The value of X-rays in an Illinois work injury

The most important thing you can do if you are injured while working in Illinois is to get immediate medical care.  Nobody could convince me that anything else is more important than that.  Nothing matters more than your health.

We could debate what’s most important to do after you’ve first gone to the doctor, but to me that depends on what the emergency room or initial doctor says.

One problem I’ve noticed lately is that insurance companies are trying to limit medical treatment based on what the original doctor says.  Usually this is done by them telling an injured worker something to the effect of, “Your x-rays were normal, so you are going to be fine.”

Now I’m not a doctor and would never give medical advice.  That said, you don’t have to be a doctor to know that x-rays have really limited value.  They show broken bones of course and can reveal some other ailments.

But x-rays aren’t going to show a torn rotator cuff.  They won’t reveal that you have a herniated disc in your neck or back.  They can’t show that you have a torn ligament in your elbow or hand.  They can’t show a concussion.  They can’t show carpal tunnel.  They won’t let us know if you tore your ACL or meniscus.

I could go on, but you get the point.  X-rays have some value, certainly for showing broken bones, but they are not the be all end all and don’t reveal when you have suffered from the most serious of work injuries.

So to me, the most important thing you should do after you’ve gone to the doctor is go again if you aren’t feeling better.  Assuming that you are fine because an x-ray is normal is a huge mistake.

In these situations we recommend that you get a referral to a doctor who specializes in the problem you are having.  This usually means seeing an orthopedic doctor or neurologist.  Almost every family physician we know can make a good recommendation and it’s not a bad idea to ask for a couple of names so you can research who is best for you.  Some orthopedic doctors only handle certain body parts for example.

The real trouble, health wise, starts when you wait too long in between that first and second visit.  If your body is telling you that there is a problem and a x-ray says you are fine, listen to your body.  Because while the x-ray isn’t worthless, it almost never tells the whole story.

The biggest cause of work injuries is ….

I was flipping around the television the other night and stopped on an episode of Pawn Stars.  They have a trivia question every show, usually related to their business.  But this question had to do with work injuries.

The answer is slip and fall accidents.  Apparently there are more than one million such accidents every year at work in the United States.  Certainly it happens a ton in Illinois as we’ve dealt with hundreds of those cases over the years.

Sometimes a slip and fall at work is a workers’ compensation case.  Other times it’s a premises liability lawsuit.  And still other times it can be both or neither.

For it to be a workers’ compensation case, it generally has to happen while you are performing an activity that benefits your employers.  In addition, you have to be either on your company premises (e.g. the lobby of an office building doesn’t cut it, you’d have to be in your office area) or you’d have to fall on property owned by your company.  The most common example is if you fall in a parking lot that your employer owns.  If they didn’t own it, if wouldn’t be a work comp case.  There are exceptions to all of this, the biggest one being for traveling employees, but hopefully you get the gist.

For it to be a personal injury case, you can’t get injured on the property of your employer because under Illinois law, you are not allowed to sue your company for negligence.   That’s the tradeoff for the great work comp system that we have.  But if you work at a mall and fall in a common area or in the lobby of an office building or somewhere else, a slip and fall lawsuit is possible.  Now whether or not you meet the strict criteria to win one of these cases is another story, but that’s a topic for a different blog.

For it to be both, typically this will happen to a traveling employee.  We’ve helped lots of truckers, for example, who stopped at a gas station and were hurt when they slipped on oil.  They can for sure bring a work comp case and may have a need for a personal injury attorney too depending on whether or not there is liability.

For it to be neither it would have to be an accident that happened away from the office space such as a parking lot and would also be the result of something you can’t sue for like the natural accumulation of snow and ice.

Does this sound confusing?  It can be and I’m not sure I made it 100% clear for you.  So if you have any questions about what happened to you (and remember, every case is different) please call us at (312)346-5578 to talk for free and in confidence with an attorney.

Illinois workers’ compensation – Can I quit my job?

