Why We Refused To Help An Injured Illinois Worker

The best thing about being an attorney is being able to help people. That might sound cheesy, but it’s really true. I’ve always liked helping people and being able to do it every day is truly a gift.

We want to help everyone, but can’t help everyone. Usually when we can’t help it’s because someone presents to us a scenario that unfortunately isn’t a valid work comp case in Illinois. For example, if you are on your lunch break and driving to meet a friend for a meal, if you get in an accident that wouldn’t likely be a work comp case. If you take the CTA to work every day and slip on the platform because it’s icy, that also likely wouldn’t be a case. We do feel that we are somewhat helping those people by giving free, honest advice.

A recent caller to our office did have what sounded like a real work injury. He said he had strained his back while lifting on the job a month prior. That is the type of situation where we’d usually help them get an attorney to advocate for them and make sure that they get the benefits they are entitled to under Illinois law.

But as we talked, we asked him a couple of questions that we ask everyone. 1. Had he hurt his back before? 2. Has he ever filed a work comp claim before?

We ask about prior injuries to the same body part to see if that will impact the case or create a defense. We ask about prior work comp claims so we can gauge how much they know about the Illinois work comp system.

This caller was vague in his answers other than to say “yes to both.” So we got online and looked at the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission website. That showed he had at least 14 prior cases! And they all were within the last 10 years or so.

So in other words, he’s what attorneys call a “career claimant.” It’s not to say that he’s never had legitimate injuries or that the most recent one isn’t legit. It’s just that when you file case after case, especially against the same body part and not for something that can’t be disputed (like getting your foot run over by a forklift) it raises suspicion and calls into question your credibility.

If a law firm takes on these clients, it can hurt their reputation. And what’s interesting about this worker is that he’s had at least five different law firms on the various cases and just settled one with a different firm for a good amount. So if they thought his injury was legit, they’d probably sign him up again. The fact that they didn’t is a huge red flag.

So we passed on this case and while I’m sure he’ll find someone eventually to take his case, I’d bet that the insurance company will fight it hard.

If he does have a serious and legitimate new injury, he will become the victim of the Boy Who Cried Wolf in that after suggesting so much BS, nobody believes you when you tell the truth. Hopefully that doesn’t happen for him.

Work Comp and Proving You Aren’t An Independent Contractor

A lot of Illinois companies try to say that workers are independent contractors when they really are not. They do this to reduce the taxes they pay which is a kind way of saying that they are tax cheats. They also do it to try and screw employees out of work comp benefits and save money on insurance.

But just because they call you an independent contractor doesn’t mean you are one. And it doesn’t mean you can’t get work comp benefits if you get hurt while working. It does mean there is a little more work to do. The more control a company has over you, the more likely it is that you are an employee. A lawyer we work with on cases came up with a list of questions to ask that helps determine if you have a case or not. While we see this issue with truck drivers more than anyone else, these questions apply to anyone who believes they are wrongly classified and truly an employee.

  • Did the employer require you to sign an independent contractor agreement (did the employer impose the independent contractor agreement upon the new employee)?
  • Did the employer demand the employee carry occupational accident insurance or did they deduct money from his pay in order to fund the occupational accident policy?
  • Did the employer require the employee to accept jobs offered or else it would’ve instructed the employee to return the truck/trailer?
  • Could the employer monitor the employees driving activities?
  • Did the employer have the right to tell the employee which routes to drive?
  • Did the employer require the employee to take photographs of the load upon pickup and delivery?
  • Were the services provided by the employee outside of the usual course of business of the employer?
  • For trucking cases, is the employer in the business of transportation and logistics?
  • Does the employer have other employees who are considered employees doing the exact same type of work as the alleged independent contractor?
  • From the employee’s perspective, is the individual the owner or entrepreneur of an enterprise which he can sell or give away?
  • Does the alleged independent contractor have a business address, a trade name, a standardized means of doing business and the availability to perform work for anyone who may wish to contract with him or her using the same equipment?
  • Does the alleged independent contractor have the right to refuse jobs from the employer and if they do refuse what happens?
  • Who owns the truck, who owns the trailer, who owns the licenses on both?

There is no right answer to how many of these questions have to indicate control for you to have a case. You can sign a contract that says you are an independent contractor and that doesn’t end the case if they have a lot of control over you in the other areas.

