Hey Look, An Illinois Work Comp Attorney Does It Right

Not in every Illinois work comp case, but in many of them, insurance companies deny benefits for no reason or in really bad faith and it’s obvious.  When that happens, your lawyer should file a petition for penalties and fees which can punish them for their bad behavior.  For some reason, these petitions get filed a lot, but are hardly ever followed through on.

So I was really happy to read about a case recently where the lawyer did things right and the client was rewarded for the nonsense they had to put up with.

In this case, a factory worker had the same job for a little over a year and had to turn a screwdriver up to 800 times a day.  While doing it she had wrist and elbow pain and eventually underwent surgery for carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndrome.

In this case, the claim was denied not because someone thought the worker wasn’t injured at work, but because there was an argument as to what her accident date should be.  The company she worked for switched insurance companies during her employment and they were arguing over which company was responsible to pay for her care.  This happens when you are claiming a repetitive trauma injury like this one.

The issue is that her claim wasn’t against the insurance company, it’s against the employer.  It’s not her problem that they can’t agree as to who is responsible, at least it shouldn’t be.  In most of those cases, the two insurance companies agree to split the payments until things are sorted out, but in this one they decided that neither would pay.

This created an unreasonable delay in benefits.  Fortunately she hired a lawyer that took the case to trial.  The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission agreed that the delay was unreasonable and as a result they awarded the worker $10,000.00 in penalties.

You can bet that the next time this issue comes up, these insurance companies will think twice about not paying benefits without good reason. Or maybe they won’t because it seems that too infrequently these motions actually get followed through on.  Most often they are used as leverage to try and get benefits reinstated or to get a higher settlement.  That’s not always a bad idea, but in some cases the behavior is so bad that an attorney is not truly fighting for the client if they aren’t willing to get the extra money that will be awarded by going to trial.

The bottom line is that when an insurance company acts in completely bad faith in order to try to limit what they have to pay you, you have the ability to push back.  It’s just a matter of finding an attorney who is willing to do so.

Illinois Work Comp Law Firm Does Something Really Unethical

I have lots of strong opinions and I tell it like I see it.  And in my opinion, a Chicago work comp law firm is doing something really unethical that is a huge conflict of interest and they are putting their clients at risk.

They have an office in the suburbs that is connected to a physical therapy facility and from what I’ve been told, they are sending their clients to that facility for treatment.  Essentially you can see your attorney and walk down the hall to get medical treatment.

In my opinion this is a huge conflict.  I started my career as an insurance defense attorney, and if you are going to represent injured workers, it’s important to know how insurance companies think.  They are looking for any reason to deny a case and in a situation like this it certainly appears that the medical treatment down the hall is a “tit for tat” type situation.  When your lawyer has a personal relationship with a medical provider, it’s going to be assumed that the medical provider isn’t objective.

So what can happen in a case like this is a valid claim can get denied or delayed just based on the appearance of impropriety.  The other issue is that when an insurance company or Arbitrator sees the same medical provider connected to this law firm on dozens of cases, it can appear as if the fix is in.

As a result, the client can get hurt, just because they listened to their lawyer.

This doesn’t surprise me as this firm has been known for making relationships with doctors and others and not giving the best service to their clients.  They make it really hard to get a lawyer on the phone, they don’t answer questions, they lie to their clients and create false expectations.  They also really encourage clients to use these medical facilities without making clear that it’s potentially going to hurt the case.

I learned of this recently when a very smart injured worker hired them and realized quickly that the way they operated didn’t seem ethical.  I always encourage people to stick with their law firms if they can, but also to not delay switching once they realize that their attorney doesn’t have their back.

The good news it that most law firms in Illinois are ethical and wouldn’t do something like this.  The bad news is that the ones that do give the rest a bad name.

If you have any questions about anything related to Illinois work comp law, please contact us any time for a free consultation.

