If it’s a work injury you don’t go after short term disability benefits

When you are hurt on the job and can’t work, you should receive temporary total disability (TTD) benefits which are 2/3 of your average weekly wage, tax free.  It doesn’t make you whole, but it’s the best option and there is not a time limit as to how long you can receive TTD.

A recent caller to our office sustained a pretty severe back injury while working in the northwest suburbs.  If he ends up having surgery he could end up missing a year or more from work.

He was concerned because he called his companies disability benefit provider and his pay rate was going to only be 60% and would expire in three months.  "What am I supposed to do then?" he asked me.

It’s not about what he should do in three months, it’s what he should do now.  There is no reason to go and apply for short or long term disability benefits when you clearly should be getting workers’ compensation benefits.  There are a few reasons for that:

1. The biggest is that on every short or long term benefit application, it asks if you were hurt while working.  If you check yes you won’t get benefits.  If you check no (even when that’s not true) you will potentially blow up your workers’ compensation case.

2. If it turns out that you should have been getting workers comp, you might have to pay those benefits back.

3. Plain and simple, none of these plans gives you a better result that workers’ comp benefits in Illinois do.  As mentioned, most of these plans have expiration dates and lower payouts.

4. Nothing is more important than your health.  As shown in the first point, you can risk losing your case and your medical payments if you apply for something that requires you to state you were not hurt while working.

Bottom line is that should always be honest.  If the truth that you got hurt while working you should get workers’ compensation benefits.

My caller actually didn’t know about TTD and was just doing what a friend of him told him to do.  I’m glad he called though because with the major injury he has, he doesn’t need the stress of worrying about whether or not his benefits will expire.

“You don’t get work comp benefits because you are part time”

One of my favorite things to do on this blog is call out others for their bad behavior and outright lies. If the general public can be educated as to what’s true and what’s not then there is a better chance of justice occurring in the end.

I just got a call from a woman who was the recipient of a lie that used to be tossed around a lot, but I haven’t heard in a while. She slipped and fell at work in Chicago and broke her leg and ankle.  It was a job she had just recently started and was working part time.

She asked her boss if she qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits because she was still in her probationary period.  He at first was honest, letting her know that you can get work comp when you are still on probation.  But then he blatantly lied by saying, "You don’t get work comp benefits because you are part time."

Let me be crystal clear. Whether you work one hour a week or 100 hours a week, you are eligible for job injury benefits in Illinois.  Eligibility begins the second you start working.

No matter the situation, a good piece of legal advice is to never take legal advice from someone who has a competing interest with you. Your boss may be a great guy, but that doesn’t mean he wants you to have a workers’ comp claim.  The insurance company certainly isn’t looking out for you and your best interests.

Calling me or any other attorney is free and you can always ask a question by filling out our contact form too.  But never take the word of someone that has any motivation to not tell you the truth or isn’t an attorney.  Sometimes people mean well and don’t realize they are giving out bad information. Other times they are blatantly lying to try to screw you over.

You can’t work your normal job, but want to work

A lawyer who dabbles in workers’ compensation contacted me for advice on one of her client’s cases.  I thought it was an interesting scenario so I’m sharing it with you.

She is representing a construction worker who injured his back and can not perform his normal job which regularly requires lifting more than 50 pounds.  So right now he’s receiving TTD benefits.

The money isn’t the problem.  The problem is that he’s going stir crazy sitting around and not working.  He tells his lawyer he feels gross collecting money while not doing anything.  He wants to accept a job at a friend’s business that would be within his restrictions with the understanding that when he’s all better he’ll go back to his normal job.

Few thoughts here:

1. This guy isn’t on welfare. He’s a hard worker who is protected by the law after being injured in a very risky job.

2. His stance is admirable.  I respect people who want to work. At the same time he needs to be careful. If the new job aggravates his injury in any way, the insurance company for the first injury will cut off his benefits.  There is nothing more important than your health and while I get that sitting around doing nothing sucks, if you get worse you might find yourself facing surgery and being on the sideline for months or longer.

3. If he does start working the new job, his TTD benefits will likely end or be cut.  That’s manageable, but again if you get re-injured those benefits could go away.

4. I’d also suggest that he consult with his doctor before making any decisions.

5. In general I would advise people against doing this because of the risks involved, but if you are going to do it, make it an educated decision.

Don’t get me wrong, I can’t respect this guy enough. But the job of a lawyer who is looking out for his/her client is to think about what’s best for them long term.  And long term it’s probably best to just get as healthy as he can and then make a job decision.