I’m lucky in that I love my job.  I’m my own boss though so if I have a problem with who I work for then I have real problems.

Most people who contact me like where they work and we do whatever we can to make sure that filing a workers’ compensation claim will involve us dealing with the insurance company and lawyers with little to no contact with the actual employer.

But some workers hate their jobs.  It may be that they work at a terrible place.  It may be that their injury makes doing their job a real problem. Some don’t hate where they work, but have sought out and found a better opportunity working some place new.

No matter the reason, they always ask us if they can quit their job while their workers’ compensation case is still going on.  The answer is that it depends.

You don’t want to quit your job if you are getting TTD benefits because if you do then you likely won’t get them any more. You also don’t want to quit if there is a chance you will get them in the future.  In other words, if you might have to have surgery and you quit, you better be prepared to have no income coming in.  You’d only get TTD benefits if your doctor restricts you from any work at all.  Otherwise they can say they would have had a light duty job for you had you not quit even if that is a lie (which it usually is).

You also don’t want to quit before we know what your final condition will be.  If you find yourself in a situation where you are going to have permanent restrictions, quitting your job will greatly impact what your case is worth and will also take away a lot of your leverage.

In addition, sometimes when you want to quit, they want to get rid of you too.  In some cases we’ve been able to get severance agreements for our clients which could put a lot of money in your pocket.  If you quit you lose out on that opportunity.

One thing quitting shouldn’t do is effect your right to receive medical benefits for your injury.

All this said, you have to live your life and some things, such as sanity, are more important than money.  We also understand that there are times when quitting the job can help you improve your health and of course there is nothing more important than that.

What we advise anyone who is considering quitting is to talk to an experienced work comp attorney before they do so. You want to make an educated decision no matter what you do, not a rushed or emotional one.  We are happy to discuss this with you at any time to try and help you make the right decision for your unique situation.

A doctor in Chicago wants to get me drunk

I watched a 60 Minutes segment last month that talked about some doctors making hundreds of thousands of dollars off of selling cancer drugs at huge mark ups.  It’s pretty revolting as it puts a ton of patients in to bankruptcy.

There is a similar issue going on with orthopedic surgeons in that many of them make their money off of performing independent medical examinations (IME’s).  A couple years ago I was at a deposition of a doctor who does lot of IME’s and he testified that he earned over $300,000.00 a year from those exams and from getting paid to testify about those exams.  It’s not uncommon for a doctor to get around $1,000.00 for an exam and writing a report and then double that to testify.  Why they get paid to testify is beyond me other than that they probably wouldn’t do the IME in the first place.  Mind you that a deposition typically lasts sixty to ninety minutes and some doctors do two of those a day.  It’s quite a living.

One doctor who I would tell any of my clients or callers to run from sent me a “happy hour” invitation to have cocktails with him, his partners and any lawyer who wants to come.  Usually doctors put on some medical seminar to attract lawyers, but this was just two plus hours of booze at a hip place downtown.

I’m not sure if this doctor’s angle was to get lawyers to send their clients to him (his nickname is the butcher so you can imagine the attorneys who would suggest seeing him for a back problem) or if he wants IME business.  While IME’s are typically done by the insurance company, their are some lawyers for workers who use doctors as their own hired guns instead of having to rely on the treating doctor to give a favorable opinion or good testimony.

The good of this approach is that you know what the doctor will say.  The bad is that they look like a whore and it raises questions as to why the treating doctor isn’t testifying.  I never do it or recommend it, but some firms make it a regular practice. Of course the money these docs charge comes out of your settlement in the end so the lawyers are spending your money in a way that might not help your case.

But to me, I’m bothered by the appearance of going out to an event like this from a doctor who doesn’t know me.  Somehow they got my personal e-mail and sent me an invite.  If they want to mail me something about an educational event that’s one thing, but this offended me. Perhaps it’s because of the horror stories I’ve heard about this surgeon, but it’s also the perception that an attorney would sell out their clients for a few drinks.

Most of the lawyers I know wouldn’t but the truth is there are some who would.  And that’s pathetic.

