further.  He apparently desires to be a comedian and screen writer so he allegedly used client funds to fund his comic career as a character he created, Excuseman.  It seems pretty cheesy and lame, but that was his goal.

I have no problem with lawyers who don’t want to be lawyers any more.  I do have a BIG problem with those who don’t want to practice law and continue to take on clients.  Margolis had the fancy law office and according to the story a big home in Highland Park.  The right thing to do would have been to quit being a lawyer, get rid of all of his overhead, sell his fancy house and live within his means.  Of course he didn’t do that.  Instead he (allegedly) stole from clients including one City of Chicago worker whose case he settled for $375,000.00 without telling the client.

We hear a couple of similar stories every year so if your attorney isn’t calling back or isn’t around, it’s certainly possible that it means your being swindled. More likely than not though it means that you just hired someone who is not the best choice for your case.  I’ve never understood how anyone can take more than 24 hours to call someone back.  I can’t think of the last time that it took me more than a few hours and in most cases we call back within minutes.  Or in the least we’ll shoot you an e-mail to let you know we are with another client, but will call you back whenever we are free.

Margolis was the most brazen allegation that I’ve seen.  According to the story he was living in LA at one point and his staff in Chicago didn’t even know that he was done with practicing law.  He eventually lost his law license, but it was too late for some clients.  I can only imagine how many he didn’t steal from, but whose cases got screwed up.

The best thing you can do if you suspect a Margolis situation is to cut bait and get a new firm.  Lazy, mean or indifferent attorneys don’t ever turn it around from my experience.  They might not be stealing from you, but with their lack of effort they might as well be.

When Your Lawyer Is Fighting And Threatening Everybody

A lot of people that call me want a tough lawyer in their corner.  I believe most of them mean that they want someone who will actually fight for them and do the best job possible.  They don’t want to feel as if their lawyer cares more about his personal life, golf game, the other attorney or anything else other than making sure that benefits are paid and the law is followed.

While you may want a fighter, you don’t want or need someone who is actually picking fights or making threats. When they do that they are making enemies with the defense firms and insurance companies and it can hurt all of their clients if they do.

That doesn’t mean your lawyer should kiss butt or needs to get along with everyone.  That doesn’t have to happen and it certainly doesn’t happen with us or the lawyers in our state wide network. If the insurance company or their lawyer is out of line we call them on it.

What we don’t do is what I heard a Chicago work comp lawyer threatening the other day.  He told a defense attorney that he was declaring war on his firm and swore that he would never, ever settle a case with them again.  Every case was going to trial he shouted as his face got redder and redder.

Does this sound like the type of lawyer you want?  If your case can be settled and you want/need the settlement, should you have to wait for a trial because your attorney got in to a pissing match over something that had nothing to do with your case?  Of course not. That would be ridiculous.

I know the defense lawyer involved in this well and he just laughed.  He of course makes more money when cases go to trial because he gets paid by the hour and has to do more work on cases that get tried.  So essentially this lunatic was threatening him that, “I’m so mad I’m going to make you more money on every case we have together!”

Another attorney told me that this same lawyer once threw trial exhibits in a rage and called the other attorney bush league.  It may sound tough, but in the real world it gets you nowhere.

You of course wouldn’t want this attorney to scream at you if they were having a bad day or you just wanted a question answered.  You want a fighter, but not an asshole.  I assure you that if your attorney can’t get along with you then they likely can’t get along with anyone else. And that is bad for your case which is all that really matters.

Illinois Workers Comp Settlements – Your Bottom Line

There is an old saying that a good settlement is one that makes both sides happy or neither side happy. I don’t agree with that at all.  I could care less if the insurance company is happy.  I just want you to be happy.

Not all lawyers feel this way.  Early on in my former life as a defense attorney, I remember settling a case with a Chicago work comp attorney who has a lot of clients.  I told him that we couldn’t pay his demand of $25,000.00, but that I had settlement authority of $22,000.00.  He told me that “Why don’t we just settle the case for $20,000.00.  That’s my client’s bottom line.  I’ll look good to them and you can look good to your client because you saved them a couple of bucks.”

So essentially he took $1,600.00 in tax free money out of his client’s pocket.  He did it because his firm had many cases with my firm and he was trying to build a good, long term relationship as if he thought that him selling out his client on this case would lead me to do the same down the road. It of course didn’t work.