We will give you a FREE consultation to go over your job duties and injury and offer our opinion if you have a case or not. If you would like to speak with an attorney, you can contact us any time at 312-346-5578. We cover all of Illinois.

The New Worst Chicago Work Comp Lawyer???

Most Chicago workers compensation attorneys are good at their job or at least good enough. Even the ones I don’t personally care for usually seem to do a decent enough job for their clients. They might be a little rough around the edges or not deliver great customer service, but generally speaking, they do all of the right things legally speaking to get a good result.

There are a few Chicago work comp law firms that I would say are legitimately terrible. My opinion is based on the number of calls I get from their unhappy clients on a regular basis. These clients usually have the same complaints about bad service, not getting answers, calls not being returned, lawyer turnover, etc. There are a few that fit this description although one that does a lot of advertising, is in my opinion, the worst of the bunch. Couple others are in the same bad stratosphere.

But there’s a new contender for the worst work comp lawyer in Chicago. It’s a one-man firm that I hadn’t heard of until recently when a bunch of his clients began contacting us. I asked a lawyer we work with on cases what he knew, and here is what he said:

“I get calls from his clients all the time. He must sign them up and then do nothing. I hear the same complaint constantly about him.”

Yikes, that’s a bad sign for sure and exactly what the client that contacted me said. He told me that he got hurt a few months ago, signed up with this attorney and hasn’t heard a thing since. He’s called multiple times, emailed him and never gotten a reply. That’s frighteningly bad.

What’s odd about this attorney is that he’s young, works by himself, and has a background with a big corporate law firm. I have no idea what caused him to switch his practice to injury cases, but it’s very odd that he did that and then apparently isn’t doing any of the work. It’s certainly possible he doesn’t know what he’s doing as it’s highly unlikely he got any training in it at his big corporate law firm. Those types of firms don’t typically handle work comp cases.

So maybe he’s just lazy. Maybe he’s overwhelmed. Maybe these cases are a lot harder than he thought they’d be so he’s taken the odd step of doing nothing. Whatever it is, it’s very bizarre and very unfortunate that his clients are suffering as a result. I certainly question how he’s even getting clients in the first place. Maybe he had an in to get leads somehow and that caused him to switch career paths.

Whatever the reason, I hope he either fixes the problems soon or gets out of the practice. And either way, we appear to have a new worst work comp lawyer in Chicago and that is not a good thing!

Nobody Is Afraid Of Your Employer

I got a call from an injured Illinois worker recently. She told me that I was the 7th attorney she had called and that nobody would take her case. That told me that there was likely something wrong with her case, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt and asked her why nobody is willing to help her.

Her reply is one that I hear a lot, and it’s a huge Illinois workers’ compensation myth. She told me that everyone is afraid of her employer which in this case was a big hotel chain. After talking to her further it became clear that nobody would take the case because she sprained her toe, is doing fine, had minimal treatment, and the only real issue is a $400 medical bill. In other words, it’s just too small of a case.

While some employers are more difficult to deal with than others (Cook County is one, the State of Illinois is another), the honest truth is that no work comp lawyer is “afraid” of your employer or their insurance company. It’s certainly beneficial in many cases to hire an experienced lawyer who has handled cases in the past against your company, especially at a place like Amazon, many nursing jobs, school districts, etc.

But the laws don’t change, and the work that needs to be done doesn’t change. Just because some of those companies are worth billions doesn’t mean they will spend crazy money to fight your case. They aren’t hiring a team of lawyers. They can’t retaliate against your attorney in any meaningful way. They quite honestly don’t think much of work comp in general.

In other words, while a lot of injured workers have this fear, it’s not a real one. Lawyers like to make money. If they think they can make money off of your case, they would love to help you. Even if it’s a case that is only going to generate a moderate fee, that’s a part of being a work comp attorney in Illinois. In fact, in over 26 years of being an attorney, I can’t recall one lawyer ever saying they wouldn’t take on a case because of who the employer or insurance company is.

So why do attorneys turn down cases. There are a few main reasons:

  1. We touched on it already, but lawyers will turn down cases that aren’t worth very much money. They want to get paid something at the end of the case.
  2. They evaluate your case and don’t think you have a strong case. For example, if your claim is PTSD due to having to work long hours every day, that case likely wouldn’t be covered under Illinois work comp laws and you’d likely find attorneys would turn you down.
  3. You’ve had multiple lawyers on the case already. That’s a red flag and also could diminish the ultimate fee they’d be able to get.
  4. You seem like a potential problem client. If an injured worker yells at us or staff on a first call or is generally rude, it’s also a red flag and a reason to not take on a case.

