Police Officers And Illinois Workers’ Compensation

We’ve worked with tons of police officers over the years and for some reason we’ve (gratefully) been called by more officers this year than any other so far.

Police officers who get injured while working are for the most part no different than any other worker who gets hurt on the job.  There are two big exceptions.

The first is that City of Chicago officers are not covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  This is from some special legislation from a long time ago which barred officers and firefighters in cities with more than 200,000 people from falling under the Work Comp Act. Chicago is the only city affected by this of course.  So you can get injured at work in Chicago and not be covered, but if you are a cop in Evanston, Skokie, Tinley Park, Oak Park or any other place that touches Chicago (or any other place in Illinois for that matter) you are covered.  It’s kind of a weird rule given that  many of the dangers are the same but it was special legislation designed to save the City some money.

The second exception is that we see more post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) cases with officers than any other industry.  We’ve worked with some county sheriffs for example who were Iraq war veterans and came across dead bodies during an investigation. This lead to terrible PTSD and that is a compensable claim.

We see just about every type of injury for officers.  The biggies are torn Achilles or knee injuries from running, back injuries from lifting and quite often car accidents.

Some of our callers are being falsely told that they aren’t eligible for work comp because of their profession.  Again, unless you are in Chicago, that’s not true and note that this law doesn’t apply to traffic aides or other support staff.

It’s an honor to represent anyone with a work injury and a special honor when it’s someone who serves the community. If you have questions or want our help, anywhere in Illinois, call us at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form.  It’s always free and confidential.

Do You Drive A Company Provided Vehicle For Work?

Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, if you are injured driving your vehicle to or from work, you don’t have a case unless you are traveling to some place that is not your normal work location.  For example, if you live and work in the City of Chicago, but were driving to a meeting in Schaumburg when you got in to a car accident, that would be a case. If you were driving to your office in Chicago that usually would not be a case.

Like everything, there are some pretty big exceptions to these rules.  The biggest is when you are driving a vehicle that your employer gives you.

The famous case on this law involves a Polish cleaning lady. She fell while walking to her van in the morning and broke her wrist.  But in this case it was a van provided to her by her employer to use to travel to their various cleaning assignments.  Since she fell on a public sidewalk while walking to her van, the Court ruled that this was part of her journey as a traveling employee, even though the van was parked outside her house.

Her employer received a big benefit by her taking the van home every day.  They don’t pay for storage and it allows the workers to start their day faster and avoid the need to report to a central office location.  It saves them money.

Because the employer gets this benefit and because her traveling had started, she became a traveling employee.  Most accidents that happen to traveling employees are covered and this one was no exception.

So you’d think that walking to your car and falling on ice wouldn’t be a case, but when you look deeper at where she was walking to, why she was walking there and what she was going to do with the vehicle it makes more sense.

It’s really not much different than an employee who is driving to a meeting and stops at a gas station where they slip and fall.

Bottom line is that this is why we ask you a lot of questions so we can have the full story.  We wouldn’t expect you to know little quirks in the law like this case.  It’s also why you should only hire an experienced attorney who is up to date on case law.  It can literally be the difference between winning and losing.

Would you like to ask a question about this or anything else?  Call us any time at (312) 346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois.

Morals and Illinois Workers’ Compensation

It can be beyond frustrating when your Illinois work comp benefits are denied or delayed without reason.  We get that. And we push back against any denial that is improper.

A caller to my office wanted to know if it was “right for benefits to not be paid” even though she’s been off work for over two weeks.

Morally it’s very wrong for an insurance company or employer to mess with her like that.  What you can’t expect is for an insurance company to ever make a moral decision when it comes to your case.  Morally it’s very wrong for them to not have paid her.  Business wise, it makes sense, at least when it comes to their best interests.

The injured worker was scheduled for an independent medical exam (“IME”) in a couple of weeks.  So the insurance company is delaying her payment until that happens.  If the IME is in their favor they’ll keep denying benefits.  If it’s against them, they will pay.  Morally it’s wrong and legally it’s wrong too.  The problem is that by the time we or any attorney could get in to court the IME will have come and gone and the issue will be somewhat moot.

So we can file a petition for penalties due to the unreasonable delay in payment.  We can threaten you won’t go to the IME without a check.  The reality is that they are treating you as a player in a game.