Injured At Work In Illinois, But Can’t Afford A Lawyer

One thing I try to constantly remind myself when talking to people who have been injured at work in Illinois is that they shouldn’t be expected to have any experience with the Illinois work comp system or knowledge about IL work injury laws.

There are a lot of basics that I wish everyone knew, but the number one on that list would be the costs of an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney.

No matter what your injury is or who your employer is, there is never an up front cost to hire an Illinois work comp lawyer.  That goes for the best law firms and the worst ones.  It’s illegal to charge by the hour or ask for an up front fee if you are representing an injured worker.

Attorney fees in Illinois are 20% of what the lawyer recovers for a settlement for you at the end of the case.  In other words everyone can afford a lawyer because there is nothing to pay.

There are some small expenses in Illinois work injury claims, usually just for getting your medical records.  In most cases the total expenses are under $100.  But whatever the costs are, the attorney fronts the money and gets reimbursed out of the settlement.

So no matter who you are or who you work for, you can afford an attorney if injured on the job.

The other big myth is that if you work for a giant company that they will be too hard to beat.  That’s simply not true.  Illinois work comp cases are won and lost based on the facts of how you got hurt, what your doctor says and how good your attorney is.  While billion dollar companies can afford good defense lawyers, they aren’t going to spend $100,000.00 to fight a case worth $50,000.00.

I recently had an injured worker tell me that they quit their job and didn’t pursue a work comp case because they felt their company was just too big and powerful to go against.  Their lack of knowledge caused them to just give up.  I really wish they wouldn’t have done that.

Almost every work comp case I’ve ever seen is one lawyer for the worker versus one lawyer for the insurance company. We don’t go up against a “team of attorneys” and even if we did it wouldn’t change anything.   Illinois work comp claims aren’t so complex that a team would be able to do anything that an individual couldn’t do on their own.  No company is too big or too powerful to go against. In fact the biggest companies that employ the most people pay out on hundreds of claims a year.

Bottom line is that most of the things people worry about aren’t truly things that should concern them.  That’s OK.  We don’t expect you to know these things, but are always happy to talk to you at no cost about what you are going through and what your options are.

You Can Win Work Comp Benefits When You Put Something In Your Car

If I told you that I was at work and put a cooler in the trunk of my vehicle and while doing so I injured my ankle, would you think I have an Illinois workers’ compensation case?  Most people would assume that putting a cooler in a trunk of a personal car is not part of the job duties of an attorney or most workers.

This actually happened in a real case involving a lab assistant.  At her job, lab samples come in a Styrofoam cooler and workers are allowed to take them home.  She decided to put a cooler in her trunk while she was on a break so that it would be out of the way in the crowded lab.  While doing so she stepped in to a hole and twisted her ankle.

Even though the worker was on a break when she got hurt and even though you don’t think of putting a cooler in your trunk as part of a lab assistant’s normal job duties, this activity was done for the benefit of the employer.  In other words, she wasn’t moving the cooler for her benefit.  It wasn’t a cooler filled with beer for a party she was going to later on. This was her helping her employer.

Beyond all of this, the injury happened due to a defect in the parking lot in that there was a hole in the ground.  Nothing she did was unreasonable or inherently dangerous even if it wasn’t something she wasn’t doing on a day in and day out basis.

The bottom line for you as an injured worker is that you are not a robot and can’t be expected to only do the same motion and activity while at work. You don’t get punished for looking out for your employer or showing some initiative or doing something that isn’t part of your normal job. This would be no different if you were a doctor who decided to help out and take out the trash and you threw out your back while doing so.  Illinois injury laws don’t punish workers who aren’t acting recklessly but are doing things that good workers do.

Bonus tip.  It’s important to remember that the worker in this case wasn’t ordered to do this activity.  While we can’t tell you what you should or shouldn’t do without permission on the job, labor laws are different than work comp laws. When it comes to job injuries what matters is was your injury the result of something reasonable, foreseeable and for the benefit of the company?  If the answer is yes then you should win.