I hear a lot of injured workers talking about their bottom line in a case and I get that line of thinking.  Sometimes your bottom line is unreasonable (you aren’t getting a million dollars for a carpal tunnel case no matter how poorly the insurance company has treated you) and other times your bottom line is too low.

There have been plenty of times where we and the lawyers in our network have talked clients out of settling for way less than their case is worth.  I recall one case from years ago where the client wanted to walk with $50,000.00 because that is more than he had ever made in his lifetime.  Problem was that we valued the case at around $200,000.00 so if he settled he’d be selling himself way too short.

If you are going to have a bottom line then I suggest it be based on a combination of two things.  First you need to get a realistic idea from your lawyer as to what your worst and best case scenario is if your case goes to trial.  If your worst case scenario appears to be around $30,000.00 and your best case is around $75,000.00, then settling for $35,000.00 really is settling even if you just want your case to be over.

The second thing to consider is your personal life.  Years ago we represented a very nice man who wanted to retire.  His bottom line was $125,000.00 in his pocket because that would allow him to move to a warmer climate and be closer to his daughter and grandchild.  I told him that he was leaving at least $50,000.00 on the table, but also that it would probably take us 12-18 months to get him the settlement he deserved or a final award through trial.  To him, waiting that long, especially with a job waiting for him in his new state, was not worth the extra money and time away from family.

What I don’t encourage is for you to start thinking about your bottom line when your case isn’t ready to settle.  If you tore your rotator cuff last week, you should focus on getting the best medical care possible. The value of what your case is going to be worth can’t be determined because we don’t know what your ultimate recovery will be.  How well you recover is the biggest factor in determining case value.  The time to think about bottom line is when your treatment is ending or ended.

This can be confusing and you shouldn’t be expected to figure it all out on your own.  Doing so could cost you a bunch of money even when lawyer fees are added in. If you’d like to consult with us about your Illinois work injury, call us at (312) 346-5578 any time or fill out the form to the right.  It’s free, confidential and we cover all of Illinois.

The Worst Thing I’ve Seen A Chicago Work Comp Lawyer Do

Most Illinois lawyers are great or at least good.  But some are terrible.  And there is one Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer that I think is probably the worst of all of them.

I get more calls from unhappy clients of this firm than anyone else.  Maybe more than all other firms combined. It’s always the same story, although the actual problem can be one or more of the following:  He doesn’t call back.  He promises the moon, but can’t deliver. The case gets re-assigned to a new lawyer every few months.  They don’t know the case. They lie. They don’t answer questions.

Recently though this lawyer did (allegedly) the worst thing I’ve seen.

On a Sunday, within 30 minutes, I got two e-mails from clients of his. That’s not unusual, but it made me laugh.  The first one wanted to switch lawyers because she hadn’t received a TTD check in a month and this law firm told her it could take up to six months for the first check to arrive (not true at all).  The second one was also not getting TTD checks even though her case was accepted, but the lie they added on to her case was even worse.

When she found this law firm, they sent an investigator to her house to sign her up.  They had her sign a bunch of paperwork and told her that they would give her copies.  That never happened.  She’s trying to get a copy because one of the papers apparently said that she’s not allowed to fire them and if she did she’d have to pay them a lot of money.  She’s broker than broke right now and while she wanted to fire them, she was too scared to do so because she was worried about the possible fees.

While we tell callers to stick with their lawyers if they have a good one or it can be worked out, let me be 100% clear:

It costs nothing to switch lawyers in an Illinois workers’ compensation case!

It doesn’t matter what you signed.  Any paper that says you can’t fire them or get a new firm would be illegal as would any attempts to charge you an hourly fee or anything else for switching.  Again, they can’t do that and they would never try to enforce it.  It’s just a scare tactic because they are scumbags and have lost a ton of clients over the years because they do a bad job on a lot of the cases.

I’m not naming the lawyer because I haven’t gotten a copy of what she signed yet, but if I get a copy I will put it out there.  I can tell you that on multiple occasions over the last few years I’ve heard nightmare stories from callers and correctly guessed that they hired this firm.  It’s crazy too because if they just did a good job on the cases they’d keep the clients and make more money which presumably is their goal.

