State Of Illinois Employees And Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Years ago there was an article in a downstate newspaper that had a big impact on the Illinois Workers’ Compensation system.  While I hate the term, it was a bit of “fake news” as it painted a picture that State of Illinois employees were faking work related injuries and there was a focus on how many of them had been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome.

As a result, the next time there were reforms to the work comp system, a cap was put in place as to what carpal tunnel claims can be worth.  It was really a bunch of nonsense as many of these workers were prison guards who multiple times a day had to turn a wheel on a very heavy prison door.  The force and torque required to turn these wheels put a lot of pressure on the wrists which of course eventually lead to an injury for many of them.

After this article it was believed that if you worked for the State of Illinois you couldn’t win a case.  It is true that after this all happened there were a bunch of trials where the workers lost.  Arbitrators seemed to feel the pressure of the press and politics in general.

Now that many years have passed, things seem back to normal and the good news is that cases are being decided on their merits as they should be, not based on who you work for.

In fact in a recent Court decision, an Illinois State employee who does web design was able to win a claim for carpal tunnel benefits.  He credibly testified that he typed seven hours a day, five days a week and some weekends.  He explained the manner in which he did his work and flexes his wrists while typing.  His doctor was found to be credible and felt that his work activities aggravated his condition.

Of course the State found a hired gun IME doctor to say that his problems weren’t work related, but as often is the case with IME doctors, this one didn’t do a thorough job. He didn’t reference the extent of work done by the claimant or the manner in which he did the work.  The injured worker testified that the IME doctor never asked him about the time he spent on the computer.

I don’t know who the lawyer was on this case, but they appear to have done a great job.  They prepared their client and his doctor with the right questions and they poked serious holes in the story of the IME doctor.

I’ve had State workers tell me that winning work comp for them is impossible and the bottom line is that’s not true.  If you have good facts and are credible you will win whether they fight you or not.

We cover the entire State of Illinois and would be happy to talk to you for free.  Call us any time or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you.

When You Bend Over And Your Back Goes Out On You

Although Illinois workers’ compensation laws are very fair for workers, the simple act of being at work when you get injured is not enough to have a case.  You have to show your job duties exposed you to an “increased risk” of getting injured. So if you walk down the hallway and slip on a wet floor, the wet floor is the increased risk. On the other hand if you are walking down the hallway and the next thing you know you are on the ground and don’t know why, you wouldn’t have a case because you can’t show something about the job caused you to get hurt.

We see this a lot with people who call us after getting a back injury from bending over at work.  Our backs can be funny and we all have a lot of wear and tear on them.  Simply bending over itself or feeling pain when straightening back up isn’t enough to win a claim. This was shown in a recent Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission decision in which benefits were denied when a packer hurt her back while bending over to look at a box.

She testified that she wasn’t in an unusual or stressed position and she didn’t have anything in her hands when it happened. Had she lifted up the box, that probably would have been enough to win the case even if her back would have gone out on her anyway.

I didn’t handle this case, I just read about it.  That said, I do wonder if the injured workers’ attorney got testimony about what her job duties were and asked her doctor if the job put so much stress on her back that this was bound to happen. It’s not a slam dunk win, but it’s certainly something that should be explored.

The bottom line is that something about your job duties have to play a part in you getting injured. You can sneeze and blow out a disc in your back and it can be not a case at all or a great case because you do heavy lifting all day and this was bound to happen.  It’s easier if you are lifting something or have a specific accident, but not impossible if you don’t.

Is this confusing?  It can be.  Call us for a free consultation any time at 312-346-5578 or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you right away.  We don’t promise a result, but do promise to give you direct, honest advice.

IL Work Comp – Is My Knee Replacement Surgery Covered?

Though they are small, almost everything you do with your legs requires your knees. We use them to bend and straighten, which we need for standing, walking, crouching, jumping, lifting and turning. Yet, for such a tiny part of the body, the knee is prone to a large variety of aches, pains and injuries that can negatively affect one’s quality of life.

Often, we associate a knee injury with a single incident, like a slip and fall or a collision with a hard surface or an auto accident. However, knee injuries can also happen over time if a worker’s job requires repetitive motions or awkward turns. Basically the general wear and tear of work and life can cause you to hurt your knees.