Injured In A Work Related Car Accident, Should You File For Work Comp?

If you are driving while working and get in to a car accident that is someone else’s fault, you can sue the other driver and file for Illinois work comp benefits. The question is should you do both?

I was asked this recently by a suburban Chicago man who was badly injured in a car accident while driving for work and had surgery.  He had hired a Chicago auto accident lawyer, but hadn’t done anything for work comp and wanted to know what he should do.

First off, the employer should have filed the case for him.  In a case like this, he doesn’t need to think about co-pays or any other medical bills and if he filed for work comp benefits, 100% of his bills would be paid and he would be able to focus on getting healthy.

That would be the number one reason to file for work comp benefits as well as to get paid for the time you are unable to work.  No matter how could your car accident lawsuit will be, it won’t pay the medical bills right away and won’t pay for your time off the job.

If those issues don’t concern you then the issue comes down to how much is the car accident case worth and how much insurance is there.  For example, if your injuries are really severe and you have $100,000 in medical bills, the car accident case could be worth a few hundred thousands dollars.  But if the person who hit you only has $30,000.00 in insurance that is likely all you will get. So if you don’t pursue work comp benefits then you will likely end up with much less money in your pocket than you are entitled to.

It’s important to remember that a claim for work comp benefits, unlike the car accident case, is not a lawsuit.

If you are in this situation and confused about what to do, the best thing you can do is to consult with a law firm that handles both types of cases. You can call us for free any time and we can recommend an experienced firm in our network that has a track record of success with both types of cases.  What you don’t want to do is hire two different firms if you can help it.  If you do, you might find yourself paying two sets of attorney fees instead of one or otherwise end up with less money in your pocket in the end.

If you want to talk about any Illinois work related injury, start a chat, fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578 to speak with a lawyer for free.  We help with injury cases all over Illinois.

What Fees Can Attorneys Charge In An Illinois Job Injury Case?

Every attorney representation agreement  in an Illinois workers compensation case is the same. It’s a standard contract that says attorney fees are 20% of the recovery they get for you plus reasonable expenses.  So if your case settles for $40,000, the attorney will get $8,000 and you will get $32,000 less any expenses in the case.

So the question is what are the fees that the attorney can charge that you have to reimburse them for at the end of the case?

The answer is not much.  The most common case expense is subpoenaing medical records which usually cost $20 a subpoena.  While you can provide medical records to your attorney (and should), to submit them in to evidence at trial or a deposition, they should be obtained by a subpoena.  It’s possible your lawyer will have to subpoena the same doctor more than one time in a case, but in general it’s unusual if the total fees for subpoenas exceeds more than $100.00.

The other really common expense is for deposition fees. If your case is going to trial or might go, your attorney will likely need to take a deposition of your doctor and the IME doctor. These are called evidence depositions which means that their testimony doesn’t happen at trial, but instead a transcript of the deposition is submitted as evidence.  Doctors don’t testify for free so it’s not uncommon for your attorney to pay you treating doctor a fee of $1,500 or more for their time.  They also have to hire and pay a court reporter to take the transcript and get copies.  If it’s the IME doctor who is testifying, the insurance company pays for their fee, but your lawyer will pay for a copy of that transcript.

Some attorneys send their clients to IME doctors to offer a statement that your injuries are work related. We almost never recommend that, but for some firms it’s a common practice and will usually result in a bill of $500 or so that comes out of your pocket in the end.

Some shady firms, in my opinion, charge for photo copies, postage, gas expense and other things that I do not believe should be reimbursable expenses, but instead are just the cost of doing business.

The only other expense that could happen, but is unique would be if your lawyer had to travel out of town to take your doctor’s deposition.  That happens when you live in another state but were injured at work in Illinois. So it’s possible then that your lawyer would have airfare, hotel, rental car and food expense and it would be legit for them to charge that to you.

It’s almost unheard of for these expenses to exceed a few thousand dollars and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a case go in to the five figures when it’s work comp only.