Instead they pull nonsense like this.  It’s incredibly pathetic and one day it will catch up to them.

If you have questions about anything related to an Illinois work injury, please don’t hesitate to call us at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form to the right.

Illinois work comp lawyer lie example

If you read my blog regularly you know that I hate lawyers who will tell their clients what they want to hear in order to get them to sign up or stop them from “bugging” them after they’ve been hired.

A reader of my site sent in the following which shows how these lies can impact a person and their case.

 I had a job injury on my back work related, I hired an attorney , the work comp insurance want to settle my case for money, when I hired him my attorney told me that my case its worth between 60K to 80K, yesterday he told me that he gonna take the defendant attorney offer for 20K, my injury is permanent and there is a surgery pending and that surgery was recommended by the insurance work comp Dr. what can I do?

Well there’s the obvious problem that this case shouldn’t be settled with a surgery recommendation pending, but beyond that, let’s assume for a second that the case is really only worth $20,000.00 (I have no idea because I didn’t personally talk to this worker).  If I’ve been telling you for over a year that you are going to get between $60,000.00 and $80,000.00, how could you believe me when I tell you know that the case should be settled for $20,000.00?

The answer is that you couldn’t.  You also wouldn’t be able to trust me to take your case to trial nor would you believe me when I told you that all of your medical bills have been paid.  You also probably would now think that all lawyers are lying assholes and I really wouldn’t be able to blame you if you did.

For whatever reasons there are a bunch of Illinois work comp attorneys who think this strategy is a good one.  Lie now, clean up the mess later on.  I’ve heard of at least one who stops taking his client’s calls and makes his secretary deal with all of the abuse.  It’s so pathetic.

In general I’m not in favor of any nanny state rules, but there are some that exist to discourage bad behavior.  For example, an Illinois lawyer can’t advertise themselves as a specialist or expert.  It seems we need a rule that prevents attorneys from promising you the moon at the beginning of the case too.  Because too many firms can’t sell themselves and their abilities or track record of success.  Instead they act like sleazy used car salesmen and do whatever is needed to close the deal.

And of course it’s only the clients who get hurt.  I’ll never promise you a result, but I will promise that our state wide network of lawyers are all experienced, fight for their clients and will do the best they can for you.

Antrel Rolle Should File For Workers’ Compensation Benefits

Antrel Rolle may not be a household name, but he has been a Pro Bowl safety in the NFL.  This past year he joined the Chicago Bears and his season ended when he tore the medial collateral ligament in his knee while at practice in Lake Forest.

On Sunday, Rolle was cut from the Bears after they drafted two safeties.  He’s 34 and while he’s hopeful that he’ll be able to catch on with another team, it’s likely that his career is over.

If you follow the NFL, you probably noticed that some star college players dropped in the draft due to injury concern.  Rolle is in a similar boat as his most recent knee injury, along with an ankle injury which kept him out of two games, has likely zapped him of some speed.

Rolle, like every NFL player who has played their last game, should immediately file for workers’ compensation benefits.  While he is not totally disabled from working, he is disabled from playing football.  Assuming he can’t get a job making near the $4 million he was paid last year, he would be entitled to a weekly wage differential payment until he is 65 years old which would be around $70,000.00 a year, tax free.

Even if he makes another team, he likely would have to take a pay cut and would get the wage differential payment as well.  It may seem crazy to some that a millionaire athlete would get this payment, but he’s an Illinois employee like you and me and is entitled to the protections of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

By filing now he can also get future medical treatment which would be especially important if he had a concussion or developed problems from head injuries at a later date.  The NFL does not have the best post retirement medical care for its players and a work comp claim would allow Rolle to avoid the red tape of getting to see a doctor and having the NFL pay for it.

Even if Rolle is 100% healthy and able to get a job with a new team that pays him as much as the Bears did, he should still file a claim.  At the very least his knee injury has value somewhere in the five figures.

I don’t represent Antrel Rolle although we’ve worked with a bunch of athletes in the past.  Hopefully he has somebody good who is advising him. If not, like many former NFL players I’ve talked to, he’s probably leaving a ton of money on the table and risking his future health.

IL Work Comp – Calculating AWW For Teachers

AWW stands for average weekly wage and is one of the ways that insurance companies pay you less money than you are entitled to in your Illinois workers’ compensation claim.  Your AWW is used to calculate your rate of pay for your time off work (TTD benefits) and your settlement (PPD benefits).

