Histoplasmosis and Illinois Workers’ Compensation

Do you have histoplasmosis? Do you think it’s related to your job?  If so, call us at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form.  We have experience with these cases and cover all of Illinois.  As always, it’s free to contact us and there is no fee unless we are successful. Read on for more information.

Histoplasmosis is a type of lung infection you may have contracted through your working environment. It is a fungal infection whose spores are found in the ground and often around droppings of bats and birds. Contaminated from these droppings, the soil can produce the fungal spores which travel into your lungs every day at work. This lung infection may cause you to have symptoms that include fever and cough, chest pain, joint pain and even sores on your lower legs.

In some people histplasmosis causes no problems.  In others, especially if you have a weak immune system, it can wreak havoc and spread throughout your body and be life threatening.  Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Joint Pain
  • Chest Pain
  • A Dry cough
  • Red bumps on your legs.
  • Excessive sweat
  • Coughing up blood
  • Stiff neck

Typically, histoplasmosis is caused in areas where the soil is disturbed, allowing the pores of the fungus to enter your lungs while breathing.  Some of the occupations which are more prone to becoming ill due to histoplasmosis include demolition workers, construction and farm workers, landscapers and pest control workers. Because the fungus grows in places where birds and bats have roosted if you work in a cave, near chicken coops, parks or older barns, your exposure probability is higher.  Even if you aren’t in one of these jobs, having to visit an area like this could get you sick.

If you have been diagnosed with histoplasmosis in Illinois, time is of the essence to protect your rights. This is a condition that will be covered under workers compensation if you report the sickness in a timely manner (within 45 days of when you know you have it) to your employer and take the correct steps to protect yourself.  When seeing a doctor, make sure that they have very detailed information about where you’ve been going for work and what you’ve been exposed to. If they don’t have detailed information they can’t accurately offer an opinion on whether or not your condition is work related.

Not every one of these cases is denied, but the majority of ones we’ve handled are denied at first because the insurance company knows that they can argue against what the true cause is.  It’s not hard for them to get a hired gun doctor to state that your condition could be caused by anything.  We don’t mind when this happens because if the facts are in your corner we will fight to get you the benefits that you deserve and allow you to focus on your health.  If you want our help get in touch at any time.

 

Injured at work? Stay off social media

I’ve been a lawyer for about 20 years so I’m young enough to be hungry and aggressive, but old enough to not understand why anyone would want to post on Snapchat, Twitter or Instagram.  I don’t do Facebook, but get why some people might be interested in it.

This isn’t a post to preach or judge on social media.  What it is though is advice.  If you are hurt at work or have any other legal case, STAY OFF SOCIAL MEDIA!!!!

Yes, I’m yelling.  It’s really important.  If you are faking a case and get caught because you posted on Facebook a photo of you playing football, you deserve to lose.  That’s not who I’m talking about and worried about.  Them losing the case is karma.

What I’m talking about is the person who has a legitimate work injury and then posts a photo or makes a comment that could be misinterpreted and somehow used against them.  We see this sort of thing all the time.  You have to be careful. In one case, someone posted a “throwback” picture, but didn’t label it that way and made it seem that they were bowling days after tearing their rotator cuff.

If you absolutely, positively can’t stay off social media, then you have to be smart. First, make sure all of your settings are private.  Second, don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know. You’d be surprised that insurance adjusters or private detectives will often create fake accounts to snoop on you even though it’s not legal.  Third, don’t ever talk about your case.  Don’t even vent.  If you express how you are frustrated because your case is taking so long and you will lose your house, the insurance company could use that as leverage to squeeze you even more.  It will just lead to bad things. Finally, if you are in a photo with friends ask them not to tag you.

Generally speaking if you are being honest about your claim, nothing bad should happen.  But the bottom line is you have to be extra careful because they are looking for a way to cut you off.  You don’t want to be the reason that you lose or delay your case.

Advice For Laid Off Butterball Employees

Last week Butterball announced that it was laying off around 600 workers at its Gusto meatpacking plant in Montgomery, Illinois.  Apparently they are going to stop making the pork products that are manufactured there.

If you work at Gusto or any place else that is closing or has layoffs, there are some things to know.  First off, you have my sympathy.  That’s going to be a tough time for those workers.

Second, if you’ve been toughing it out through what is possibly a work related injury such as carpal tunnel from repetitive work on the line or a back injury, you need to seek medical treatment for that problem before you stop working.  You could do it after you leave the job, but that would create a defense to your case, namely that you weren’t really hurt at work because your need for medical care didn’t happen until you stopped working.

I’m not, of course, saying go to the doctor just to have a case. What I am saying is that we see hundreds of people every year who decline medical care because they just want to focus on working and hope that their pain will go away with time or pain meds.

