Sometimes a work injury can result in you going to college

This is rare, but it happens. And if it happens to you that is unfortunate because it means that you’ve suffered a major injury and can’t return to your normal line of work.

When this does happen to you, the insurance company has an obligation to pay for vocational rehabilitation. This can mean many things, but usually it means that they provide a vocational counselor to work with you and figure out what types of jobs you can perform. Often they assist you in looking for jobs, preparing a resume, practicing for interviews, etc.

Their job is to propose a vocational rehabilitation plan that can get you to the highest level of wages possible. Of course the plan has to be realistic. So if you are sixty years old and didn’t graduate from high school, you probably aren’t going to see a plan that suggest your learn a new field and get trained for that.

On the other hand, a younger worker with skills can get re-trained for a new career. Sometimes this can mean taking computer classes. At times it can mean sending you to college. There was a recent case in which the Workers’ Compensation Commission ordered that a severely injured plastics worker should go to Northern Illinois University to get a teaching certificate. This would put his earning potential as high as $70,000. Without it he had earning potential as low as $18,000 and change.

Of note is that the plan that was presented to the Arbitrator was not created by the insurance company counselor, but instead by a vocational counselor that the worker’s lawyer hired. The Arbitrator specifically found this counselor to be more persuasive, reliable and credible than the one the insurance company paid for that said college was not needed. This worker had been laid off by his employer and had RSD in his right hand following a surgery. If the insurance company had their way, he would have walked away with no career prospects and fended for himself the rest of his life. But this is exactly why employers have insurance and the Illinois work comp laws are designed to protect guys like this. And in this case they worked perfectly.

One thing to know is that while you are vocational rehabilitation, no matter how long it takes, the insurance company has to pay you maintenance benefits which is financially the exact same thing that TTD benefits are, but just called something else. And it’s very important that you cooperate in this process or you could lose your benefits.

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.

6/29/12

Cooperation is Needed to Continue Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits

Not every work injury, or every workers’ compensation case, involves vocational rehabilitation benefits.  These may come into play after you have had your maximum medical recovery, and you are still unable to return to your old job.  If your employer cannot accommodate your new work restrictions, then you may be a candidate for vocational rehabilitation services.

These services help to identify and develop your skills to so you may regain employment.  It may involve targeting your talents to come up with options for employment, job training in other areas, education, resume writing, and job searches.  But for a successful rehabilitation program, and for the payment for it to continue, the employee must cooperate fully.

In a recent case, an Illinois worker was denied benefits for vocational rehabilitation, because his job search efforts were insufficient.  The records of his actions did not contain any facts supporting the award of benefits for a rehabilitation program.  There was no indication of what positions he had applied for, who he had contacted, or whether the jobs fit within his physical limitation.  There was no support in his record for paying him benefits for vocational rehabilitation.

Similarly, in another case, a worker had his benefits terminated, because he did not cooperate with the rehabilitation plan.  During the period of his rehabilitative counseling, he did not follow through with what he was told to do.  Namely, he did not get his GED, he did not research job interests, he missed an interview, and he also did not dress properly for an interview.  Because of the lack of cooperation with his plan, he lost his benefits.

Not only is it important to fully cooperate with your vocational rehabilitation plan, but you should also be prepared to prove what actions you have taken.  If you have been awarded vocational rehabilitation benefits, you should keep a careful record of all of your efforts.  The details that you document can help you later if the insurance company tries to claim you failed to cooperate, and terminates your benefits.  As long as you cooperate, they should not stop paying.  But if there is a disagreement as to whether you are fulfilling your obligations, you will need to be able to show evidence detailing what you have done.  Even if you have not been successful in getting a job, you will want to be able to show as many specifics as possible about how you followed the plan, including the jobs you have applied for and been rejected from.

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.

Vocational rehabilitation in Illinois work comp: Don't lie

A reader asks:

Currently I am on workmens comp for a back injury and leg injury and have been receiving ttd.I have an attorney on this case but need some clarification from someone else about this matter.The insurance company has assigned a work rehab company to me to find employment. My place of employment has done a involuntary terminated my job. My question is when I am applying for jobs and the section for leaving last place of employment I put down injured on job,workmens
comp injury or involuntary termination due to injury my rehab company insist that I cannot put those reasons down  but lie and write down looking for a less strenuous position or changing jobs. Also when putting down a salary do not put one in and don't put in a traveling distance. If I don't follow there rules they report to the insurance carrier that I am not cooperating with them by because I don't want to lie on applications.What is case law about falsifying job application?

This is a simple one.  Never, ever lie.  You cooperate in any way you can with finding a new job, but you don't lie on an application or in an interview.  If you do, it helps the insurance company, but not you and it's wrong.   What happens when down the road you love this new job and then get fired  because they found out about the lie?  You are screwed, that's what happens.

