IL Work Comp – Going To Trial Just Got Harder For Lazy Lawyers

I started off my career as a defense attorney which is really the best training for someone who wants to represent injured workers.  If you don’t know how insurance companies think or how to look at all sides of a case, you are not doing the best job you can.  Most of the people who I would consider among the top workers’ compensation lawyers in Illinois have similar experience.

I remember being a young lawyer and prepping for one of my cases for days in advance.  I was so excited to go to trial and fight for my client.  I knew the case backwards and forwards.  I had all of the medical records neatly organized.  I was young, but aggressive and ready.

Then I got to trial and reality slapped me in the face.  My opponent was disheveled.  He didn’t know basic facts about the case. He had no questions prepared for his client and just “winged it.” I felt terrible for the injured worker because it was clear that they did not have an advocate in their corner.  I can’t imagine how nervous they were on a witness stand with literally no preparation.  They hired this person to fight for them and he was useless.

When the testimony of witnesses ends in an Illinois workers’ compensation trial, the last thing to do is submit your exhibits.  This is typically copies of medical bills and records.  I remember this lawyer was stacking papers together at the last second and didn’t have copies for me (which is customary) or himself which he’d need to finish off the case.  It was the cherry on top of the terrible customer service sundae that he served his client.

And yes, I won the case.

For terrible, lazy lawyers like this, their world just got a little harder.  A new case decided at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission called the Love case (that’s the name of the injured worker) has changed the rules for trial. Now you must deliver to the other attorney copies of the treating medical records that you want submitted in to evidence more than 48 hours prior to the trial taking place.

So if your lawyer tells you that your case is going to trial, ask if they have your medical records.  If the answer is no, then you aren’t going to trial because they aren’t ready.  If they haven’t sent them to the other attorney and you are supposed to go to trial tomorrow, you aren’t going to trial.

It’s a good ruling because there shouldn’t be surprises or disorganized attorneys.  I’m in favor of anything that makes a lawyer get their shit together.

The only bad part of this is that there are going to be more lazy attorneys who won’t get their cases ready for trial.  Remember, if they won’t do their job, you can get rid of them at no cost to you.

If you have questions about a trial or anything else related to your case, fill out our contact form to the right or call us at (312) 346-5578.  We help everywhere in Illinois.  All calls are free and confidential.

When A Gun Is Pointed At Your Head At Work

Maybe it’s because we are in Chicago and gun crimes have been out of control here for the last year, but I’ve noticed a large uptick in calls from people who sadly were robbed at gunpoint while on the job. I can’t imagine how terrifying that must be.

Following this happening you could experience a wide range of emotions and all of them would be sensible.  The most common one that we see is severe anxiety.  There is a fear or nervousness of returning back to work.

We usually get these calls soon after the robbery has happened and almost everyone who calls is scared and wants to know what to do.  Our advice to anyone who has had to go through this is that treating a mental stress injury is no different than treating a leg or back injury.

By that we mean you need to go to a doctor, in this case a psychologist or a psychiatrist.  Just as you can’t self diagnose a herniated disc or torn rotator cuff, you can’t state that you are unable to work due to the stress of the situation.  What you can do is see a doctor, let them know what happened, how you are feeling since and what the prospect of returning to work feels like.

In most cases we’ve seen, a doctor will give you time off of work and schedule therapy for you with the hopes of getting you back on the job. Assuming your injury is in fact work related, all of your medical bills will be paid by the work comp insurance and you will get compensated for the time in which you are authorized off of work.

Just like with a back or leg injury (or any other body part), the longer you let these problems go untreated, the worse they are likely to get.  So for your long term health we highly recommend that you get to a doctor ASAP.  It’s helpful for the case, but more importantly it’s the right thing to do for your life.

Just like with physical injuries, these cases do have settlement value at the end.  The hope is that you can return to your normal job, but if you medically can not then the insurance company will have to help you find work within your restrictions.

Like any job accident, nobody goes to work expecting something bad like this to happen to them. It does happen though. You should be slightly eased by the fact that there is a strong workers’ compensation system in Illinois that can help you recover.