Meeting the other lawyer in an Illinois workers’ compensation case

Recently I had a unique experience in that I gave a deposition.  I’ve taken countless depositions over the years, but I’ve never been under oath as a witness before.  This wasn’t in a work comp case, but still it was a bit strange.  The first question the attorney asked me was if I have ever been deposed before and it actually threw me for a loop because she then gave a bunch of instructions that are typical to give to someone who has never been part of the court process before.

My deposition, in my opinion, was mostly a waste of time. I’m a pretty minor witness in a case, but they were just doing their due diligence. That said, I was once told that you learn something new at every deposition and in this case I learned two things that I think are really relevant to anyone who has an Illinois work injury.

First, my take on the dep was that more than anything, the lawyer was sizing me up to see how I would testify at trial if it came to that point. We often see opposing attorneys asking to meet with our clients at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  We’ll agree to that if we trust the other attorney and think that it can help move the case along.  Often they want to size you up because if you aren’t presentable or are combative, then they’d want you to go to trial as you likely wouldn’t look good in front of an Arbitrator.  On the other hand, if you come across great then they know that will work to your advantage at trial and might be more motivated to settle.

The second lesson I learned is to relate better to my clients concerns. The person who is the plaintiff in the case I testified in is a close friend of mine.  His lawyer is part of a very prestigious personal injury law firm in Chicago.  The defense attorney was very nice and seemed pretty bright.  But what threw me at first was the fact that the two of them are obviously good friends, so much so that he had texted her photos of his flooded basement the day before the deposition.

I’ve always told callers and clients that if your lawyer is friends with the defense attorney it’s a good thing and I know that is true. You don’t want an enemy on the other side.  It still threw me a bit because I care a lot about my friend and in my head I was thinking “Why are you so nice to her?”

The problem with my thinking is that it’s an emotional reaction and the job of an attorney, at least a good one, is to take emotion out of a case and stick to facts.  So I was definitely wrong, but learned more about why injured workers feel that way.

I view this all as a positive because any time I can relate to a client or caller it’s a bonus.  Like I said, as a lawyer we are always learning.

Illinois work injuries, sometimes the insurance company is desperate to settle

I’ve written before how the best time to settle an Illinois workers’ compensation claim is in November because if you do it then, the case can be closed by the end of December.  This allows an insurance adjuster to close their file and get a year end bonus.  So they’ll pay you full value sometimes because they don’t care about their employer, they care about their bank account.

It’s really the biggest advantage you can have if you can hire a lawyer who actually cares about you and getting a good result for you.  The insurance company and their attorney will never be as emotionally invested in a case as you are because of course it’s your life.  If your lawyer feels the same way then you have a leg up.  That’s partly why we created our state wide network of like minded lawyers.

I was reminded recently though that it’s not always November when an insurance company is desperate. I was recently talking to a defense attorney who let me know that his big client needed to settle as many cases as possible and needed to do it fast.  Apparently they were trying to reduce their total claims that are open.  My best guess is that there’s a new boss who’s trying to make an impact or perhaps their business year ends in August.

The point is, who cares why they are eager to settle, if you can get maximum value and your case is at a point where it should be settled, then you should take advantage of it.

What you don’t want to do is settle before you are back to work or while you are still receiving medical care.  That’s just not smart and it’s a huge risk.  It’s not as if a settlement won’t be there down the road when you are all better.

The other point is that sometimes your lawyer will make a settlement demand and the response from the insurance company will be an offer which is way less than your case is worth.  They aren’t the be all end all in this case.  You have to agree to settle too.  So sometimes you wait and you get more or in this case, much more.  Other times the right move is for your lawyer to say “if that’s the best you are going to do, we are going to trial.”

Then of course they actually have to get the case ready for trial which not every attorney will do.

Now I’m not promising that in your case the insurance company will be desperate at some point.  But when the facts are on your side and there aren’t many or any disputed issues, you can usually do really well in the end.