You’ll find that many immoral things like this can happen.  Don’t expect them to have morals. The key for you is to not lose your morals.  Don’t lie to the doctor about how you are feeling.  Don’t embellish or exaggerate your symptoms. Let them be immoral.  You live your life the right way.

After that, especially if the IME cuts you off, it’s our job to fight and protect you and that’s what we will do.  Not every case is a nasty battle, but many of them are.  We don’t look to rock the boat if not needed, but we also aren’t going to let you get pushed around.

This is all annoying when you just want to get better, get back to work and know that your bills will be paid.  We can’t promise you a result, but we promise that we get it and we’ll do whatever we can to make it right.

Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Labrum Tears

I’ve torn my rotator cuff and hurt my back.  I’m all better now.  Being a runner, I worry about hurting my back again, an Achilles injury and very painful labrum tears.  Let’s talk about that one and how it relates to Illinois workers’ comp.

Labrum tears happen in the shoulder and the hip. In the shoulder, the labrum is a cartilage disc attached to the socket of the shoulder. The labrum surrounds the socket and helps to stabilize your upper arm bone with in the joint. In the hip joint, the labral follows the outside rim of the hip socket and also stabilizes your thighbone in the joint.

Shoulder injuries of this type can happen at work by falling on your arm, a direct blow to your shoulder, a sudden pull when picking up a heavy item or even by trying to stabilize yourself during a fall.  Some common symptoms of this type of injury are first of all pain. If your shoulder is hurting, catching, making noises, and you feel a loss of strength, range of motion or it just feels unstable, you may have a labrum tear.  If you fell down and your arm dislocated— then the ball of the shoulder actually pushed the labrum off of the socket. This is called a Bankart or Perthes lesion.

If you believe you have a torn labrum due to an injury at work, you should first call a doctor. They will do some physical tests as well as x-rays. Some may also order a CT or an MRI scan to help look for the tear. Once a tear is found, the treatment could include anything from physical rehabilitation, to surgery to repair the damage.  If surgery is required you may require 12 weeks recovery time although if you use your arm a ton it could be months.  If you are a baseball pitcher it could end your career.

Hip injuries of this type can be caused by similar accidents at work. If you have fallen on your hip, or even if you do repetitive motions like twisting you could be at risk for a labrum tear of the hip. The symptoms are similar as well. Pain, grinding and other noises, limited range of motion are all indicators that you should see a doctor. The doctor will order x-rays, and sometimes CT Scans and an MRI to diagnose the tear. Once the tear has been found, you may be able to resolve the issue with basic physical therapy or you may also need surgery to repair or replace the torn piece of labrum. This type of surgery could require 8-12 weeks of recovery time or more.

If you have injured your  hip or your shoulder at work, make sure you go to the doctor. It is very important you explain your injury happened at work. From there it’s important to get timely treatment so your injury doesn’t get worse.

Questions? Are you bored by this?  We study the medicine so we can give you the best representation possible. If you’d like our help please call us at (312) 346-5578. We help with work injuries all over Illinois.

What Should You Bring To Your First Meeting With A Lawyer

We get asked this a lot and it’s a great question.  The answer often depends on how long it’s been since you’ve been injured.  If it’s been many months or even years, we might want a lot.  Usually when we give you a free phone consultation and learn the case issues we also learn what we want you to bring.  In general you shouldn’t ever feel bad or nervous about bringing something that isn’t needed.  It’s our job to tell you what we need. It’s not your job to know this and if you are just trying to help it’s a good thing.

In general what we are looking for is:

  • Initial medical records if you have them.
  • Copies off of work slips if you were given one. We can’t claim you are owed lost time benefits without this.
  • Contact info for all medical providers to date.
  • Copies of any correspondence you’ve received from the insurance company.
  • Copies of any checks you’ve received from the insurance company or at least the check stubs.
  • Any medical bills that you’ve gotten so far.
  • A copy of your pay stubs from before you were injured.  Up to the last 52 weeks before the accident date if you have it. This is important to make sure you aren’t being underpaid.
  • If you’ve created a written summary of what happened that’s always helpful.
  • Names of any accident witnesses and contact info if you have it.
  • Correspondence from a nurse case manager if there has been one on your case.

Every attorney of course is different, but I’ve always operated by the belief that I’d rather have too much information than too little.  Either way, don’t fret about this.  Just like at trial where it’s our job to ask you the right questions, it’s also our job when we first meet and as the case goes along to ask you for what we need.  If we don’t get it at the first meeting we can get it after.