Anyone can suffer a knee injury at work, but jobs where employees spend a majority of the workday on their feet or knees are more at risk. Knee injuries are often the result of repetitive stress on the job causing wear and tear. Construction workers, nurses, auto mechanics, delivery drivers, kitchen staff and any jobs requiring a lot of walking are at risk for a serious knee injury.

If the knee becomes too damaged, a doctor may suggest a knee replacement. This can require expensive medical treatments and missed time at work. It is no wonder that when a knee injury occurs at work resulting in a total knee replacement, workers wonder if the knee replacement surgery will be covered by workers compensation or not?

The right for workers’ compensation is often misunderstood. In Illinois, any injury that aggravates, reactivates or accelerates an injury can be claimed under workers’ compensation benefits. It is also important to understand that a pre-existing condition does not disqualify an injury as a work injury. You must be able to show that the aggravation of the injury was a result of work and that the injury has prevented you from working.

So, yes. Injured employees have a legal right to collect workers’ compensation benefits that will cover medical bills and lost wages for a knee replacement. Don’t be caught in the insurances false traps and potentially lose your benefits. While age and life in general certainly has played a role in your knees going bad, if your job contributed to the problem as well and you’ve worked that job in the last three years, you should receive benefits as long as a reputable doctor agrees that your job was part of the problem.

If you have questions or want to talk about a case, fill out our contact form or contact us for a free consultation at 312-346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois.

The Top Workers’ Compensation Lawyer In Chicago

I’m able to see which searches lead people to our blog and one of the leading ones is, “Who is the top workers’ compensation lawyer in Chicago?”

I chuckle at this because it reminds me of relatives talking about their doctor being “the best” there is.  It feels good to believe you have the top or best person on your side, but the reality is that you could never know that.  It’s not like basketball where everyone could agree that when he was playing, Michael Jordan was the best.  It’s more that there are a lot of great work comp lawyers in Illinois (and a lot of bad ones) and it’s a matter of finding out who is best for you and your case.

So how do you figure that out?

An attorney might brag about all of the settlements they’ve gotten, but if they don’t return your phone calls or make you deal with a paralegal or young lawyer, then they aren’t “the best.”

If your injury took place in Champaign, the case needs to be filed there.  A Chicago attorney, no matter how great they are, is probably not the best for a work comp case down there unless they have at least 20 active cases down there which indicates they are down there all the time.

If you had a spinal fusion and are worried about future medical care, if your attorney isn’t interested in taking cases to trial (so you can get medical benefits for life) then they certainly aren’t the top attorney for you.

When the track record of your lawyer is incredible, but they are now in their 60’s and spend half their winter traveling or in Florida, you can find someone better to look out for you.

Your attorney may know the law better than anyone around, but if they can’t explain it to you or answer your questions and as a result you feel that you don’t know what’s going on, then you can do better.

I could go on, but the honest truth is that there are a lot of good attorneys out there, but some are not the right fit for you even if they are for your co-worker or cousin.  Your unique injury, the type of customer service you want, your location, the language you prefer to speak, your long term goals and many other things impact who the best firm is for you.  It might be us, it might be someone else.

One thing is for sure, if anyone claims that they are the best, it’s a terrible brag and also a lie which should be the first and only red flag you need.  If you want to discuss your case, please contact us for free any time.

Advice On Work Injuries Against CPS And Other Recent Questions

While we take many of the questions we get and make them blog posts, sometimes there is no need for a long, drawn out blog post.  Here are some good questions we’ve received lately that have short answers.  If you have your own questions or want to discuss a case, call us for free at 312-3465578 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

I work for Chicago Public Schools. Nobody is disputing I was hurt at work, but it’s taking forever to get my settlement. Is this normal?

Odd fact about CPS cases.  They essentially have one full time lawyer on all of their workers’ comp claims.  So there can be a huge backlog and delays.  It’s not normal, but also is normal at the same time.

The other day I hurt myself at work.  I heard with another co-worker he made him pay the cost of the increase to his work comp insurance. Can my boss make me pay his work comp expenses?

This is illegal and can’t happen.  Sounds like an awful place to work.  Formally file a claim and don’t pay that guy a penny.

I work for the State of Illinois. It’s been three months since my settlement contract was approved by the Arbitrator and I still haven’t been paid. Can I file for penalties?