If you are injured and under a doctor’s care, you don’t lose your benefits because they’ve laid you off.  In fact, if you have any restrictions, they have to pay you work comp benefits until you have no restrictions at all.

According to the article, they are going to offer their employees the opportunity to transition to plants in other states.  You don’t have to do that and while normally turning down a job could cause you to lose your work comp benefits, that’s not true when you are being asked to uproot your life and move out of state.

Finally, if you were physically in Illinois when hired, if you do transfer and get hurt in your new state on the job, you can file a workers’ compensation claim in Illinois.  That’s not a common situation, but something to keep in the back of your mind if you do get hurt.  As long as there isn’t a break in employment you can bring your case here.

Any questions, let us know.  All calls are free and confidential.

If We Aren’t Doing A Good Job, Fire Us

I’m a pretty blunt and direct guy.  It’s good for me because I don’t like to waste time and treat others the way I’d like to be treated.  If I’m in the wrong I want to know.  If someone isn’t being fair to me I want to know.

It’s good for my clients and callers to because they get a straight answer.  It’s not always what you want to hear, but it’s always the truth.

In 2001 we established what has become a state wide network of like minded, experienced attorneys.  We did this because if you have a case in Champaign, a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney is probably not the best idea for you, but you deserve the same type of quality representation.

Every attorney is different, but we share similar philosophies.  And one thing we’d all tell you is that if we don’t deliver on what we promise or if we aren’t doing a good job, you should fire us.

I’ve never been told “you’re fired” and would like to keep it that way.  But if we ever stop returning phone calls and e-mails or yell at you or don’t do what we say we are going to do or anything else that doesn’t meet your standards, you should let us go.

Hiring an attorney is kind of a partnership, but at the end of the day you are the client.  We’ll tell you that you’re wrong when you are (e.g. a client that had a case worth about $20,000.00 who told me that they wanted $1 million) and if you weren’t the type of client we want (abusive to our staff, we discover you lied about your injury) then we’d let you go.  The customer isn’t always right.  The customer should have expectations.

To me you should expect honesty, effort, class, knowledge, experience, compassion and general customer service.  Golden rule stuff.  The firms which yell or don’t call back or put a lawyer who’s been out of school for a month on a case blow me away.  One woman called me about her brother who was killed while driving a semi-truck.  She called a law firm and they sent an associate who’d been licensed for six months to meet with them. He of course had no answer for most of their questions because this was something he’d never done before.  They smartly decided not to go with that firm.

If you hire us and we don’t deliver or act in any of these ways, kick us to the curb.  Or any other attorney who doesn’t deliver.

Call us any time for free, 312-346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois.

When You Are Hurt At Work But Aren’t Working

I just read an interesting case.  In general, most people don’t “work” their entire work shift.  You might be grabbing a cup of coffee or talking about your weekend plans or taking part in office gossip at various times in the day.   Most people will have to use the bathroom or will find a few minutes to check their e-mail or social media.

During all of the things I described, if you are clocked in you are still working under the eyes of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. So if while going to the bathroom you slipped and fell on a wet floor and tore your ACL, that would be a compensable case even though it didn’t have much to do with your job duties.

Even after you’ve clocked out you can still have a case for an injury. You punch out and then are walking down the hall toward the exit and trip on some loose carpet and break your wrist in the fall.  That’s a case.  Your boss asks you to help him/her move a desk before you go to your car and your back gives out, that’s a case.

The point is that your employer benefits by you being there, so if you get injured even when it’s not part of your normal job activities, it’s typically a case.

The exception is when you clearly take yourself away from the job and then get hurt.  In a recent case, a Walmart employee who was a cashier got attacked in the employee parking lot after her shift and sustained some pretty serious injuries.  Normally that’s a case the worker could win.  In this case (not handled by our firm) the cashier clocked out at 10:03 p.m. and then did a personal shopping trip at the store which had her paying for her groceries at 10:23 p.m.  The Court ruled that she switched from being an employee to being a paying customer and that her staying on site did not have any benefit to the employer.  As a result she lost her case.

We’ve seen similar cases for workers at bars.  They finish their shift and then have an end of work drink.  If they are sitting at the bar having a beer and then go to help change out a keg or bounce a rowdy customer, they’d likely have a case if they got hurt.  If they drink for an hour or two and then fall on a wet floor, it’s not work comp.

Bottom line is that with any type of case we want to look at the unique facts of what happened to you.  We are very aggressive and will fight for you whenever we think that a good case can be made.  You should not take the word of a non-lawyer that you don’t have a case, but instead talk to someone who handles these claims every day. We’ll always talk to you for free.  Call the number at the top of the page or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you.