Work Related Accident Attorney in Chicago, Crazy Story

Here’s one that’s nuts.

A reader of our blog tells us the following.  He was working in Chicago  and was painting a floor when he twisted his knee.  This happened because a co-worker had removed grates that covered the floor, so he fell in to a hole.  The end result was that he tore his ACL.  Prior to this time he had never received medical care for a knee injury and was working full duty with no problems walking.  In fact he was a weekend warrior who was really active with running and softball.

So of course his case was denied by the insurance company.  Say what???

They said that the MRI on his knee showed tears on the inside and outside of his leg which to them were somehow the signs of pre-existing arthritis.  So even though he was feeling fine until he fell in to a hole, while working, they are taking the approach that his leg was a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.

That argument has worked for insurance companies in some cases, but those have always been times when there was a history of a ton of medical treatment.  This guy was a little older, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s never gone to a doctor for knee problems.

So it’s another ridiculous denial which will ultimately be overturned either by a lawyer getting involved and reading them the riot act or an Arbitrator if the case goes to trial.

But it really is ridiculous.  And when you hear calls for workers’ compensation law changes in Illinois, remember that this is the type of stuff that happens all of the time and we’ve got a relatively good system in place for injured workers.  Imagine if the laws were really stacked against you.

The important thing to do is not freak out if something like this happens to you. This is why lawyers exist for these cases and we created our state wide network to address these problems everywhere. If you want our help, call us at (312) 346-5578 or fill out the contact form to the right and we’ll get in touch with you ASAP.  It’s always free and confidential and we help everywhere in Illinois.

A fall off a ladder at work ends up being worth $2.4 million

We repeat a lot of themes in our blog posts because there are a few items that are really important no matter what the facts of the case are.  For example, it’s really important that you be honest and not exaggerate your symptoms or lie to us or a doctor.

Another important item that we often discuss is the importance of doing a thorough examination of all the possible case facts.  There was a case in the paper recently that highlighted how failure to do that by your lawyer could cost you millions.

When you hire us or any other Illinois work comp law firm, you are hiring us to represent you for that case only.  In other words, if you are going through a divorce, we are not the lawyer for you and can do nothing other than suggest someone for you to hire.

That said, we do have a duty to analyze every issue that could be related to your injury.  The case in the paper shows what an amazing job the attorney (not my firm, but I’m always happy to recognize good work) who handled the case did.

The injured worker fell off a ladder and tore his ACL and had other injuries. It was a severe injury that required a career change.  From a workers’ compensation standpoint that case has good value and is probably worth a few hundred thousand dollars depending on his age, wage loss and permanent restrictions.  Most work injury attorneys would have filed the claim and handled it.

But the attorney in the paper went a step further.  He investigated the accident and learned that another company provided the ladder and mandated that he use it.  He then discovered that the ladder was more than 40 years old and not up to OSHA standards for what a ladder needs to be to be used during the type of activity the worker was performing.

So while you can’t sue your employer for negligence, you can sue a different company.  The lawyer sued the general contractor and was able to get a much larger award than the workers’ compensation case would have provided by itself.  In this case, he got $2.4 Million which is a tremendous result and will truly compensate the worker for his loss of future earning potential.

I assume that a workers’ compensation case was also filed and that’s the best thing to do in the short term because it provides compensation for time off of work and pays for all of the medical bills.

Big picture though is that you have to look at every angle. We’ve been in cases where we’ve recognized that medical malpractice occurred and made sure our client was connected with a lawyer who has great success with those claims and did so before it was too late.  Sometimes it’s obvious like a car accident, but other times like with this ladder it’s not as clear.  Your lawyer needs to investigate everything or connect you with someone who can.

And if they don’t, it could literally cost you millions.

We just told an injured worker not to file her carpal tunnel case

By rule, we almost always recommend to an injured worker that they formally file their case.  Once we are representing them we can protect them from nurse case managers who are ill intentioned and guide them through the process.  It also allows us to act fast if their case is denied for any reason.