Bonus tip, I’ve had clients say something like, “I feel stupid for asking, but do you need a copy of this?”  NEVER feel that way.  This is your case and your life. Be involved and if you have a question just ask.  There is no such thing as a dumb question, especially when you have no experience with this type of stuff.

What Happens After An Illinois Workers’ Compensation Trial

We are Chicago work injury attorneys who have created a state wide network of experienced attorneys who fight for their clients.  If you’d like our help call us at (312) 346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois and calls are always free and confidential. 

A very nice woman called me and wanted to hire me to take over her case.  At first it sounded like something we’d want to be involved in.  She said, “I hired the wrong lawyer.  I didn’t do my homework and now I’m paying for it.  I’ve been without pay for almost two years even though my doctor says my injuries are work related.”

She’s self aware and looking out for herself. Those are two qualities we like.

The problem is that she went on to mention that this case went to trial five plus months ago.  Her real frustration it turns out is that the Arbitrator hasn’t finished his decision and her attorney isn’t communicating with her.

There was an Arbitrator at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission who was fired earlier this year, allegedly because he was taking a long time to write his decisions after trial.  She appears to be one of his victims.

Once a case goes to trial and all of the evidence is submitted, typically your attorney and the insurance company lawyer are given between 7-14 days to write a proposed decision.  Essentially we are asked to put in writing how we think the Arbitrator should rule.  He or she can take the proposed decision and rubber stamp it, they can tweak it or they can write one of their own.

Once your lawyer turns in a proposed decision all we can do is wait unless there are new cases issues that have come up that weren’t part of the trial.  It typically takes 30-60 days for a decision to be released, but some Arbitrators get them done in a few days and others take many months.

Just like with chores you have to do around the house, the simple cases seem to get done quickly and the disputed cases, where there is a lot of evidence presented which means a lot of work, take longer to get a decision.

While you could bug the Arbitrator about what’s taking so long, I don’t think it’s a good idea.  The natural response is, “You want your decision?  Here you go.  You lose.”  So while we try to be as aggressive as we can on cases, this is a time when we typically tell clients that there’s nothing we can or should do.

This of course can be frustrating.  My caller was right to feel that way.  But her attorney did everything he could except properly explain the post trial process.

Once the decision is reached, each side has up to 30 days to file an appeal.  If that doesn’t happen the result of the trial is final.  If it does get appealed that process takes approximately a year and involves each attorney writing a legal brief as to what the case is about and then arguing before three Commissioners who then write their own decision.  You as a client don’t participate in that part of the case which can be frustrating as well.

In sum, not a ton happens after the trial.  The biggest is the proposed decision which you should get a copy of as well as a copy of the one done by the defense lawyer.  After that it’s hurry up and wait.

Moving To Chicago, Can You Bring Your Case Here?

A very nice California woman called me and was hoping to hire my office for an Illinois workers’ compensation claim.  She was very clearly hurt at work and her injury is very serious. She was also nice and honest and would make a great client.  But I had to turn her down.

Unfortunately she was hurt in CA for a CA company and was hired there too.  In other words, her case has no connection to Illinois other than that she will be soon living here and seeking medical treatment here.

I get this type of situation about once a month.  The issue is that the work comp laws in every state are different.  You can’t just move to a state and get a lawyer there or the benefit of the laws there.  She’s stuck in California.

This would have been different if she had been hurt in Illinois while traveling for work, even if it was a layover at O’Hare or Midway.  It also would have been different if she was physically in IL when hired.

Otherwise, unless your union agreement gives you the right to file here (e.g. United Airlines flight attendants and pilots) you can’t bring the case here.

We of course want to represent everyone that we can, but we always tell the truth too.  If you want to see if you can bring your case in Illinois or just have questions, fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578 for a free consultation.  All calls are free and confidential and we cover all of Illinois.

IL Work Comp – Should You Tell Them About An Old Injury?

A quite nervous caller reached out to me with excruciating back pain that was show to be a herniated disc.  It happened from lifting at work.  It looks like he’ll need surgery and probably never will return to his previous job.  It’s serious stuff.

He was nervous because seven years ago while living in another state he had injured his back in a car accident.  He treated for six months and was treatment and symptom free until this happened.

The question he had was does he have to tell the insurance company about his old injury. They called him and asked him if he’d ever been hurt before, but he didn’t answer.  He’s very worried that the old injury will kill his case.