IL Work Comp – The Settlement Demand Letter

Any case we decide to get involved in has some settlement value.  We only get paid if we make a recovery for you (our fee is 20% of that recovery) so of course we take on cases that will have value at the end and fight our butts off for your until that point.

Sometimes it’s decided that a trial is needed and that can be the right route. But if you can settle for a fair amount it usually makes sense to do so.

There is no one “right way” for an attorney to try and settle your case.  Some lawyers act reasonable and ask for just a little more than they think the case is worth, hoping to strike a quick agreement.  Others ask for drastically more than the case is worth so it will look like they are being reasonable when they go to a way lower figure.  Occasionally attorneys and their injured clients get overpaid based off these inflated demands, but it’s not common.

When you want to settle a case, you can pick up the phone and call the insurance adjuster or defense attorney or you can send over a letter.  I personally believe that in most cases it makes sense to send a letter and then follow up a week later by phone.  Especially with an insurance adjuster they often are swamped with cases so having a letter to look at and then a call gives them a chance to get one case off of their desk and make their work life a little easier.  Remember, most insurance adjusters get a bonus for closing files, not for spending less money.

As a client, you should get a copy of the settlement demand letter and be notified of any follow up events such as a phone call.

With the letter itself, some attorneys will simply say, “We’d like to settle the Jones case for $75,000.00” and not detail how they got to that point.  I personally don’t think that is effective.

A better settlement demand letter will say that you are ready to settle, outline how the client got hurt, provide a detailed history of their medical care (e.g. following three months of physical therapy at the ABC Center, my client still had pain and could not work. At that point she elected to have a multi level lumbar fusion at L3-4, L4-5 by Dr. Smith), discuss the time they missed from work and how this is affecting their life now.  I would then state the dollar amount that I want and occasionally mention similar cases which went for a similar amount.

Believe it or not, often our opponents won’t be actively following your care and recovery.  By telling your story in the demand letter it shows your case in the best possible light.

Following the follow up phone call, things will often move quickly and if they don’t the proper strategy is usually to motion your case for trial.  That essentially puts the insurance company on the clock and forces them to respond. If they don’t then the case goes to trial.  In most cases this just leads to negotiation and an actual settlement.

Like most of Illinois workers’ compensation, getting the best result is more hard work than rocket science, but it does require experience and the ability to read what the best approach will be. The attorneys in our state wide network deal with the same insurance adjusters over and over so we get to know the best approaches with them.

If you’d like to discuss your case for free with one of our lawyers, call us at (312) 346-5578 any time or fill out the contact form to the right of this page.  We will do whatever we can to help you.

Governor Rauner Cronies Lying About Illinois Work Comp System

We are Chicago based workers’ compensation attorneys who have a state wide network to help injured workers anywhere in Illinois.  If you would like our help, fill out the contact form to the right or call us at (312) 346-5578.  All inquiries are free and confidential.  We don’t promise you a result, but do promise to tell you the truth and treat you like a family member or friend.

Most people I come across are rather reasonable.  I say this even if we disagree on certain things.  But whenever I have a debate with someone I don’t try to spin or tell lies to get people to come to my point of view.  I’m also not a politician.

Governor Rauner wants to gut the Illinois workers’ compensation system. They want our state to be like Indiana where you can’t find an attorney because the system is so bad for workers.  Lawyers there have essentially given up and the workers are screwed as a result.  Some workers I’ve talked to over the years won’t take jobs with Indiana based companies because they know that if they get hurt over there and the employer is based there, they are doomed.

The latest lies have to do with allegations that work comp fraud is destroying the system.  The Rauner buddies at the Tribune wrote an article about how “we’ve all seen the guy who says he hurt his shoulder at work and then posts a photo on social media of himself holding a 150 pound fish he caught.”

We all haven’t seen that because it doesn’t happen very often and if it does happen it’s a felony!  Those people do and should get prosecuted.  No lawyer I know, even the bad ones, would agree to represent someone that they know is committing a fraud.   If there is any problem it’s that the State isn’t aggressive enough in these cases to deter people who commit fraud, but to say it’s widespread is a lie.