Bonus tip. Make sure to ask for an itemized statement for the expenses. Your lawyer is required to tell you what each charge was for and can’t just say “Hey, you owe me $1,000 for money I spent on your case.”  So don’t be afraid to ask for this and don’t sign a settlement contract without it.

Illinois Injured Worker Fails Drug Test, Wins The Case

I had an injured worker recently call me after he hurt his back at work.  The issue was that he had smoked pot over the weekend before the accident and failed a drug test after the accident.  The work comp insurance adjuster told him that he was ineligible for benefits because of the failed test and there was nothing he could do. He wanted to know if this is true.

The quick answer is that it’s not true.  As long as you can show you weren’t impaired when you got hurt, you should win.

This happened in a recent case involving a laborer who worked as part of a pile driver crew.  He was marking beams at a work site and his superintendent told him to move because a backhoe was being operated near by.  Eventually a beam was knocked on to his foot by the backhoe.  He was taken to the hospital and failed a drug screen.  X-rays showed a serious foot fracture.

At trial he testified that he smoked marijuana at a party about a week before the accident and was taking opioids for sleep anxiety and back pain.  He provided prescriptions for those medications.  His foreman testified that taking those meds was not a violation of company policy and that he did not appear to be under the influence of drugs when he was working.

The Arbitrator found that it was a compensable case because there was no proof he was inebriated when he got hurt.  That makes sense as many people smoke pot in their free time and take medications as prescribed by doctors.

More importantly, the Arbitrator also found that the drug test was not admissible.  The insurance company attorney offered no proof that the test had been performed by an accredited or certified testing laboratory or that testing was performed in a manner so as to prevent sample contamination.  This is required per the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and Rules of the Commission.

This is a strategy that too many attorneys fail to take. Yes the client would have won the case based on his testimony and that of his supervisor, but even without that the test never should have been admitted in the first place.  Too many defense attorneys are lazy and don’t do what’s necessary to meet their burden of proof and the standards of the law.

Bottom line is that while failing a drug test doesn’t help your case, it’s not a death blow either.  If you want to discuss a case that has been denied due to a failed drug test, please call us at any time.

When Your Job Keeps Hurting You Over And Over

I love to run.  I’m also a klutz so I get injured a lot.  I’ve had problems with my foot, ankle, knee, thigh, calf, hamstring and back, all from running.  It sounds like I need a new hobby, but I’m addicted to exercise.  Whenever I’ve gone to a doctor about the problems I get the same advice that I can’t take. They tell me to stop doing the thing that is hurting me.

So what does this have to do with Illinois workers’ compensation law?  Actually a lot.

Many Illinois workers have pre-existing conditions.  I’ve had leg pain on and off for 20+ years.  Stopping working out is not an option for me just like for most people not working isn’t an option if they are in pain now and then on the job.

Most workers figure out how to manage their pain and get by. I do the same with running.  I cross train, I don’t sprint as hard as I used to, I don’t stay out until all hours and then get up early to run.  Making adjustments allows me to get by and it allows many workers to get by.

The reality though is whether you are a runner or a worker, it’s very realistic that doing the same activity over and over will eventually wear you down.  The problem for workers who have toughed it out for years is that when you do finally break down, often the insurance company will try to fight your case by saying your problems aren’t from work, but are instead degenerative or pre-existing.

We saw this strategy in a recent case where a woman didn’t deny prior wrist pain, but said she was able to work through it just fine until one day her wrist bent backwards and her pain became way worse.

The insurance company did fight her case, but because she hadn’t been receiving medical care for her wrist for over three years, she was able to successfully prove that her job aggravated any pre-existing problem she had and she won her case.

Sometimes it’s a one time accident that pushes you over the edge from manageable pain to pain that stops you. Other times it’s a ramp up in the frequency of an activity or the number of hours worked.  Whatever it may be, just because you’ve had problems in the past that you’ve lived through does not mean your job can’t somehow make it worse to the point that you have an Illinois work comp claim.