There is an exception to every rule of course and we came across it recently.  A woman who uses her hands all day has carpal tunnel syndrome.  Normally that would be a slam dunk case from our standpoint.  And she’s facing bilateral surgery so getting a lawyer is a good idea.

In her case though, she also has diabetes and neuropathy in her legs which are two things that can also cause carpal tunnel syndrome.  In addition, she had only been employed for a few months.  So there are some potential good defenses to her case.

The most important thing is her health and getting her wrists fixed.  If we file a case now, it will be denied by the work comp insurance and also denied by her group insurance carrier.  So by waiting, we know for certain she can get the surgery and hopefully get better.

When she has the surgery, the operative report will tell us if there is compression on the median nerve.  If there is, it’s a sign that the injury was caused by activity and not her other health issues.  If it says that, we’ll file the case and likely win.  The group insurance will get paid back and she’ll get benefits.  But if it doesn’t say that then we’ll know that the case is likely not a winner.  The doctor’s notes will also be revealing.

It’s an unusual strategy, but if you care about the health of a potential client, sometimes not filing the case is best.  A lot of firms would have filed the case just hoping to make money some day, but that’s not in the client’s best interests.

I certainly can’t take credit for what I see is a great strategy.  This was actually done by a lawyer we work with for injuries in Bloomington, IL as part of our state wide network.  That’s why we created our network in the first place.  We can’t promise you a result, but we do guarantee that we’ll put you in the hands of attorneys who will put your interests firsts and have incredible experience.  If either of those things were missing, this woman would likely have to wait a year or more for surgery.

And while it’s likely we’ll never see a penny from the time we spent with her, nothing pleases me more than calls like this. We, like most lawyers I know, actually went to law school hoping to help people. You can’t always do that, but when you do it’s incredibly rewarding.

Do small town Illinois workers get taken advantage of?

I have a theory that I can’t prove scientifically, but if you see the same thing over and over, you have pretty good evidence that it’s true.

Insurance companies perform all sort of studies to figure out ways to not pay out money on claims.  One thing they will do is deny claims for no reason by sending a letter that says something like “We’ve completed our investigation and determined that your injuries aren’t work related.”  If they send that letter to 10 people who have compensable injuries and one of them goes away, they save money.  If three give up then they are saving a bundle.  Insurance companies are ruthless, but also smart and they know that many people don’t want to deal with a denial.

My theory though is that if you live in a rural area or are a lower wage worker, they’ll also deny you for no reason or at least try to frustrate you in to going away.  It’s playing off of a stereotype that is usually wrong, but their belief is that smaller town people are less likely to hire a lawyer because there are so few good ones in small towns and even less who focus their practice on Illinois workers’ compensation law.  Finding a good lawyer in Chicago isn’t hard.  Getting a good one in Mount Vernon or a smaller town by there is more difficult.  Of course, this is why I created the state wide network of good lawyers.

With lower wage earners, some insurance companies seem to believe that they won’t seek out their rights or will think that they can’t afford a lawyer.  Cost of course is not an issue as there is no fee unless you win, but they know that not every worker knows that.  Many times I get calls from people who are stressed because they can’t afford a lawyer.  I can see their relief through the phone when I explain that there is no up front cost.

The other thing with smaller town workers is that they are more likely to work at a place where very few other people work.  This means they are less likely to know someone who has had a work injury which can mean they never learn their rights.

It’s all a gamble by the insurance company, but one that pays off unfortunately.

I thought of this when I was called by a worker at a small business in a rural town in LaSalle County.  He barely made minimum wage and is in his own words, “the sticks.”  He got one call from an insurance adjuster and never a call back again.  Every time he called he got voice-mail.

I’ve heard similar stories and while occasionally it’s from someone in a bigger city or at a bigger employer, it typically happens to small town workers.

The good news is that whether you work in Chicago or in Valley City (population 13), you have the same rights if you get hurt while working.  And an insurance company that is blowing you off or telling you the case is denied or closed is the easiest problem for a lawyer to deal with.