The article also quoted the owner of a company who says that for 18 years his place of business had never had a work injury.  That’s not believable, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they encouraged workers not to file.  He said a worker was there for four weeks and filed a case for a hernia which caused his rates to go through the roof.

That is not believable at all.  A hernia is a very minor work injury and the value of a case like that is really minimal.  If their rates went through the roof then they got robbed by their insurance company.  It would be comparable to you having a clean driving record for 18 years, getting in to a minor fender bender and then having your rates go through the roof.  It just doesn’t happen.

Are there some holes in our system? Sure, such as doctors getting paid more for certain procedures than they would through regular insurance or Medicare.  Is there widespread fraud or does one case (or even a handful) cause rates to go out of control? The honest answer is no.

The real story here is one I just discussed with a media outlet who is investigating this.  There was massive reform in 2006 and in 2011 to the system. The total number of cases is down 40% from about ten years ago, yet insurance rates are going up.  How do insurance companies charge more when cases are worth less and claims are down by almost half?  They do it by being dishonest.

Just as insurance companies deny your case unreasonably to save/make money, they are doing these types of bogus PR campaigns without explaining why their rates are not dropping.  Don’t be fooled at all.  We will fight for you if we represent you and we will fight this propaganda.  And if injured workers don’t pay attention they can end up like our neighbors in Indiana.

IL Work Comp – When You Have Two Injuries And One Is Better

A nice woman contacted our office with an interesting situation that probably arises in one out of every 100 cases.

She had injured her back, received months of medical treatment, went back to work and then injured her leg.  The back feels great, but the leg injury is keeping her out of work.

She had been expecting a settlement for the back injury and was disappointed when she was told by the insurance adjuster that they won’t settle one case while leaving the other case open.  She was offered the chance to settle both cases which would be insane as she’s still under a doctor’s care.

No matter how many injuries you have, you can’t make an insurance offer you a settlement and if they do, it usually won’t be a fair one.  The way to force a settlement or get one through an Arbitrator is by getting your case ready for trial.  That is the only way to 100% make them pay you something at the end.

In a situation like this one, there is no law that requires you to wait until you are all better with the second case to get paid for the first. As long as it’s a different body part, you should be able to formerly file a case and force the issue.  If it’s the same body part then you would have to wait because the second injury would cloud the value and damages of the first one.

What I think might be happening in this case and is a worry for any case is that the insurance company is trying to delay the process long enough that the worker will violate the statute of limitations for filing a case and lose her rights forever to bring one.  It’s a problem that can easily be solved by filing an Application For Adjustment of Claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (it’s the first thing a lawyer does) and best of all, it’s free.

Once a case is filed and a trial motion is made, most Arbitrators will not accept the insurance company whining that they don’t want to resolve the case until the other one is done. If the injuries are not related then they don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

Why do they do this?  Couple reasons. One, as mentioned if they make you wait, you might wait too long. Two, they don’t make money by giving it away.  Three, if they give you a settlement and you have money in your pocket, it prevents them from trying to starve you in to a bad settlement on the other case by wrongfully denying your case. Four, if they can settle both cases at once, they think they can get a discount from you.  Let’s say case one is worth $50,000.00 and case two is worth $60,000.00.  If they offer you $95,000.00 that’s a low offer, but since it’s two cases combined it seems like a very big number which often is enough to make people settle for less than they can get.  It’s just simple psychology.

If you do have two injuries, you absolutely should get an attorney whether it’s someone from our network or someone else you find on your own and like.  If you’d like our help we’d be happy to give you a free consultation to discuss your options.

Another Preexisting Condition Victory

In a case recently decided by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, it was again shown that a preexisting condition does not mean you can not get benefits.

In this case, a housekeeper at a Chicago hospital had to dust, vacuum and take out the trash among other duties.  On the date she got hurt, her supervisor asked her to empty a recycle bin and when she lifted it she noticed it was very heavy.  She didn’t feel any immediate pain, but by the time her shift ended she had tightness in her back.

She went to bed that night, but woke up hours later with pain radiating down her leg from her lower back.  The next day she sought medical care and eventually had a MRI which showed stenosis and a condition called bilateral facet arthropathy.

