Do you get anything if you are injured on the job?

A reader sent us the following question about his work injury:

I was injured at work. The company I work for took full responsibility for my accident. Workers comp is paying all my medical bills and my employer is paying all my wages. I want to know if you get anything for being hurt? I cant do any of the things I use to. The accident happened 3 weeks ago and I recently found out it could be 6 more weeks before I am off light duty. So basically if I lose no wages and have no medical bills do I even have a workers comp case?

I think this very nice guy was simply confused about how the system works.  Under Illinois law, you get three benefits if you are hurt on the job.  The first is payment of 100% of your reasonable and related medical bills.  There should be no co-pays or out of pocket expenses for you.  Not even a penny.  It does have to be reasonable which means that the insurance company doesn’t have to pay for therapy and treatment that is not generally accepted in the medical field.
 
The 2nd thing you get is payment for your lost time, also known as temporary total disability benefits (TTD).  As happened in this case, the employer can choose to continue your regular salary.  They sometime do this as an act of good will and other times because it saves them money.
 
The third benefit comes at the time you are medically ready to settle your case.  This is called permanent partial disability or  PPD.  The amount of medical care you’ve received and the time you’ve missed from work is a factor in how much your case will be worth.  And if those items aren’t paid for already, they can be part of a settlement.  But them having already been paid is a good thing and does not lower the value of your case.
 
The only times you wouldn’t get a PPD settlement would be if your injury is very minor or there is no possibility of any future problems.  In other words, if you sprain your finger or get a black eye, you likely won’t get any PPD, at least not beyond a couple of hundred dollars.  But most cases are worth somewhere between a few thousand and a few hundred thousand (higher end if you suffer a permanent wage loss or inability to work).
 
But most cases have some value.  It’s not normal for a case to be going as smoothly as this one appears to be and there is of course no guarantee that the insurance company won’t cut off his benefits.  But whatever happens won’t change the fact that there is a case here and it does have some value.

We are workers' compensation attorneys who help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

09/14/13

Fired after a work injury: What you should know

What should happen is often quite different from what does happen. There are a couple of things to consider if you get fired after a job injury in Illinois. First of all, it shouldn’t affect the benefits you are receiving through workers’ compensation. Second, your employer can’t fire you based on the fact that you filed a claim for workers’ compensation.

Your benefits should not get cut off. Illinois workers’ compensation is meant to help you with the costs of your injury and get you back into the workforce. You can get temporary total disability payments, which is like a continued paycheck, if you can’t work because you are recovering. If your employer can provide some “light duty” work, you can still get checks if the pay for the light duty is less than what you were earning when you got hurt. Also, all of your related medical bills should be covered.

So even if you get fired, these benefits should continue. Even if you were fired because of something you did, your workers’ compensation benefits should continue while you’re recovering from your work injury. Once you are at maximum improvement, then your TTD benefits will end. If you are told otherwise, check with an Illinois attorney.

The other important thing to know is that your employer is not allowed to fire you because you made a claim for workers’ compensation. Illinois law makes it illegal for them to retaliate in this way. If you do get fired for asserting your right to benefits, you will have an additional claim against your employer.
 

We are workers' compensation attorneys who help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

08/27/13

If Ulico is the insurance company on your case, you are temporarily screwed

The biggest reason that we get calls from people who already have an attorney on their case is because the attorney isn’t doing anything for them.  While there are a ton of outstanding workers’ compensation attorneys in Illinois, some are lazy or don’t really handle work comp.  So when things go wrong they usually bail on you.
 
I recently got a call from a nice person who had a well known and crappy attorney.  He’s the type of lawyer where you wonder how he ever even gets clients because he’s sloppy, disorganized and couldn’t possibly have current clients recommend him.  The caller had a good injury, but had his TTD benefits stop without explanation.  The attorney told him that there was nothing that could be done.
 
We looked in to this and had assumed that it was just the lawyer being lazy.  In this case, it wasn’t.  The problem was that the employer was insured by a company called Ulico.  They went bankrupt so for now they aren’t paying any of the claims that they are responsible for.  If it makes you feel any better, their defense attorneys also aren’t getting their bills paid.
 
Right now everything is stuck in the bankruptcy court.  Eventually these cases will be turned over to the Illinois Insurance Guarantee Fund which is a safety net for the public when insurance companies go under.  But from what we are hearing, it won’t be until the end of the year at the latest that they take over these cases and even then, they will have so much to catch up on that some cases will still sit for a bit unless you have a very aggressive lawyer or a law firm that knows people at the Guarantee Fund.
 