There are other reasons too, but fear is not one of them and never will be.

Even With A History Of Back Problems You Can Have A Work Comp Case

One of the most misunderstood but often used defenses in Illinois workers comp law is to say a worker had a pre-existing condition.

Sometimes the insurance company defense is just dumb. They’ll claim that an injury you had as a teenager is the reason you are having problems in your 40’s even though you had a work related accident. Those are “Hail Mary” type defenses where an insurance company will say that your case is denied and hope that you go away. They don’t sincerely believe that you didn’t have a work injury that is causing your problems. They are just playing games.

Other denials of “pre-existing” problems are more sincere. Take for example a recent call we had from an injured worker with a back injury. She was frustrated because her doctor had put her on light duty six months ago due to back problems she’s had for five years. Her employer refused to accommodate her, so she continued to work the full duty job which requires a lot of lifting. Her back has broken down, and now she can’t go into work at all.

In this case, her doctor ordered a MRI of her back and compared it to one from 18 months ago. The new MRI shows herniated discs at multiple levels, and it’s a significant change from the old MRI.

In other words, she has diagnostic evidence that proves her condition has gotten worse, and it seems clear that the job has been the reason the condition has been aggravated. And while her own testimony about how her back feels different is relevant, having her doctor in her corner and his opinion supported by the MRI changes is what will likely win the case.

Of course the injury could have been to the arm, the knee or any other body part. It just happens to be the back where we see the most pre-existing conditions used as a possible defense by an insurance company. I’m here to tell you that your prior problems are not the end of any case. Whether or not you will get Illinois workers comp benefits is dependent on the facts. If you haven’t treated for years and it’s clear that your repetitive job duties have made your problem worse, you win. If you have a specific work accident that makes your problems worse, you win.

And even if you’ve been treating with a doctor, if you can prove that your condition has gotten worse due to the job, you should win. What you should never do is take the word of the insurance company that you don’t have a case. Talk to an experienced lawyer and get their opinion. If you would like to talk to us for free with no commitment at all, please call us any time.

When The IME Doctor Says You Can Work And Your Doctor Says You Can’t

A recent caller to our office sustained a really serious back injury while working in Illinois. He already has had two back fusions and the treating surgeon has told him that the second fusion failed and that he can no longer work. He has been receiving work comp benefits (TTD) for over three years.

At various times, the insurance company has sent him to an IME to confirm surgery was needed. At each time the IME doctor has agreed with the treating surgeon. Under Illinois law, the insurance company can send you to a new IME when a new issue arises. In this case, the doctor just declared him permanently disabled which is a new issue.

So, of course, the insurance company sent him to a new IME and this one says the worker can do sedentary work which basically means they think he can sit at a desk all day. The treating doctor disagrees due to the constant pain and need to alternate between standing and sitting all the time.

So after all of these years, the insurance company has cut him off and stopped paying TTD benefits. It’s a huge problem for him as this is his sole source of income, although he’s applying for social security disability benefits. It’s not like he can go out and get some job.

So what are his options?

  1. He can try to do the sedentary desk job. Not saying I recommend it, but you can always call their bluff and try it. If you give a sincere effort and fail, they likely would have to put you back on TTD pending a new IME which likely wouldn’t happen.
  2. Talk to his doctor about if he can drive. He’s on a lot of medications and the job is 30 minutes from home. If his doctor says it’s not safe for him to drive that long, the burden would shift to the insurance company to pay for an Uber, Taxi, etc. which almost never happens.
  3. He can go to trial and let an Arbitrator decide. That could take some time as both the IME doctor and treating doctor would have to give a deposition. But it’s a really small issue so it wouldn’t take too long. And if the IME opinion is clearly baseless or if it conflicts with prior IME’s, the Arbitrator could slam the insurance company with penalties and fees.

What this worker can’t do is get frustrated and resign. That could greatly reduce the value of the settlement. If he’s struggling financially, we can likely get him a tax free advance on his eventual settlement from the insurance company (not a loan). This is surely a frustrating situation for him, but fortunately the whole case isn’t in dispute and it’s a solvable problem.