There was no evidence presented at trial that rebutted her version of what happened although the employer tried to argue she was lifting a box not a bag which the Commission felt was of little merit.

It was noted that she had a previous back problem, but the Judges were persuaded by the fact that she testified to working longer hours in the months before this happened and performing additional duties which required her to use muscles she did not previously use on a regular basis.  While her complaints were similar to her old problems, the job clearly aggravated the problem to the point where she needed treatment and ended up missing five months of work.

Does any of this sound unreasonable to you?  The only part that does to me is the insurance company trying to deny the case, but we deal with this nonsense every day.

What I warn readers and callers is that insurance companies make money by denying cases or limiting what they pay on a case.  No matter how nice they seem to be acting to you (or in many cases they are nasty) they are always looking for a reason to deny you even if it is a flimsy one.

Bottom line is that having an old injury doesn’t mean you can’t temporarily aggravate that problem or make the same body part worse with a new accident.  It happens and it doesn’t prevent you from getting benefits.

Know your rights and don’t back down based on what the insurance company tells you.  They will do whatever they can to not pay.  It’s not personal, just business.

If you have any questions or would like help from our Illinois wide network, fill out the contact form to the right or call us any time at (312) 346-5578.

Talk To An Illinois Workers’ Compensation Lawyer For Free

Have you been hurt at work?  Are you a person who has never spoken with a lawyer and has never wanted to?  You are not alone.  Most people we talk to are like that and those are our favorite people to talk to.

We are in our 20th year of helping Illinois injured workers and if you just have questions or feel that you need help with a case or aren’t really sure what you want, we are happy to talk to you at any time for free and in confidence. You can call us at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form to the right and we’ll call you.

We promise that we’ll listen, give honest and blunt advice and treat you like a family member or friend.  We always tell the truth which is not what everyone wants to hear, but that’s how we’ve always worked and always will.

In return we just ask that you be direct and honest with us so we have a clear picture of what is really going on.  That’s it.  If you hire us or anyone in our state wide network of attorneys (or anyone else for that matter) there would be no upfront fee and if we do get paid it would be 20% of whatever settlement we get for you at the end of the case.

That’s it.  Pretty straight forward. We have a 24 hour answering service for when we aren’t in and usually call people back within minutes if we aren’t here.  We are always happy to help, even on nights, weekends and holidays.

Ask Your Lawyer If Your Doctor Has A Good Reputation

Probably once a month I’ll get a call from an injured worker who has a clearly compensable case and has been getting medical treatment that has been approved by the insurance company.  So what’s the problem?  They were sent for an “independent” medical examination (IME) and even though their treating doctor says they need to stay off work and continue medical care, the IME doctor, who saw them for five minutes, says they are fine.

In 85% of cases I’m able to guess who the IME doctor is based on the type of injury the worker has. These docs are hired guns and fortunately their bad reputation is known.  It might delay your case a bit, but if you have to go to trial, every Arbitrator knows that these are hired guns and don’t usually give their opinions much weight.

Credibility is key in any Illinois work injury case.  Your credibility is most important. If you are shown to be a liar or change up your story, you’ll likely lose. If the IME doctor is a hack, it won’t help the defense case.

It’s also important to make sure that your treating doctor is credible because if they aren’t then you could lose too.  This happened in a recent case that went against an injured worker who claimed carpal tunnel syndrome.

The worker’s attorney presented a statement from her doctor that said the carpal tunnel was due to typing.  The problem was that this doctor only saw the worker twice and testified that carpal tunnel couldn’t come from any other way but repetitive trauma.  That’s simply not true as it can also be caused by diabetes, pregnancy, obesity and other factors.  By not acknowledging this, the treating doctor looked like he didn’t know what he was talking about so the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission sided with the IME doctor.

This all probably sounds confusing or scary.  So the question is, how do you prevent yourself from losing a case that should be won like this one?  The answer is that you need to ask your attorney what your treating doctor’s reputation is.  If they are known for always treating injured workers and saying that the workers’ problems are work related then it’s not a good sign.  You don’t want a hired gun in your corner either.  If you have one, the Arbitrator is going to have a reason built in to deny your case.