IL work comp – You are tripping (on a curb)

Whether an injury qualifies as a “work injury” for purposes of workers’ compensation involves a close look at the specific facts of the situation. Where you were, what you were doing, what your job entails … these are all relevant. Simply being at work or on the clock is not enough.

One important factor is the type of risk that was involved. We all face risks every day when we step out of our homes, get in our cars and go about our daily lives. Depending on your job, you probably face additional risks specific to your work. Injury that comes from these specific job risks is, in most cases, considered a workers’ compensation injury. This means that you should qualify for benefits, such as payment for a portion of your lost wages as well as 100% of any related medical expenses. Other benefits may be available to you, as well.

This issue of risk often becomes a point of contention in a workers’ compensation claim because some risks are neutral, meaning that everyone in the general public faces those risks every day. Just because you were at work when you were facing a neutral risk, doesn’t mean it was job related. If you trip on your shoelaces, that is likely a neutral risk. Anyone can trip on their shoelaces at any time. Any resulting injury probably wouldn’t be covered by workers’ compensation.

However, if you can connect that neutral risk to your job in a very specific way, then you might be able to argue that your risk for the injury was greater than the risk faced by the general public (and therefore, that you should be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits). A lot of claims come down to specific facts.

One way in which a neutral risk can become a job risk is if you are a “traveling employee,” meaning you routinely perform your job duties at different locations throughout the day. When you’re out doing your job, you are facing a lot of neutral risks just like anyone else who is out driving, walking, etc. But, because you do this as part of your job, these “street risks” become job risks for you. Tripping up a curb on your way into work isn’t covered for most people, but it should be covered for traveling employees under the street risk rule.

There are other situations in which a risk faced by general public can be argued as a job risk. The distinction can be the difference between no benefits and full benefits. This is just one reason why it’s important to hire an experienced attorney if your benefits are denied. It’s in the insurance companies’ best interests to tell you that you aren’t covered because your injury wasn’t related to your job. It’s your lawyer’s job to prove that it was.

We are experienced workers’ compensation attorneys who help workers throughout the state of Illinois. We will talk to anyone for free about their workers’ compensation injury or claim. Talking to our lawyers is completely confidential. If you have any questions at all, give us a call any time.

Illinois work injuries – do not retire without speaking to a lawyer!

We’d like to save you from losing out on potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The law in Illinois entitles injured employees to certain benefits. Any medical treatment that is reasonable and related to your work injury should be paid for in full by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. The insurance company also should reimburse you for 2/3 of your average weekly wages if you are unable to work because of your injury, including time off to recover from surgery. You will need a doctor to vouch for all of this, but in general, these benefits are available under the law if you suffer a job-related injury in Illinois.

Although these benefits are clearly written into law, not all cases are simple. One reason for this is that your employer’s insurance company (which is the one paying out benefits) is not going to take your word for anything. In fact, it’s is their job to deny claims when they can and argue that the facts in your situation do not entitle you to benefits.

Another situation is voluntary retirement. Sometimes the injury itself is the reason the employee wants to retire. Other times it’s just a coincidence in timing. Voluntary retirement is something an injured employee should only do after careful consideration and with solid legal advice. Getting a claim approved and receiving benefits is half the battle after an injury. You also need to make sure you keep your benefits. If you don’t it could cost you tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you retire with an open workers’ compensation claim, you risk losing your benefits, specifically checks you are getting for time off work (known as temporary total disability or TTD). TTD benefits are meant to compensate you until you can get back to work. They are for injured employees who can’t work, or for those who can do light duty but their employer doesn’t have any light-duty work available. If you choose retire, you are arguably taking yourself out of the workforce. In other words, your retirement becomes the reason you are not working, not your injury. And if your injury isn’t the reason you are out of work, then the insurance company will jump at the chance to take your TTD away.

There was a case recently where an employee injured his shoulder. He needed surgery and was receiving TTD during his recovery. There was light-duty work available for him. Instead, however, the injured worker decided to take advantage of an offer for early retirement. He only received TTD from the time he was injured until the time he retired, even though his injury continued and he ended up needing more surgery (and recovery time) less than a year later.

There are some situations in which retirement will not cut off your benefits. For example, if you can’t work at all, not even light duty, and you are retired, you can make the argument that your injury is the reason you are out of the workforce. Just because you retire from one job doesn’t mean you don’t want to work at all.