This type of scenario comes up all of the time. What you can and should do depends on your injury and what the doctors are saying. If you’d like to discuss it with a lawyer for free, you can contact us any time at 312-346-5578. We help everywhere in Illinois.

Temp Workers Are Covered Day One

One Illinois workers compensation truth is that reasonable people can disagree about a case. I might think a case is worth $70,000 and the other attorney may think it’s worth $60,000 for example. Your doctor may think your old back injury has nothing to do with your current back problems and the IME doctor may disagree. For the most part these are reasonable differences that can be solved via negotiation or going to trial.

What I can’t stand is when people in power knowingly lie to injured workers in a way that will hurt those workers. This happened to a recent caller to my office.

He was working a temp job and on the second day there, they lifted an object and hurt their shoulder. The worker did everything correctly including reporting it to their supervisor at the factory and temp agency and going to a doctor right away.

Responsibility for payment of the work comp case rests with the temp agency since they are the employer. More than any other employer, temp agencies, in my experience, view their workers as disposable and often as less than human.

So when my caller reported his injury he was essentially told, “That’s too bad, but unfortunately you are not eligible for workers compensation because you haven’t been with us long enough.”

This is a bald-faced lie and the person who said it certainly knows it. Under Illinois workers’ compensation laws, EVERY worker is covered the moment they start working. There is no probationary or waiting period. There aren’t any exceptions to this. I’ve seen cases where people clocked in on their first day and get hurt within 15 minutes of starting. That’s a case.

What we had here wasn’t a reasonable disagreement, it was a lie so the manager could improve their own numbers and maybe get a bigger bonus. Doing this of course put the worker’s health at risk, but like many temp agencies, this one just didn’t care.

There aren’t different rules or laws for temp agencies or any other Illinois employer. It’s their job to create safe working conditions and when workers get hurt due to the job, it’s their job to provide the benefits as provided by law.

Fortunately this worker contacted us, but sadly it was more than two years since the original accident. So much more could have been done if they reached out earlier. But even then, it doesn’t change the fact that the employer acted in a gross way to try and deprive them of their rights.

MRSA, Staph and Illinois Workers Compensation

We are experienced Illinois attorneys who have helped thousands of health care workers with their Illinois workers compensation cases. Call us for help anywhere in Illinois at 888-705-1766.

Do you work in the healthcare industry in a medical facility such as a hospital, nursing home, or dialysis center? Or do you work as a home health aide? If so, you are almost certainly familiar with staph infections and MRSA. But did you know—that because you are a healthcare worker with a higher risk of getting MRSA or a staph infection—that you may be entitled to a workers compensation claim if you are infected and need medical care? That would cover all of your medical bills (no co-pays), pay you for your time off work and we could get you a settlement when you are better. Let’s take a look at this in depth.

What is a staph infection?

There are different varieties of Staphylococcus (staph) aureus bacteria. Staph bacteria are typically on the skin or in the nose of about a third of the population. The bacteria are pretty much harmless unless they enter the body through a wound or cut. Even in that case, the staph bacteria usually cause relatively minor skin problems in healthy people.

Staph skin infections often start with swollen, painful red bumps that resemble pimples or spider bites. The area might be warm to the touch or full of pus. The infection may also cause a fever. The red bumps can quickly become deep boils, or abscesses, that are very painful and need surgical draining.

Sometimes the staph bacteria remain in the skin. However, they can burrow deep into the body and cause life-threatening infections in the bones, joints, heart, lungs, and bloodstream. If the bacteria enter a person’s bloodstream, an infection that impacts the entire body—called sepsis—may develop and lead to septic shock. One’s blood pressure drops to an alarmingly low level.

What is MRSA?

A methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection is caused by a type of staph bacteria that has become resistant to methicillin and related antibiotics (such as penicillin) that are prescribed to treat ordinary staph infections. Most MRSA infections occur in people who have been in hospitals or other healthcare settings, but it also happens a lot in gyms. It’s a really tough infection to get rid of and can cause very serious, long term injuries.

Treatment of Staph and MRSA Infections

These infections are typically treated with antibiotics and cleaning of the infected area. If the staph infection does not respond to common antibiotics, antibiotics that cause more side effects may need to be prescribed. If the bacteria have entered the bloodstream, bones, joints, heart, or lungs, more intense medical intervention will be needed. In the worst case scenario, these infections can lead to sepsis and either amputations or death.

