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.

How To Do A Proper Job Search

When you are injured and at MMI (maximum medical improvement, which means as healthy as you are going to get) and can’t return to a job with your employer because they can’t accommodate your medical restrictions, you are not left out in the cold as far as work comp benefits go.

Under Illinois law, once you reach MMI, you no longer receive TTD benefits.  That said, you can still get the same payment amounts, but it’s called maintenance.  To get this payment you have to begin vocational rehabilitation which is the process of looking for work within your restrictions and sometimes getting training to help you obtain new skills to find a job in a new field.

Sometimes the job search is done with the assistance of a vocational counselor and other times it’s self directed.  You have to make a good faith effort at finding work if you want benefits to continue. And you have to be able to prove it.

In a recently published Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission decision, a Yellow Transportation driver lost out on maintenance benefits because he failed to provide sufficient proof of a job search.  He had injured his back and finger and could no longer work as a driver.  Maintenance benefits were denied because while he kept a job log filled with employers names, there was no specific information as to when he contacted them, the name of the person he contacted, the position he applied for or what the result of that job search was.  Beyond that his testimony on what he did was found by the Arbitrator to be inconsistent and noted that the worker said he was looking for jobs in Florida even though he lived in Illinois.  He also listed some jobs that he was not physically capable of getting, didn’t prove he ever filled out an application or even

Taken all together it meant that there wasn’t an adequate job search and he didn’t get benefits.

I’m not sure what his lawyer told him or how cooperative of a client he was, but it’s your attorneys job to give you detailed instructions on looking for work and keeping a proper job log. We have experience in these cases and you don’t so it’s on us to make sure you are educated.  If your attorney doesn’t do that then they aren’t doing their job.

Beyond that, I’ve written a lot on this blog about how you have to look out for you.  It’s probably not fun to do a job search, especially when most of the positions are for work that you don’t want to do.  But if you aren’t looking out for you then nobody else will.  So if you don’t keep a proper job log after being told how to do so then you are to blame although your attorney should be asking for a copy of it every month or so.

This guy cost himself a lot of money and it may be a six figure mistake in the long run because odds are that he was making a great wage in the old job.  If he can’t credibly prove what he could currently be earning then he will miss out on wage differential benefits.

If you have any questions about conducting a job search under Illinois law or anything else related to workers’ compensation give us a call at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form and we’ll get in touch with you ASAP. 

Two Recent IL Work Comp Cases Worth Knowing About

Other than “What’s my case worth?” the most common question I get from injured Illinois workers is, “Do I have a case?”  I just read the summary of two recent court decisions that are great examples of how Arbitrators rule at trial.

In the first case, a truck driver alleged that she had carpal tunnel syndrome in both of her hands from her job duties.  The insurance company denied her case because she had several contributing factors to her medical problems that are not work related.  Specifically she was really overweight and that caused the IME doctor to state that was the cause of her problems.

At trials, Judges rely on how credible a witness seems. In this case the worker testified that she had to repeatedly and forcefully grip the wheel on her tractor which had power steering.  She demonstrated how her wrists were flexed when she did that and also talked about the difficulty she had maneuvering the truck in severe weather conditions.  This was corroborated by her supervisor.  She acknowledged that she had symptoms while not driving but credibly testified that it was worse when driving.

The Arbitrator found her testimony to be credible and awarded her benefits.  It was important that her doctor related her problems to her job activities, but also important that her testimony was detailed and by admitting that her wrists also hurt away from work it made her appear more honest even though a reasonable person might think that it could hurt her case.

In the second case, there was no dispute about a foot injury for an 18 year old when a car lift fell on one of his feet.  The dispute was around his claim that his other foot became injured because he was putting too much wait on it due to the problem with the first foot.  In the medical records, his statements were clear and consistent.  Sometimes it’s out of your control what the doctor writes down, but if you don’t tell them about the problems you are experiencing, you are hurting yourself and your case.

The Commission held that because the injured worker was over compensating and shifting his weight around, it made sense that he could hurt his other foot and rejected the IME doctor’s opinion that this problem was caused by him having “high arches.”

The point of both of these cases is that most cases aren’t 100% clean. It’s rare that you have an injured worker who was sitting at a red light and gets rear-ended by a semi truck the day after they had a MRI on their back which showed a clean bill of health.

So you can have a successful case even if there are possible defenses to your claim.  Like in these two cases, the opinions of IME doctors that the job didn’t play any role in the injury are often b.s.  The law in Illinois is that you have to show your job activities were a cause of your condition.  Not the sole cause or only cause.

It’s not surprising that these injured workers won their trial.  Because they both testified in an honest manner and had medical records which supported them it would be hard for any Arbitrator to find against them.

None of this of course guarantees a win for you, but it should give you an idea that if you are honest and can show that your job played a role in your injury, you have a great chance at trial of winning your case.

If The Insurance Company Will Deny The Claim Of A Sweet Grandma …

… Then you can bet they will cut your benefits off the first chance they get even if it’s not following the law.

This sweet woman who contacted us was a secretary at her company and has worked there for a long time.  She’s a grandmother and seems to treat her co-workers like grandchildren, in a good way.