The Insurance Company Will Do Anything To Deny Your Case

We are a Chicago based workers’ compensation law firm who will talk to you for free and answer any questions you have. Fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois and work with attorneys throughout the State to make sure you get the best representation possible.

I’ve written a lot about the fact insurance companies don’t view you as a person, but instead as a claim number. Their job is to make sure that your claim costs as little as possible.  So they’ll tell you a case is denied when it shouldn’t be just to see what happens.  Maybe you go away and they save a lot of money.  They’ll be late on your TTD checks with the hopes that you’ll ignore your doctor and return to work.  They’ll refuse to authorize an MRI or a cortisone injection until you see their IME doctor in three months while wishing that you’ll just use your personal insurance instead.

These games usually stop when you get a lawyer, but not always.  If they can discourage just one out of ten people it’s a big money saver for them.

It’s not just at the beginning of the case that this happens, it often happens during the case.  A recent Appellate Court decision shows how true this is.

What happened is an over the road truck driver hurt his spine and ended up with a back surgery.  There was no dispute that he had a work related injury and benefits were paid right away.

While off work due to his injury he had a violent sneezing episode that made his back feel worse. It had already been proven that he had a disc herniation and a second surgery was already recommended before this happened because the first one didn’t solve the problem.

Because he was honest and told his surgeon about the sneezing episode, the insurance company tried to jump on that and say that it was a new accident that is not work related and broke the “chain of causation” between the back condition and work accident. In plain English they were basically saying because you sneezed it made your back way worse so we shouldn’t have to pay you.

The Courts in Illinois fortunately got it right and made the insurance company pay. It helped that pre and post sneezing MRI’s showed the same thing and that there was no new herniation.  In general though this shows how ridiculous an insurance company can and will be.  Do they expect that you won’t sneeze or cough at any point after you get hurt?

To them it’s a money saving game and while they lost this one, they win plenty of others by being ruthless and heartless.  It’s shameful, but you need to know what you are up against, especially when you have a serious injury.  Sometimes they act nice, but I assure you that they are trying to cut off your benefits if they can find a reason, even if it’s for an absurd reason.

The Company Medical Clinic When You Are Hurt At Work

Here’s a pretty typical scenario for an injured worker in Illinois.  You get hurt at work while lifting a box.  Your back starts to hurt you.  You go to your supervisor and tell them what happened. They tell you to stop everything and head to a random medical facility which is a clinic which makes a lot of money from seeing injured workers.  Sometimes your company is so big that the “clinic” is on their property.

You go to their chosen doctor or physicians assistant and tell them what’s wrong. You could tell them that you feel a stabbing pain in your back that is radiating down your legs. This would be the signs of a herniated disc which is a very serious injury.  Lo and behold they tell you that you are fine and can return to work.  You start to wonder if you are in the Twilight Zone.

So what’s going on and what do you do?

These company medical clinics are money making machines for their owners.  They get and keep the business not by looking out for their patients, but by saying what the company or insurance adjuster wants them to say.  If they order a bunch of expensive tests that you need (like a MRI) and they show you are seriously hurt, that could cost the company some money.  If you question them you will find that they can be very rude.  Remember, they aren’t looking out for you.

While they can send you to their clinic, they can’t stop you from seeing your own, independent doctor of your own choosing.  These clinics aren’t usually run by orthopedic doctors or other specialists.  So if you get referred to a spine doctor by your family physician and that doctor says you need to have a MRI, start physical therapy, temporarily stop working, etc. we are usually able to get benefits started for you right away.

Not everyone at these clinics is unethical, but I wouldn’t trust their diagnosis of you, especially when they say you are fine after a 5-10 minute exam and your body is telling you otherwise.  You have a right to your own medical opinion from someone you want to see and you should take it.

If you need someone in your corner or just have questions, fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578 for a free consultation.

Sick Building Syndrome and Illinois Work Comp

Is your workplace making you sick, literally? We all have those days were the white lights and glare of the computer monitor just physically drains our bodies.  That’s not likely a compensable work related injury.  But what if something about the building you work in is causing you problems? Sick building syndrome is a real thing, and it may be covered under Illinois workers compensation laws depending on what happened to you.

Some signs and symptoms of sick building syndrome (SBS) include headache and dizziness, nausea, and overall allergy or flu like symptoms. These symptoms come and go depending on when you are in the building. There is no identifiable actual illness however; excessive stress and dissatisfaction can be associated with the symptoms as well. SBS can make your days at work miserable. There is some possibility that SBS could be caused by ventilation issues and contaminates from outside sources such as bacteria and mold. Some prevention measures could include placing toxin absorbing plants around the office, increasing the number of air exchanges in the HVAC system, and increasing overall ventilation in the building.