Few points:

  1. We recommend that you never lie.  Aside from being the right thing to do, if you get caught it will kill your credibility.
  2. If you have a pre-existing condition that gets aggravated by a job accident, it’s almost always covered.  This is especially true when you have big gaps in treatment.
  3. It’s not unusual to have this type of situation.  If your job causes, aggravates OR accelerates an injury it’s covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.
  4. You don’t have to tell the insurance company anything and we highly recommend that you do not give a recorded statement.
  5. They are going to find out about the previous treatment anyway whether it be from statements you make to your doctor or an insurance search. You have nothing to hide.

Long story short is that he was freaking out about nothing, but for good reason.  This is his life and his career is about to end so he’s looking out for himself.

Want to know if you injury should be covered?  Just want to ask a question?  Call us any time, 312-346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois.  The call is always free.  We can’t promise you’ll like the answer, but we don’t bite and we’ll tell you the truth.

No April Fools, You Can Get Hurt In Poland And File In Illinois

I hate gotcha type headlines, but am going to excuse myself on this one since it’s April 1 and it’s interesting, at least to me.

We were involved in a case for a client whose case settled this year for over $100,000.00 after she had a traumatic wrist injury following a fall at work.

What was unique about this case other than the severity of the injury and the size of the settlement was that our client was injured in Poland.

You don’t see a ton of Illinois workers’ compensation cases for international injuries, but I’d estimate there around 250 of those a year.  Most are like our client where they work for an Illinois company, but were hurt while traveling for their job.

The law in Illinois is pretty crystal clear.  Almost any injury which occurs while you are traveling for work is covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  If you were hired in Illinois or primarily work out of Illinois, where you get hurt does not matter.

The most famous case of this is a guy who was working in Hawaii and in his free time got injured when riding a bicycle in a volcano.  It’s seen as “reasonably forseeable” that while traveling for work you’ll do something in your free time and since your employer gains a benefit by you traveling, these accidents are covered.

The biggest exception to this is if you get drunk or are engaging in illegal activity.  If you get robbed while walking home from dinner and are stabbed, that case would be covered. If you get stabbed while using the services of an escort, that case would not be covered.

In general the work comp laws in Illinois make a ton of sense and it’s certainly the case for traveling employees.  If only the other aspects of our Government were so logical.

“What is Travelers Insurance like? Do they fight every case?”

Having your first work related injury can be a real eye opener as to how the world works.  Many people assume that if you are a good person who was hurt at work that you’ll be able to get benefits and go on with your life.  It should work that way, just as if you are rear-ended at a stop light nobody should say you did anything wrong.

The reality though is that insurance companies do whatever they can to limit the amount of money they pay in a case.  Some are more shady than others, but any of them will fight a case if they have a leg to stand on.

First they will look at the case facts.  Then they will look at your medical history.  If needed they will send you to an IME doctor.  If you are out for a long time or need a major surgery you can bet there will be surveillance done on you in the hopes of catching you doing something.  A nurse case manager will talk to your doctor to try to limit your care or get you returned to a phantom job. Sometimes they’ll just deny a case in hopes that you go away.

So when a frustrated caller asked me, “What is Travelers Insurance like?  Do they fight every case?” the answer had nothing to do with Travelers.  It could have been Gallagher Bassett, Chubb, Zurich, ESIS or anyone else.  They will fight the cases when they can.  In most instances they have nothing to lose because if we fight back they’ll just pay what they were going to do anyway.

It’s not personal to them, it’s business.  You are a name and a case number.  You are not a person to them.  It sounds callous, but when you handle thousands of cases a year, that’s how insurance companies look at it.  It’s the big difference between them and us.  We see our clients as people first and when you are struggling or hurting, we do too.

So what are you to do?

You have to treat your case like it’s a business decision because it is.  The business is your life.  Ask questions. Document what has happened. Listen to your doctor.  Don’t take legal advice from people who aren’t in your corner.  Learn your rights. We don’t look for battles and you shouldn’t either, but we also stand up when there is one and you should too.

Bonus tip, don’t think that the insurance company is out to get you or has a personal vendetta against you.  The adjuster might if you are really rude to them on the phone, but in general they are just doing their jobs, no matter how awful a job it must be much of the time.

Need help? Questions?  Want a free consultation?  We have an Illinois wide network to help injured workers.  Call us at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form and we’ll reach out to you ASAP.