Nice as can be she loved to do special things for people on their birthdays.  It wasn’t part of her job description, but she liked her co-workers and working in a happy place.  On the day that she got hurt she was hanging a happy birthday banner.  That required her to stand on a chair.  Unfortunately she fell and was injured.

Now doing this work wasn’t part of her official job duties so the insurance company denied her claim because it did not “arise out of her employment” which is what you need to show in order to win a case. This denial is a ridiculous interpretation of the law for many reasons.

  1. Many people do things every day at work that aren’t part of their main job duties, but are part of being in a team environment.  You might hold the door open for someone or deliver a package to somebody’s desk since you are headed that way anyway or change a water jug in the break room.  That’s part of being a good employee and certainly the type that I like being around.
  2. She had done this in the past and the employer had no problem with it at all. If they were aware that she did this and it was a concern they had years to say something.  Because the employer isn’t nuts they of course loved her and what she did.
  3. This is way different than getting injured while you are goofing off at work.  If she had taken a golf cart for a joy ride for example and crashed it, that clearly wouldn’t be a case.
  4. Above all else, injuries arise out of your employment when the employer benefits from them.  Clearly the employer benefits by having a good morale in the office and this injured worker played a big role in this.

It’s important to note that her employer seems awesome and that they have nothing to do with this case being denied.  She, like many people who contact us, loves where she works. As I tried to explain to her, this case is not a lawsuit against the employer it’s simply a claim for benefits.  The insurance company is the problem and that is who we would deal with.

You might be thinking, “How could they do this to such a nice woman?”  Insurance companies don’t see her or you or anyone as a name or a person. They see you as a file number and have a goal to spend as little as possible on that file. It might feel personal, but to them it’s just business.  Greedy, often shady business.

If you have any questions about a work related injury in Illinois we are happy to talk to you at any time. Fill out our form to the right or call us at (312) 346-5578 for a free, confidential consultation with one of our attorneys.

Work Comp Lawyer Lie – They Didn’t Recover Hundreds of Millions

No lawyer pisses me off more than the one who advertises everywhere, but isn’t even licensed to practice law in Illinois.  Instead he’s trying to brand himself and hires attorneys (often young ones) in various states to handle the cases for him even though his face is all over the ads.

A close second are work comp attorneys who talk about having collected hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients.  Illinois workers’ compensation cases can be worth a lot, but when these attorneys brag about all of the money that they have “recovered” they are also including payments for medical bills and lost time from work.  That’s really misleading.

If you get hurt today and shatter your ankle and then hire me tomorrow, it’s a smart idea because we can protect you from dirty insurance company activity.  But at the same time, if you end up with a surgery within a week that costs $100,000.00, I didn’t recover that money for you.  It’s not going in your pocket.  It probably would have been paid anyway and if it wasn’t you’d still never see a penny of it most likely.  Yet some law firms include this in their advertisements to make it seem as if they are getting way more for their clients than they are.

Some of these lawyers are the same ones who will tell you your case is worth a ton of money when you first see them even though there is no way that they could realistically know that because you just got injured and they have no clue what your ultimate recovery will be.  But they don’t care about that or morals or anything other than their bottom line.

My advice is that if it seems to good to be true then it probably is.  If your radar goes off that a lawyer is a little too slick then you should trust your gut.

Fortunately most law firms aren’t run by scum bags.  But the ones who are give the rest of the good ones a bad name.

IL Work Comp – When A Settlement Offer Isn’t Good Enough

We recently were involved in a case for a client who had a serious back injury while working for the Chicago Transit Authority.  He came to us at a time when he already had a lawyer.  While we encourage you to stay with your attorney if you can, in this case the previous law firm was clearly not fighting for the client.

At the time the case came in there was a settlement offer for $40,000.00.  The lawyer on the case who wasn’t doing whatever he could told the client that was the best he was going to be able to do and that the CTA wouldn’t budge. Fortunately the injured worker called for a second opinion because he couldn’t believe that was all the case was worth.

Long story short is that it took some time, but the case resolved earlier this year for $200,000.00.  Clearly the CTA “budged.”  It does take a little more work on a case when you are dealing with any Government agency, but that doesn’t mean that they should get a big discount as to what your case is worth.

Clearly there is a huge difference between $200,000.00 and 40 k.  There is also the matter of having all of your medical bills paid.

This wasn’t typical of how most cases work, but it’s also not the first time we’ve been involved in a case where this happened.  When the caller came to us, he wanted someone really aggressive and we connected him with an attorney in our network who fits that description to a tee.

The bottom line for you as an injured worker is that while you can’t hold on to unrealistic expectations – you aren’t getting a million dollars no matter how crappy the insurance company is treating you – you also shouldn’t take an unfair offer.  If your attorney is recommending a settlement amount he should outline why it’s fair.  “That’s the best they will do” isn’t telling you why it’s a good offer. They should give you a range of what your best and worse case scenarios are at trial, which is more likely, why you might win, why you might lose, etc.