Workers compensation will cover your medical care, and lost wages due to an injury associated with your place of employment. The key to winning a case is getting a medical doctor to state that the building environment is causing or contributing to your health problems.  Sometimes you know it’s true, but if you can’t prove it, you won’t win your case.  So how do you prove it?

One of the best ways to determine if something is wrong with your building is to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).  They are a government agency that will come to your employer for free and do an inspection.  If their report shows a problem with the ventilation or mold or any other issues, you can use that information as evidence in your case.  It would make sense to take that report to your doctor as well so they can offer their opinion on what role your job has played with your illness.

If your job is causing the problem it’s possible that they will have to accommodate any restrictions you need which could include moving you to a healthier location or paying you until either your condition or the building improves.

If it sounds like you have to be an advocate for yourself if you think you have sick building syndrome it’s because you do.  These injuries aren’t as obvious as slipping and falling on a wet floor or throwing your back out when you are lifting something heavy.  So if you know your work building is causing a problem, you also need to be able to prove it.  Going to OSHA and getting a lawyer are honestly the first two steps.  These cases are difficult, but winnable.

Illinois Workers Compensation – When You Work For Yourself

A caller to my office got injured at work and is the owner of the company and asked me point blank, “Do I have to sue myself?”

The answer is no because workers’ compensation claims aren’t a lawsuit just as filing a health insurance claim if you get sick isn’t a lawsuit.

It’s a felony in Illinois to not have work comp coverage on employees, but there is an exception which allows owners to opt out from covering themselves.

So in his case whether or not he can bring an Illinois workers’ compensation claim comes down to whether or not he’s covered under his own insurance policy.

A lot of business owners choose not to be covered to save some money. I do that, but I’m also in a low risk job when it comes to having an injury.  If you are a laborer or in another line of work where many injuries occur, you’d probably be wise to have yourself covered.  My caller was not covered and fell out of a window.  His only real option is social security disability.

While it’s rare, I have seen cases for lawyers who own their law firms, but get injured at work.  They are usually from car accidents while traveling to court or from a back injury due to lifting a heavy trial bag.

Bottom line is that if you are the owner, you can choose to insure yourself or not, but if you do get hurt you are treated like any other employee.

Questions about anything related to Illinois workers’ compensation?  Call us any time at 312-346-5578 for a free consultation.

How To Prove You Are Permanently Totally Disabled (PTD)

Most Illinois work injuries involve an injury that gets better with the employee returning to work.  That typically leads to a settlement and everyone moving on with their lives.

In some cases the injuries are so severe that they lead to permanent restrictions or a claim by your doctor that you are not able to work at all.  If you have restrictions that your employer can’t accommodate, what type of settlement you will get depends on whether or not you can do work for anyone else.

If there is no reasonable job market for you, you are considered under Illinois law to be permanently and totally disabled (PTD).  This could be because your injury is so severe that you can barely travel.  A former client of mine had two back fusions and was left with restrictions which prevented him from being in a seated position for more than ten minutes.  He was from a rural area so needless to say, getting to an employer was a big problem because he’d have to stop four times on his 45 minute commute and even then he would have needed the ability to lay down at work.  The only possible job for him was working from home.

My client’s employer didn’t have a work from home job for him so he began to look for work on his own. At my instruction he contacted 5-10 different employers a day and filled out applications or called for interviews whenever possible.  He kept a job log which showed over a period of many months that he reached out to hundreds of employers without success.

It’s one thing for an insurance company to say that you can do a job.  It’s another to prove whether it’s true or not.  My client had a very credible job search which lead to nothing.  The case ended up settling for a very large sum, but if it had gone to trial I’m 100% confident that the Arbitrator would have found that he had proved that there are no jobs out there for someone in his condition.

The point is that you just as you can’t say you are too hurt to work (a doctor needs to say that), you can’t just say that there is no work for you.  You have to do a reasonable job search and try to get employment.  My client really did want work so when the insurance company contacted the prospective employers he applied to, they realized his efforts were legit and he essentially won the case for himself.

There is one exception to proving this.  If you are an older worker with a limited job history and education, if it is obvious that there’s no work for you, that might be enough.  You should still do a job search and keep track of it, but most Arbitrators aren’t going to expect a 60 year old who has only worked in a factory, didn’t graduate from high school and speaks little English to obtain a new line of work with a ten pound lifting restriction.

If you are permanently disabled, the benefit is up to $1,435 a week for the duration of your disability which is likely until you pass away.  Once you show that you’ve made a real job search, it’s up to your employer to prove that you didn’t.

There are some cases where you don’t need a lawyer, but if your injury is this serious you absolutely need an attorney in your corner. I promise you that the insurance company will be doing whatever they can to limit your payout.

Questions? Concerns?  Call us any time for free at (312) 346-5578.  We help everywhere in Illinois.

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