A major factor is your ability to work and whether your doctor has authorized you to be completely off work. Because these cases hinge on the details, it’s imperative to talk to a workers’ compensation attorney if you are considering retirement. It would be reckless to retire without getting advice on how it might affect your benefits. You can reach out to us anytime with questions about your benefits, including how retirement might affect things. It’s free and confidential to talk to one of our experienced Illinois work injury attorneys.

Do you need cosmetic treatment after a work injury?

Workers’ compensation helps injured employees get back to work after a job injury. The laws vary from state to state, but the system in Illinois entitles injured workers to coverage of their medical bills and payment of lost wages. Those with any permanent impairment usually will be compensated for that, as well, once their medical treatment is complete. 

The types of injuries that occur at work are infinite. Some are foreseeable, especially for employees who have to take risks, such as working with hazardous materials or dangerous equipment. But all employees are susceptible to injury. Even a seemingly minor slip and fall can cause a lifelong disability depending on the circumstances.

 

A less common injury is one that involves something cosmetic. What if your teeth get knocked out, or (and this has actually happened) you have breast implants and one is ruptured in a work accident? Your health isn’t at risk and you can still do your job, but you would probably consider these injuries serious and want to get the surgery to fix them. Does workers’ compensation cover the expense of cosmetic treatment?

 

This kind of injury is usually called “disfigurement” in the area of workers’ compensation, and it can fall in a gray area. The insurance companies, which are hired by employers to pay workers the benefits they get under the law, love gray areas. When they are faced with a claim that is in a gray area, they see an opportunity to deny the claim and save some money. It’s how they operate. So if you suffer an injury that requires cosmetic treatment, you might have to do some convincing.

 

Illinois workers’ compensation law requires employers (usually through their insurers) to pay for all “necessary” medical care that is “reasonably required” to treat a work injury. You can see where the gray area is … is cosmetic surgery necessary and reasonable? On one hand, if you have a small scar on your leg, fixing it with cosmetic surgery probably isn’t necessary and reasonable. But in the examples we used above – missing teeth or a ruptured implant – it seems both reasonable and necessary.

 

This gray area doesn’t extend to serious disfigurement, for which treatment would likely be approved and a settlement awarded. But for any case where your appearance is significantly altered, there’s a good argument that it should be covered under workers’ compensation. The best way to make sure you get all of the benefits you’re entitled to – including disfigurement – is to get an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on board sooner rather than later.

 

We are a network of experienced work injury lawyers that help injured workers throughout Illinois. We are happy to talk to you about your case for free and in confidence.

 

What happens when a body part is amputated from a work injury?

We had an interesting call recently from a man whose leg was amputated from a work injury in Chicago almost five years ago. 

Under Illinois law, because the amputation was below his knee, he was entitled to 215 weeks of permanent partial disability payments.  And that’s what happened.  Every week for the last 215 weeks, the insurance company sent him a check.

The problem is, the law says that he was supposed to receive this all in a lump sum, not in weekly payments.  So the insurance kept tens of thousands of dollars that he should have had all along.

The good news is that the law is crystal clear on this.  So we can file a petition for penalties and fees which will require the insurance company to pay a huge penalty and also pay the lawyer fees.

This is what should happen in every amputation case that is related to a work injury and there are no disputes to it being work related.  Fortunately, it’s not often that they can contest an amputation because unfortunately it usually involves a terrible accident.

So hopefully an amputation doesn’t happen to you, but if it does, make sure the law is followed and you are compensated right away.

Illinois work comp – The most important thing to know for a FCE

One thing we mention on this blog a lot is the importance of being honest.  Don’t lie about how you hurt yourself.  Don’t exaggerate your symptoms.  If you are truthful, things will usually work out.  When you start to lie you end up giving the insurance company a reason to deny your case.

A FCE (functional capacity examination) is a medical test performed when it’s been determined that you’ll never get back to your old job because you have restrictions from your doctor that your employer can not accommodate.  It doesn’t happen in most case, but it does happen in serious injury cases.

At the end of the exam, a very long report will be prepared that will detail your ability to lift, bend, stand, sit, pull, push, etc.

The test itself can take the entire day.  And the most important thing for you to do is ……….. BE HONEST!!!

I know that sounds like obvious advice and most of you wouldn’t go to a doctor’s exam and lie.  But human nature is to say and do things that we think people want hear/see and a FCE is designed to screw people over who act that way.