After that has happened, you can make an educated decision as to what you want to do.  While most cases settle, there is no law that makes you settle and if you have a big injury you shouldn’t unless the offer is really strong or if there is a big risk of nothing if you go to trial.

But if your worst case scenario at trial is around 40k and your best case scenario is around 250k then settling for 40k is just dumb and means you and the lawyer are leaving a bunch of money on the table.

I Bet I Can Guess Who Your IME Doctor Is

I’m not a psychic.  I can’t predict the future.  If I had those skills I’d be living in Vegas.

What I have done, eight times by my count, is guess the name of the IME doctor who is completely screwing over a seriously injured worker with a report that says they are fine even though their MRI and symptoms say otherwise.  This has all happened over the last three months.

How am I able to guess this doctor?  Well, these cases had a few things in common.  They were all back or neck injuries.  They were all in the Chicago area.  They all had recommendations for surgery after physical therapy and cortisone injections failed.  It’s pretty standard practice to try this conservative therapy first and then go for surgery if it doesn’t work.

I’ll tell you the name of the doctor if you ask me, but it’s an orthopedic doctor in the northern suburbs who is a go to guy for insurance companies.  Now I’m not saying that he doesn’t actually believe the things he writes in his reports.  Maybe he does just like maybe the Bulls are going to win the NBA championship this year.

Or maybe it’s that he’s willing to say things that no other surgeons would say or at least not many of them who do IME’s.  He’s willing to say what the insurance company, who pays him big bucks, want him to say.  Does he do that every time?  No, but he does that enough that it gives them ammunition to fight a case even when no reasonable person would agree with this doctor.

From the standpoint of the insurance company, a neck or back surgery is very expensive.  If they can frustrate you in to not having the surgery at all or getting your group insurance to pay for it, they save a lot of money.  It’s shady work, but insurance companies aren’t in business for morals, they are in it for money.  When they don’t pay your medical bills they save/make money.

The good news is that the Arbitrators at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission know that this guy is a hired gun too.  They see him on many of their cases that go to trial.  That doesn’t mean that you don’t need a credible doctor in your corner who states that your injuries are work related and they need to also credibly lay out why you need the medical treatment that you need.

So the bad news is that this hack of a doctor – he’s actually got a good reputation as a treating doctor, just seems to have sold his soul on these IME’s – can delay your medical care. The good news is that if you have a lawyer in your corner who will fight for you and do what is needed to get your case ready for trial, you should win.

If you’d like our help or if you’d like me to guess who your IME doctor is (I’ve got good guesses for carpal tunnel cases too) fill out our form to the right or call us at (312) 346-5578.  We help with work injuries everywhere in Illinois.

 

What’s A Ballpark Figure Of What My Case Is Worth?

A caller to my office made me laugh and cringe at the same time.  He had broken his hip this past December and hired a local Chicago workers’ compensation law firm to handle his case. He called me because he has been trying to reach his lawyer to find out a ballpark figure of what his case might be worth. It made me laugh in a sad way because I just don’t get why an attorney wouldn’t call back a client.  And it made me cringe because when you sign on a client you should lay out a road map of what’s going to happen in the case.

If the attorney had done that he/she would have told the client that there is no realistic way to tell them what the case might be worth right now.  It’s a major injury and there are a bunch of factors that will determine what it’s worth in the end.  The two biggest are whether or not they can return to work and what is the medical care that they are going to go through for this injury.

I certainly don’t blame anyone who calls me and wants to know what their case is worth and for most cases we can give a fairly accurate range as to what that might be.  But a case like this would have such a wide range that it wouldn’t make sense to even start that sort of analysis.  If you have hip surgery there are risks of many different complications.  We’ve seen people whose legs end up slightly shorter after total hip replacement surgery.  This could create a complication that leads to problems with your back, knees or other body parts.

Sometimes hips can be replaced and dislocate.  That would also factor in to what the case is worth.

Bottom line is that giving a ball park figure will make the client feel good (or not good if you don’t give them a big number), but it’s the type of thing that a lazy or dishonest attorney does when it’s this early on in the case.

Of course it’s human nature to want to know these things and I assure you that the lawyers in our network provide this information as soon as we can look you in the eye and honestly tell you that our opinion is true and not just a guess or made up.

The firms who don’t follow this advice seem to often end up with unhappy clients.  They’ll tell them before they sign up or right after that the case will be worth $150,000.00 or some other really high number and then two years lawyer (or whenever the case is ready to be settled) the client will get $40,000.00 (or whatever the case is worth) and think that something fishy is going on like the lawyer getting bought off.  The only thing fishy is the nonsense in the beginning of the case. It’s a lawyer lie done to make the client feel good and think “no matter how bad my attorney is at returning my calls or answering my questions, I know that one day I’ll get a lot of money because they said so.”

Final thought.  You don’t want to settle your case until you are as good as you going to get.  Once the case is closed, it’s closed.  I recently had a woman tell me that her case should be allowed to be re-opened because she’s really suffering and didn’t know the rights she’d give up if she settled. To paraphrase that TV commercial that I think is actually about insurance, “That’s not how this works.  That’s not how any of this works.”

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