Staph/MRSA, Health Care Workers, and Workers Compensation

It is a simple fact that healthcare workers are at a greater risk of contracting a staph or MRSA infection. Therefore, if someone contracts an infection while on the job and needs medical care and possibly compensation for time off of work, that person should file a workers compensation claim with their employer.

We have helped literally thousands of nurses, CNA’s, home health aides, RN’s and other medical professionals in their Illinois work comp cases. If you’d like a free consultation with an attorney, contact us any time.

Switching Illinois Work Comp Attorneys. Is It Hard?

A potential client contacted me about getting a new Illinois workers compensation attorney. Her lawyer hadn’t returned a phone call in two weeks and generally speaking didn’t make the worker feel like they cared about them. This is a story we sadly hear all of the time.

She wanted to know what went in to switching lawyers and if it was hard. When I explained it to her she said something that made me laugh and smile. She said:

So it’s no work to switch lawyers?

I love it when people I talk to get what I’m saying, but also can say it in an even simpler way than I can. It truly is no work to switch lawyers in an Illinois workers comp case. And while we encourage you to try and work things out with your attorney if you can, the sooner you do switch once you realize they suck, the better your case will likely go.

So what work does need to be done?

The answer is that you’d sign documents with your new lawyer and they’d send a motion to substitute attorneys to your old firm. That’s it. It’s really simple.

And it doesn’t cost you anything to do this. You don’t have to give your old lawyer any money. You won’t end up with less money in the end. The total attorney fee can not exceed 20%. Switching lawyers doesn’t change that. It’s up to the old firm and new firm to work out how to divide that 20%, but it won’t change your bottom line in any way.

Sadly, many law firms that do a bad job and lose clients all of the time try to make workers feel like they are stuck with that crappy firm. That’s simply not the case no matter what they tell you or what documents they had you sign.

It truly is no work to switch lawyers in Illinois work comp cases. And if you want to discuss doing that, we are happy to talk to you about it for free and in confidence any time. We have a state wide network of great attorneys so we cover all of Illinois. Call us any time at 888-705-1766.

Rivian Workers Compensation Cases In Illinois

Last December, I was at a bar with a friend and we struck up a conversation with the guy next to us. Turns out he was a battery engineer which I didn’t know was a thing. He told me about the electric vehicle company he worked for, Rivian. I had never heard of them, but my friend, who loves cars, knew all about them. They are essentially better versions of Tesla, but SUV’s and trucks.

Sure enough, after meeting this guy, I started seeing Rivian vehicles on the road more and more. And it turns out that they have a factory in Bloomington-Normal. Since this chance meeting I’ve been contacted by five injured workers from that plant and expect to be able to help many more.

The factory is at the site of a former Mitsubishi plant. While it seems like a good company that doesn’t do the unethical things Tesla has been accused of, the nature of the jobs there does lead to a lot of injuries. In addition, there is pressure to ramp up production as the company tries to survive. So the 7,500 or so employees are doing a high demand, labor intensive job.

As you’d expect, we’ve seen a lot of back and upper arm injuries from the heavy lifting that is required at times in assembling these vehicles. Some workers get injured due to repetitive lifting over time and others will be lifting an item and feel a pop in their back or a strain in their arm. In each case, if you can prove that the job contributed to that problem happening, you should have a good Illinois workers compensation case. That would provide you payment for 100% of your medical bills at a doctor of your choosing, payment for time off work and a settlement when you are all better.

These workers of course suffer other injuries as well. It’s not uncommon to have slip and falls in various areas of the plant due to various substances on the floor. And while I think it’s generally a good company, at least a dozen employees accused the company of violating safety rules in a complaint to Federal regulators. The complaint alleges many injuries that include a crushed hand, a broken foot, a cut ear, and broken ribs among others. One employee even claimed that management retrieved damaged electrical cables from the garbage and instructed employees to use them​. Other workers said that Rivian’s culture doesn’t prioritize safety.

We’ve seen with many other Illinois factory environments like this that injuries will happen that shouldn’t. Unfortunately you can’t sue Rivian for negligence if you work there. Fortunately though the work comp laws in Illinois are incredibly strong and will give you significant compensation if your injury is serious.

We’ve helped tens of thousands of Illinois injured workers and would be happy to help you if you want to discuss a case. For a free, confidential consultation, call us any time at 312-346-5578.