So unfortunately there isn’t anything these workers can do for now.  And there’s nothing the lawyers can do either.  But it would be a great idea for them to get a lawyer that has experience dealing with the Fund when they take over.  Otherwise you might see your co-workers getting paid while you are still waiting.  When we hear more about this issue developing we will post it to our blog.

 

We are workers' compensation attorneys who help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

07/28/13

Quitting Your Job After a Work Injury.

A client had a really good question about her workers’ compensation benefits. She had been in a car accident while working, and now wanted to quit her job, but of course did not want to affect her current case.

While your case is pending, generally the best course of action, if possible, is to hold on to your job. But that’s not always possible—sometimes the reality of the job stress is not good for your overall health and well-being. So here are some things to consider.

Your medical benefits will be unchanged by your job status. Whatever medical bills you have, and bills you will have in the future should get covered completely regardless of whether you are working. This benefit reimburses you for what you need to spend to heal from your injury.

But temporary total disability (TTD) benefits could suffer by leaving your job. TTD pays you a percentage of your lost wages when your injury keeps you from working your old job duties. If you have job restrictions because of your limitations while healing, or after a surgery, then you can recover benefits based on the difference between what you can earn at the time, and what you were earning before the accident.

The problem with quitting your job if you are in this situation, is that if your employer has found you alternate work within your medical restrictions, and you do not take the job, you could compromise your TTD wage benefits. If you quit before you know whether your employer had an appropriate job alternative, then they could always say that they had a job lined up for you if you hadn’t quit. Again, your benefits could be negatively affected.

There are other factors that can impact the decision. For example, finding a job that is better, or pays better, may be a reason to quit. But overall it is not usually a good idea to quit while your case is ongoing. Your own situation is unique, though, so talking to us to go over the details of your situation before you make such a potentially costly decision is the better course. You don’t want to quit your job without weighing the risks to your workers’ compensation case because once you lose your rights it’s almost impossible to get them back

We are workers' compensation attorneys who help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

1/23/12

TTD Can Be Suspended or Terminated for Refusing Work

Temporary Total Disability benefits (TTD) may be available during your recovery from a work injury.   If your physician places restrictions on your ability to work during your recovery, and your employer cannot find work for you that fits those restrictions, then you be compensated for this loss. 

Your employer’s part in this process, is to find and offer you work that you are medically able to do within your restrictions.  But your responsibility is to cooperate with treatment, and with the job offers you are able to accept.  If your job duties involve lifting and twisting, and you have injured your back, your physician may restrict the amount of weight you can lift, or certain movements you can do.  If your employer offers you work that can accommodate those medical restrictions, you risk losing some or all of your TTD benefits if you refuse to take the job.

That is why it is important to be completely honest with the physicians about any pain or problems you are experiencing.   If your medical restrictions do not cover your full limitations, then you could end up choosing between performing job duties that you cannot or should not do, and losing your benefits for not working the job.

One worker in a recent case in Illinois took a light-duty job offer from his employer, only to find that he could not physically handle the work.  Later, he was again offered work within his restrictions, but he felt he could not drive because of his medications.  He received more medical treatment and a period off of work, and then was ready to try again.

But this time his employer did not want to offer him any more work, because of his past refusal, and wanted to cut off his TTD benefits.  Ultimately, the worker’s history with how he had handled his situation justified suspending his benefits for a period of time but not cutting them completely.  It was determined that since he had refused offers that were appropriate for his restrictions at the time, he should lose some benefits, but since he had later made himself available to work, then he should not lose all. 

But possibly, if he had worked with his physician when he realized that he could not physically handle the work even with the restrictions, then he would not have lost out on any benefits.  If you know that you cannot work as you are being expected to according to your restrictions, then it is in your best interest to have your treating doctor back that up. 

You could be justified in not being able to work certain job duties, but for the purposes of your workers’ compensation benefits, there is a difference between refusing to work, and being medically restricted from working. 

If this is confusing let us know.  We are happy to consult with anyone, any time.

 

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

1/11/12

One case or two? When Illinois work injuries lead to multiple problems

A reader asks:

I suffered a torn rotator cuff injury which I had surgery. Since then have had numbness to my hand. The numbness comes during periods of time standing or walking. My doctor who is well qualified thinks it might be carpal tunnel but waiting to see if the swelling in the shoulder is possibly causing it.  My question is that if it turns out to be carpal tunnel is this a new case or is this a injury that came from the rotator cuff injury?

We see this a lot where one injury caused another.  We've had clients with leg injuries who have fallen down the stairs and broke their arm.  We've had others that used crutches and ended up with an elbow injury.  And we've seen some clients start with rotator cuff surgery that end up with carpal tunnel.