By that I mean let’s say the exam starts at 8:00 a.m.  You have a doctor’s restriction that says no lifting more than 25 pounds.  At 8:30 a.m.you might be asked to lift a weight that says 30 pounds and looks large.  You try to do it and can’t.

At 10:30 a.m., after a series of different tests, you are asked to lift a different weight that looks smaller than the earlier weight and says 20 pounds on it.  This one you lift easily and tell the examiner that it’s no problem for you.

Guess what, that second weight that was labeled 20 pounds was actually a 30 pound weight.  It’s a test that is designed to test your honesty as well as your abilities.  In fact, thoughout what is often an eight hour day, many of the tests are designed to see if you are telling the truth.  But human nature is to think that if a weight says 20 pounds, you should be able to lift it.

So just do your best the entire day and you will get a valid report.  It’s actually expected that some of the test results will contradict themselves, but if too many do, the whole exam will be thrown out.

I actually learned this in my former work life as a defense attorney.  In fact I met with a doctor that showed me all of the ways that they try to trick people.  It was fascinating and a bit dishonest. You have a right to know that this happens and also to know that if you are honest everything will be fine.

If you have a FCE coming up we’d be happy to discuss with you in greater detail what will happen just as we do for an IME or any other part of the case.  Call us at (312) 346-5578 any time.

“So fire me.” Wait, what???

There isn’t much worse in the legal field than an older, disgruntled attorney who hates his life and job and is only still working as an attorney because he (usually) or she doesn’t know how to do anything else or at least can’t make much money doing anything else.

So these lawyers take on clients that they really don’t care about and do a crap job for them. To be fair, there are younger lawyers with this problem too, but the majority of the younger ones that don’t return calls, answer questions or fight for their clients are typically disorganized or guilty of taking on too many cases.  The older ones have usually just checked out and would retire if they could afford it or didn’t hate their home life.

I got a call recently from a woman who had hired a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney that fits this stereotype to a tee.  She had a major back injury with a recommendation for a fusion. The insurance company was balking at paying for the surgery and instead only wanted to approve a laminectomy.  They also said that if the petitioner wanted, she could just settle her case right then and there for $50,000.00.

I think this offer was made because the lawyer has a reputation of not giving a crap about his clients.  Sure enough, he told the caller that she should take the money. That would be, in my opinion, legal malpractice as this case is no where near being ready to settle.

The client was smart enough to say no and then asked the lawyer why he won’t get her case in to court to make them pay for the surgery she needs.  She’s not an impatient person and has been living in agony for almost six months waiting for her lawyer to do something.

When she finally pressed him on it he said, "You don’t like how I’m handling the case? So fire me." Basically, screw you, I don’t care about your case.

The lawyer knows that even if he gets fired, some day he’ll get $10,000.00 because the 50 grand offer was made under his watch.  To him, getting fired is better than having to actually do his job.

It’s pathetic, but it happens.  I don’t know how lawyers like this sleep at night.  It’s probably the same way guys that cheat on their wives or beat their girlfriends rationalize their actions somehow. Or maybe they just don’t have a conscience.

For you, if you don’t get the service that you deserve, don’t wait until it’s too late. Politely confront your attorney with your concerns.  If they don’t address them or give a good answer (and these cases are hard or these cases takes years is not an answer) then you should look elsewhere for help.

Does your union not fight for you? Then why trust them on picking a lawyer

I’m going to go off on a little rant here, but it’s with good reason.

In less than one week, four clients of a particular Chicago workers’ compensation law firm called me with a similar story which is basically that their lawyer sucks and doesn’t do anything for them.

What got me on this rant is that all four got connected with this law firm the same way.  Their union rep told them to call them.  One said that he practically insisted on it.

I asked the 4th one if he thinks that his union does a good job for him in general.  He said no and that when he got laid off a couple of years ago even though he had seniority, they did nothing for him.

I’m not anti-union at all.  What I am anti is anyone that doesn’t do their job.Unfortunately some unions in Illinois only look out for certain members.  Others get wined and dined by law firms and then send them business to keep the Blackhawks tickets and free trips coming.

It’s frustrating to me as sometime people don’t use common sense or stand up for themselves. If your meal and service at a restaurant was terrible, you wouln’t go back to the same restaurant. So why if your union is not great do you think that they’ll make recommendations for you that are based on your best interests.

Ok, I’m done with my rant. Feels good to get that off my chest. :)

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