In a nutshell, they are supposed to take your earnings for the last 52 weeks at your job (and sometimes additional jobs) and divide it by the weeks you actually worked. So if you started working at your employer 40 weeks before you got hurt and were making $1,000 a week, your AWW should be $1,000.00.  But some insurance companies will divide incorrectly by 52 weeks which in this case would lower the AWW to $769.23.  TTD benefits are 2/3 of your wage so instead of getting $667.00 a week you’d suddenly get $512.82 a week for the time you can’t work.  That’s a loss of $155.00 tax free a week which belongs to you and that can add up over time.

You see this little trick played out mostly with teachers.  Most of the great teachers who I have talked to over the last 20 years get paid for the actual school year.  So they are usually compensated from late August to early June.  On average they work 42 weeks.  The average teacher makes $66,614.00 a year in Illinois.  If they work 42 weeks, that’s an AWW of $1,586.05 and a TTD rate of $1,057.37.

If the insurance company lies to you and says they need to divide by the whole year, suddenly a teacher will be getting a low TTD rate of $854.03 a week, more than $200.00 less than they are entitled to.  If you are off for an entire calendar year due to a major injury that would be a difference of more than $10,000.00!

These “mis-calculations” can of course also cause your settlement to be lowered by tens of thousands of dollars too.

If you are teacher in Illinois and injured while working, you need to work with an attorney who has represented many teachers in the past.  The lawyers in our state wide network have and have had great success for our under appreciated educators.  When I was in law school I substitute taught at a private school for two days and never slept so well in my life.  It was beyond exhausting. So my hats off to any teacher.

Insurance companies and school districts should have the same respect or really more for teachers and not play games with their wages, but sadly it happens.  The good news is that in almost every case it’s a problem we can quickly solve and get you your back pay.

“If you get a lawyer, we can’t do business with you anymore”

I’m always amused/disgusted by the new tactics insurance companies come up with to try and make injured Illinois workers fell like they don’t have any rights.

The latest one I’ve heard of came from a guy who called me after he was badly injured when he fell off of a roof.  It’s a no doubt compensable injury. Yet somehow a bunch of his medical bills have gone unpaid and his TTD checks have been late or missing depending on the week.  This has led to bill collectors harassing him at a time when he just needs to focus on getting healthy.

He was drugged up at the hospital following a surgery when a nurse case manager for the insurance company came to see him.  He made him sign a bunch of papers that he has no idea what they said which is of course unethical of the insurance company.  The nurse manager then asked if he was going to get a lawyer and told him he wouldn’t need one.  When the bills were unpaid and the checks were late the injured worker said he was thinking about getting a lawyer.

At that point the nurse case manager said “If you get a lawyer, we can’t do business with you anymore.”  Essentially he was saying that if the worker thinks things are bad now, if he gets a lawyer they’ll stop paying everything.  This worker was desperate and didn’t feel as if he could risk a rent payment if somehow benefits got delayed.

If I confronted this unethical employee of the insurance company, he’d probably explain away his statement by clarifying that he meant he can’t talk to the worker if he gets a lawyer.  That’s true, he’d have to talk to me or whatever firm gets hired.  That doesn’t delay benefits at all.  What it does do is allow the worker to focus on their health and let us deal with the nonsense.

Beyond that, it’s illegal for companies to try to collect medical bills against you if you have a pending work comp case in Illinois, so getting a case filed with a lawyer will stop that too.  Also, we can file a penalties petition against the insurance company for their unreasonable delay in paying bills and TTD benefits.

So the insurance company really doesn’t want him to get a lawyer.  Their plan surely was to hope they could ride this out until he is cleared for work and then offer a low ball settlement that the injured worker would feel desperate to take.

Not every injured Illinois worker needs a lawyer and we’ll tell you when you don’t need our help.  If you just need a question answered we are glad to do that. But if you have sustained a serious injury like this guy you’d be crazy to not get an attorney.  It’s just a fact that the insurance company will try to take away some of the benefits you are owed or reduce them.  It’s how they make/save money and they aren’t billion dollar companies by looking out for you.

If you’d like to discuss your injury or just have a question, call us any time at (312) 346-5578.