As for whether it's one case or a bunch of separate cases, that answer depends on what your doctor thinks was the cause of your problem and whether or not there was a new accident.  It's often a big benefit for the client to have a 2nd case because the more recent an injury date, the higher the PPD or TTD rates can be.

In general though, we don't think you should worry about whether you have one cases or two cases.  The most important thing is to get the proper medical treatment so you have your health.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys.  Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

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If your job was supposed to be one day can you get Illinois workers' compensation?

That's a good question and the answer is yes as long as you weren't truly an independent contractor.  If a guy hires you and you are clearly his employee (he controls where you go, what you do, etc.) then even if you are hurt on that one day job you are eligible for workers' compensation benefits.  This actually happens a lot with laborers and also happens in pro sports.  An example would be a guy that was signed by the Chicago Bears to play the last game of the season and blows out his knee.  Just because he was only on the roster for one game does not take away his rights.

Another good question is what pay rate should the insurance company use to pay you for the time you are off of work.  In Illinois workers' compensation, you are entitled to 2/3 of your average weekly wage, tax free for the time you are off work.  If you only work for one day then what will likely happen is that we will take your hourly rate and multiply it by a standard 40 hour work week.  So if you make $20.00 an hour for the one day of work, your average weekly wage would likely be $800.00.

Even if it was expected that you would only work for one day and then go on with your life, if you have a job injury and are released with restrictions or can't work at all, the insurance company has to pay you until you are released to a full duty job or they have a job for you.

This is a common scenario where an insurance company or employer tells a worker they have no rights.  Don't listen to them as it's not true.  The minute you start working you have the exact same rights as any other employee in Illinois.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys.  Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

Ten Illinois work comp benefits you should be aware of

If you are injured on the job, you are not filing a lawsuit, you are making a claim for benefits.  Here are the benefits you can get starting with the three most common:

Medical- No co-pays, no out of pocket expenses, no deductible for any reasonable and related medical care for your work injury.  You choose your own doctor and the insurance company or employer has no right to talk directly to your doctor's office other than to ask for copies of records or bills.

Temporary total disability (TTD)- This is 2/3 of your average weekly wage, tax free, for the time that you are authorized off work for a work injury or have restrictions that your employer can't accommodate.  There is no limit to the amount of time you can receive TTD.

Permanent partial disability (PPD)- When you are all better or as good as you can get, you are entitled to pursue a settlement or go to a trial to get a PPD award from an Arbitrator. The amount you are entitled to depends on the extent of your injury as well as your earnings before you were hurt.

Temporary partial disability (TPD)- Similar to TTD, but this is for people who can return to work, but only on a part-time basis.  You get TPD benefits to make up the difference.

Section 19(h) rights- By going to trial, if you win you will be able to receive medical treatment that relates to the work injury for the rest of your life.  This as referred to as Section 19(h) rights.

Travel expenses- While you typically don't get paid for having to go to your doctor, you should be compensated for the mileage between your house and any doctor that the insurance company chooses to send you to.

Vocational rehabilitation- If your employer can not accommodate permanent restrictions that you have, you are entitled, at their expense, for a job counselor to help you search for new work within your restrictions.  In fact, once you are off work for 120 days the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act requires your employer to begin to develop a plan to return you to work.  This plan almost never happens and is probably the most overlooked law on the work comp books.

Maintenance- This is similar to TTD benefits.  You get this when you are undergoing vocational rehabilitation.  As long as you are cooperating with vocational rehabilitation then maintenance benefits should continue.  There is no time limit for how long you can receive these benefits.

Death benefits- If an injured worker dies from a work related accident and leaves either a spouse or a dependent then those survivors are eligible for death benefits which can be as high as the TTD rate.  The benefits can continue for up to 20 years and there is a minimum of $500,000.00 that should be paid.  In addition there is an $8,000.00 benefit for burial expenses.

Advances- If you are ready for trial and the insurance company isn't, you do not have to suffer.  If they are not paying you for your time off work your attorney can ask for a PPD advance.  This often happens in cases where everyone agrees that money will be owed at the end of the case, but there is a dispute as to whether the worker should be authorized off work or not.  It's not uncommon for the insurance company to "advance" a few thousand dollars up front and then when the case is resolved take a credit for that.  In other words if they advance $3,000 now, if a year from now the case settles for $20,000.00 you will only get $17,000.00 in new money.  The advance is always tax free and there is no interest applied to that so essentially the injured worker gets more money in the end.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys.  Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

What does my child support or divorce case have to do with my work injury?

If you are getting a divorce or paying child support in Illinois then your Illinois work injury claim can in a way become a part of that case. 