If you go to trial at the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission over this issue, I don't believe that any Arbitrator is going to punish an injured worker who refuses to lie.  If you show up a mess to an interview or act unprofessional that is one thing.  But not lying about having been hurt is something completely different.  And quite honestly, it can help sell you.  e.g. "I have been out of work for a year because I had a job injury.  It's killing me because I've worked all of my life and love to do so.  I'm just chomping at the bit to get back."  That is the type of advice of voc rehab counselor should be giving.

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.

 

 

Five ways to hurt your claim

If you read this blog you will see over and over that we preach if you are honest your case will work out just fine.  That said, you can be honest and still hurt your case.  Here are five examples from recent cases where a legitimately injured worker didn't help themselves:

1. Stop smoking.  If your doctor tells you to quit smoking and your failure to do so makes it harder for you to recover, don't be surprised if the insurance company tries to end your benefits.  Smoking hurts circulation which can make it harder for a surgery like a lumbar fusion to work.

2. Cooperate with vocational rehabilitation.  If your employer can't provide you a job and you have restrictions, they have to work with you to find a new job.  Sometimes this can be a tedious process.  You might have been a laborer your whole life and now they want you to work on a computer.  Give it your best.  Failure to do so could cost you tens of thousands in the long run.

3. Don't miss doctor's appointments including physical therapy.  Like the smoking example, this could be seen as not cooperating with reasonable medical advice and could cause your benefits to be suspended.

4. Return phone calls to your lawyer.  We are here to help you.  If you don't communicate with us there is nothing we can do for you.  Be a team player with us.  It doesn't happen a lot, but we are always shocked when a client doesn't respond to calls.

5. Don't give a recorded statement.  This typically is attempted before you have an attorney.  Often an insurance company will do this and twist your words against you or ask questions at an inappropriate time like when you are in the hospital.  You don't have to give a statement.  It won't impact your case in any way.  If they have questions for you it should be in writing and go through your attorney.

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.

All that and a bag of chips

The Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled in favor of a Circuit City employee who hurt his shoulder in an incident with a vending machine.  The worker in this case was helping a co-worker who put money in the machine and had a bag of chips stuck in the machine.  To help the co-worker out he jarred the machine injuring his shoulder.

Now nothing about his job had to do with jarring the vending machine that was made available to both employees and the public.  But the court held that it is reasonably foreseeable that a worker would help a co-worker in this type of situation.  As a result Circuit City is on the hook for all of his lost time, medical bills and the permanent nature of his disability.  If he isn't released to full duty work, the insurance company with have to offer vocational rehabilitation because as you likely know, Circuit City is out of business.

Our take is that the Courts in Illinois aren't going to punish workers that get hurt while trying to help out.  In fact the Appellate Court even cited the Good Samaritan Law as why this worker should get benefits.

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.

Permanent restrictions??? Do not settle your case without a job in hand.

Everyone knows the economy sucks.  It's not uncommon to get hurt on the job and a year later lose your job because of downsizing.  It's also not uncommon to have permanent restrictions that can't be accommodated by your employer.

If that happens to you, you need to demand vocational rehabilitation.  If you have permanent restrictions and no job the insurance company needs to find you a job within your restrictions or give you training for a new field.  Sometimes they'll send you back to college to get a degree.  Other times they'll teach you a new skill.

If you cooperate with vocational rehabilitation then you will continue to receive TTD benefits.  If the new job doesn't pay as much as the old job would currently (IMPORTANT, we go by what the old job would be paying, not what you used to make so if your old job pays $25 an hour now and it used to pay $20 then we use the $25 figure) then you are entitled to 2/3 of the difference.  This is called a wage differential.

If you have any questions about this please contact us at (312) 346-5578.

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.

 

If they don't have a job for you get vocational rehabilitation

With the terrible economic times and numerous stories of job losses, it's not surprising that many injured workers don't have a job to go back to.  If you are injured on the job and have any restrictions, if your employer can't find a job for you, they owe you temporary total disability benefits.  This is true even if your restrictions are permanent.

All that said, one law, that most attorneys don't enforce, requires an employer to come up with a vocational rehabilitation plan if you have been off of work for more than 120 days.  In these hard times it makes sense to be pro-active in finding a way to get you back to work.

By filing a motion with the Arbitrator to make this plan happen, you can motivate your employer to locate a job that works for you or if no job is ever going to be available, find out what other careers you can do.  This law is especially important for workers who have had back surgery and no longer can do heavy lifting.

Does this sound confusing?  If it does just call us at (312) 346-5578 and we'll explain.

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.