Is this confusing?  It can be.  If you want a free consultation to discuss it, call us any time or fill out our contact form and we will get  hold of you right away.

Chicago Area Bar Tries To Rob Its Own Bartender

One defense to an injured worker claiming that they got hurt on the job is to say that they weren’t really an employee, but rather an independent contractor.  Many businesses do this falsely to help themselves cheat on their taxes, avoid paying benefits and full wages and in some cases avoid workers’ compensation claims.

We see this the most with trucking companies, but a suburban Chicago bar tried to call one of their bartenders a contractor and screw them out of their rights under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  Fortunately they failed in the long run.

Like most bartenders, the injured worker in this case had to report to a manager, work the hours they scheduled him for, request permission for days off and breaks, wear a specific type of shirt while working, open and close the bar, make drinks and charge the customers for their orders.  One day while doing this work he reached to catch some falling glasses and cut his left hand.  Ultimately he had to have surgery.

It sounds like a straight forward case, right? It should have been, but the owner of the bar said he wasn’t really an employee, but instead just an independent contractor.  As a result he had to hire an attorney and go to arbitration so he wouldn’t lose out on payment for his medical bills, time off work and his injury.

He won the case as the nature of his work was so closely related to the business being able to function and his employer had control over him.  In addition, the employer provided all the equipment and trained the worker on how to do his job.  That’s of course not how independent contractors work.

What’s crazy is the employer appealed the case.  They lost there too, but it’s beyond shameful that this injured bartender had to wait way too long to get justice. It’s a hiccup of the system, but still better than being stuck with co-pays or not being compensated for the injury.

This is the first case I’ve seen involving a bartender not being called an employee, probably because it’s so obvious that they would be.  The big picture lesson is that never trust someone who tells you that you have no rights or can’t bring a claim for a work injury without checking with an attorney who knows what they are talking about.  Fortunately this bartender did and was successful in the end.

Good Illinois Workers’ Comp Info You Should Know

Every couple of months I like to do a post on some of the best questions we’ve received as of late. If you ever have a question you can contact us for free to talk to an attorney in confidence.

In no particular order:

I was hurt while working at a customer’s home.  Does that change my rights for work comp?

It doesn’t change your rights, but we’d want to know if the customer was negligent in any way.  If you hurt your shoulder lifting a box it would just be a work comp case. On the other hand, if you were headed to their basement and fell because a step broke, you might have a case to also sue the homeowner.

Can the insurance company force me to have surgery?

No. You have to cooperate with reasonable medical care, but nobody can require you to have someone cut open your body.  Declining surgery is allowed.  On the other hand, if you refuse to go to physical therapy when it’s ordered you might lose your benefits.

I got hurt at work and smoked pot after the accident because of the pain.  If I take a drug test I will fail.  Can they deny my claim over that?

They can, but you can testify that you weren’t high when you got hurt and still win your case.

Do I need to see my doctor for a MMI rating before settling my case?

That’s a sophisticated question.  The answer is that you do not have to do that and we wouldn’t advise you to do it either.

Is it required to return to work after a work related injury?

It’s not required, but don’t quit without talking to an attorney first as quitting could dramatically affect the value of your case.

Does a doctor have to treat you if you have no insurance but were hurt on the job?

If it’s a work injury case, work comp pays for 100% of your medical care.  As a result most doctors are thrilled to have work comp patients.  That said, we can’t make any doctor treat you who doesn’t want to and we’ve come across some (not many) who choose not to get involved in work comp cases.

I was injured at work but don’t need a surgery.  Will I still get a payout in the end.

There is no requirement that you have a surgery in order to get a settlement.

There was a video tape of my accident, but my employer won’t release it to me.  Is there any way to get it?

Yes, you’d have to formally file a case at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and then we’d issue a subpoena to get a copy.  Don’t delay if that’s a concern as often those tapes get erased.

 

As always, if there’s something you want to ask us, reach out at any time.

 

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