For divorce, a settlement for an injury during the marriage is considered a marital asset and your spouse might have an interest in half of what you get.  In other words, if you get hurt on January 15th and file for divorce that April, your spouse could be owed part of your settlement.

For child support, if you are delinquent in paying or if your ex gets a withholding order, it's possible that part of your TTD check will go directly to them.  It's also possible for them to get an order requiring that they get paid before you do if a settlement is reached.

In neither case can your ex say that a settlement isn't fair or actually take part of the case.  But once they put you and/or your attorney or the insurance company on notice of their interests, those interests have to be protected.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys.  Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

TTD starts on the 4th day off work, but don't be tricked

Temporary total disability benefits (TTD) is compensation you receive for the time you are unable to work do to a work injury.  In Illinois that figure is 2/3 of your average weekly wage, tax free.

TTD is supposed to start once you miss four days of work.  You don't get paid for the first three days off unless you are off for two weeks.  In that case you are to be paid retroactively.

The trick is that days off count.  In other words, if you work Monday to Friday and are off work Thursday, Friday and Monday, you have really been off work for five days not three.  Make sure you get paid for this and no matter what they tell you, you don't have to use vacation days.  If you do we should be able to get that reinstated for you.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys.  Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

You and Brian Urlacher have one thing in common

Presumably it's not that you are a really good football player.  What you have in common is that even NFL players and other professional athletes are covered by Illinois workers' compensation laws.  If they get hurt while playing they are entitled to the same benefits as you or me.  The only major difference is that most pro athletes will exceed the maximum weekly TTD benefits.

One other possible difference is that if a pro athlete has a career ending injury and they are smart, for the rest of their life they should receive the maximum permanent partial disability rate tax free.  That's because in almost any situation they would have a "wage differential" case.  Even if they can work a new job it's unlikely that they could make as much money as they used to.

Most workers on the other hand, even if they have to get a new job, don't lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary.

So the next time you see a pro athlete get hurt on the field it may be an Illinois work injury claim.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys.  Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

 

New TTD & PPD rates announced

The amount you get paid for your time off of work (TTD benefits) and the amount your case is worth (PPD) benefits is determined from a formula based on your average weekly wage prior to the injury. 

These rates are subject to maximum earnings - the TTD rate is 2/3 of your wage, but if a pro athlete or millionaire businessman got hurt they wouldn't get that much, most people are not affected.  The new maximum TTD rate in Illinois is $1,231.41.  The new maximum PPD rate is $643.82.

These were the smallest Illinois workers' compensation benefit increases in years and reflect our poor economy.  That said, an Illinois work injury is worth more than any other state so all things considered no one should be complaining.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys.  Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

There are three main benefits under Illinois workers' compensation law

Illinois workers' compensation cases are not lawsuits.  Employees in Illinois can typically not sue their employer for negligence.  Instead they get workers' compensation benefits and don't have to prove any fault or negligence if their injuries arose out of and in the course of their employment.   Injured workers usually can receive:

100% of their medical bills:  That means no co-pays or out of pocket expenses if the treatment is reasonable and necessary.

66% of your average weekly wage:  This is also known as TTD benefits or temporary total disability.  You get 2/3 of your average wage over the last 52 weeks.  Unlike some other benefits, there is no maximum amount of time to receive TTD.  You get it until you are back to work at your old job or can work with restrictions.

A settlement for the permanent nature of your injury:  This is known as PPD or permanent partial disability benefits.   The amount you receive for this depends on your wage and the impact of the injury on your life and how it will effect you in the future.  Lawyers determine this by looking at your medical records and comparing your situation to past cases that have been settled or decided by a Judge in Illinois.

In some instances you can get penalties and fees against your employer which will increase your compensation.  This usually happens when benefits are denied without any basis.  There is no provision under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act to receive "punitive damages" or compensation for "pain and suffering."

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys.  Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

Illinois TTD Benefits If You Are Fired

In a recent Appellate Court decision that may end up in the hands of the Illinois Supreme Court, the law on what happens to fired employees under workers' compensation was changed.  It was decided that if an employee is working a light duty job or is off work and receiving TTD (Temporary Total Disability) benefits and the employee if fired "for cause" then the employer no longer owes benefits.

Previously the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission ruled that if you had any restrictions and were let go from your job you were owed TTD benefits.  In other words, you could have spit in the face of your boss, gotten fired and received benefits.

The big issue for injured Illinois workers is what does "for cause" mean.  In our opinion it has to be a legitimate termination.  In other words, if you are let go for misconduct we probably can't help you.  But if you are let go because of the bad economy, a personality conflict, because you punched in five minutes late or anything else that seems to be about fairness not fault then we believe you are entitled to continued job injury benefits while you still have restrictions.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys.  Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.