This is all a part of making sure that you look out for you.  It’s important that you ask questions like this to make sure you aren’t doing anything to unintentionally screw up your case.  And if your lawyer insists on you treating with a certain doctor that they like to work with, ask about their reputation and look up their facility.  If it’s not filled with many doctors, it might be a bad sign.  If your attorney won’t help you unless you see this specific doctor then it’s definitely a bad sign.

Any questions?  Any concerns?  Call us any time for free at (312) 346-5578 or fill out the contact form to the right.

When You Have A Mental Stress Injury in Illinois

Generally speaking, most mental stress cases are not covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. If your boss is a jerk who yells and screams or you have to work long hours or your co-workers are mean to you or you feel a lot of pressure, that is unfair, but typically not a case.  The exception would be if something physical happened along with it. For example, if your boss screams in your face and punches you, if you had a mental breakdown from that, it would be covered.  Same is true if you have a back surgery that is work related and become depressed because you haven’t made a good recovery or can’t physically do what you used to do.

Otherwise, to have a claim for work comp benefits for a mental stress injury you must have something happen that is severe, sudden and shocking.  The classic example is a co-worker who saw another co-worker get pulled in to a machine at work and killed.  When they felt they couldn’t do that job anymore and sought therapy, it was covered as a mental injury.

We’ve seen a lot of good cases over the last few years.  For example, a flight attendant had a passenger who had a heart attack and died in their arms while they administered CPR.  After that the flight attendant had continuous nightmares and anxiety about flying in general.

We’ve worked with a lot of heroes who have served in the military in some of the worst imaginable situations and then come back to work as police or firemen. Seeing a dead body on their civilian jobs lead to PTSD due to flashbacks or trauma from what they experienced at war.  A case like that should be covered too.

The bottom line is that we’ll talk to you about any situation you are going through and do whatever we can to help.  We don’t make the law, we tell you what it is, but if there is any shot at victory we’ll let you know.  These are tough cases when there isn’t a sudden and shocking event and a lot of people can’t get coverage.

Most of all, it’s important, not just for the case, to get treatment with a psychologist or psychiatrist if you are experiencing mental stress.  For the case it proves an actual injury in the same way a MRI or X-ray would.  More importantly, just as you wouldn’t let a broken leg go untreated, you can’t let these problems go untreated or they will get much worse.

If there’s anything we can to do help, please let us know.

Illinois Nurse Injuries

We have had the privilege of working with and talking to thousands of nurses, CNA’s and other medical professionals over the years.

The most common call we get is from a nurse who assisted in lifting a heavy or immobile patient and injured his/her back.  Handling that case isn’t much different than helping a factory worker with a back injury from lifting a box.  The biggest difference is that nurses rarely have a light duty job that they can return to so if they are dealing with a long term physical problem we have to make sure that we assist in getting them a new job within their restrictions.

A nurse is unique in other ways.  The main one is that they can get injuries from being exposed to their patients and being in the trenches so to speak.

Infections like MRSA live in hospitals, nursing homes and other care facilities.  So does c-Diff which can be a crippling injury to your colon.

It’s possible to get these problems anywhere and if you are a nurse who has this issue, that is sure to be the defense laid out by the insurance company. They will fight you if you try to bring a case.  No worries, that’s why we exist.

If we can prove that more likely than not that you caught MRSA, c-Diff or any other medical problem from your patients then you should receive Illinois workers’ compensation benefits for those problems and all of your medical care and time off work should be covered. You also, of course, would be entitled to a settlement.

To win you’d have to credibly testify that you were treating patients with these problems or working on a floor where people had these illnesses.  It’s not a slam dunk case, but usually credible testimony and an absence of another risk factor (e.g. if your spouse had MRSA before you got it) is enough to win.  Often a co-worker is called in to corroborate what you have to say, but it’s not always necessary.

In general, if you are a nurse and get inflicted with an injury while working from a patient, you should be covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  After that it’s like any other case.  Focus on your health, get medical care, report your injury and come to us if you think you need help of just have questions.  We are always happy to talk, for free, at (312) 346-5578 or if you fill out our contact form to the right.  We help nurses everywhere in Illinois.

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