You might be able to but I’d check the fine print. It’s common for the State to put in their contracts that they have 180 days to pay.  If you agreed to that then you are out of luck for now.

How much does child support take from a work comp settlement?

That’s a better question for a family law attorney.  As I understand it, they can take what they are owed, but my advice would be to get a lawyer who deals with the State and child support to negotiate that for you.

I am a healthcare worker and I got c-Diff.  As I’m the only person on the job that got it my employer said it’s not covered under work comp.  My union said that’s wrong. Who’s correct?

If you get hurt at work and c-Diff is an injury and it’s because of your job duties, it’s covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  The fact you are the only one who got it doesn’t matter, especially if you can show a patient had c-Diff.

I got offered a settlement, but I’m still having pain and see the doctor again in a month. Should I take the settlement?

No.  This is an insurance company strategy to try and screw you over and cut off their payments to doctors. You should never settle before your treatment is done.

My case was settled ten years ago, but I’m starting to have pain again. Can I open it back up?

No.  Once you settle a case the case is over with.

All good questions.  Feel free to ask us anything any time you want.

 

Once You Hire A Lawyer, Don’t Talk To The Insurance Company

I’ve been an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney for 21 years.  I like to say that I’ve heard it all, but recently I heard something new.

A woman called me looking for a lawyer. I looked up her case and discovered that she had hired an attorney who had filed the case just one week prior.  Although I had never heard of her attorney, this call seemed like a red flag.  She said the lawyer wasn’t in her corner and I didn’t see how that could be possible so soon after the case started.

I heard her out though and what I heard shocked me.

She told me that the day before the attorney had her at his office and they called the insurance company to discuss the case.  She went on to say that during the call, the attorney walked out of the room, leaving her to talk by herself with the insurance adjuster while the paralegal for the attorney listened.  He was gone for about ten minutes and by the time he came back the call was over.  When she asked why he left, he said he was looking for papers and “to be honest, I don’t really handle a  lot of workers’ compensation cases.”

So the obvious shocking statement is an attorney took on a case, only a week later to admit that he doesn’t know what he’s doing.  He of course never should have taken the case in the first place and clearly was trying to make a buck at the expense of a client.

But the more shocking item is that he allowed her to talk to the insurance company at all.  That does not help or benefit her in any way. You’ve heard the saying that “anything you say can and will be used against you.”  It’s meant for criminal cases, but it applies to work comp too.  If the attorney says something it’s just talk. If you say it, it can be used as evidence against you.

Beyond that, he put her on the phone with someone whose goal and training has to do with denying workers’ compensation cases.  Why would you ever do that?

I’m not sure if this lawyer is in over his head, having a meltdown or just clueless, but he really put his client’s case at risk.

You should never consent to be recorded and quite honestly should minimize any talking you do with the adjuster.  They are looking to gather information that can be used against you.  And once you’ve hired a lawyer you should never talk to the adjuster again.  That’s part of what you got an attorney for in the first place.

When Your Work Injury Makes You Overcompensate

It’s logical that if you hurt one arm, you’ll use the other arm more or if you injure one leg, you’ll favor the other.  It’s also logical that when you do that, the healthy body part might get injured too.

When this happens after you are hurt on the job in Illinois, you likely have a case for two injuries instead of just one.

In fact this recently happened in case decided by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  In that case, a woman hurt her left hip at work. She had never received any medical care for a right hip problem before the accident.

While waiting for the work comp insurance company to approve her surgery, she continued to work full time and started to favor her right hip as the left got worse and worse. Eventually they both were in tremendous pain and she got diagnosed with a right labrum tear.  This, per her doctor, happened because she was relying on it too much.

This case went to trial and of course the insurance company found a hired gun IME to state that the injuries weren’t work related.  Fortunately the Court found that these statements weren’t credible and specifically pointed out that the IME doctor didn’t review her medical records.

In the end, the surgeries were approved and benefits were ordered.  It’s kind of poetic justice because the insurance company played games and in the end it cost them way more than it would have had they just done the right thing in the beginning.

Bottom line is that when one injury causes you to overcompensate and you injure another body part, it should be covered.  To win your case you need to give your doctor a history of how you were hurt, how you favored the body part that wasn’t hurt, what you noticed and what prior medical problems you’ve had on that body part.  If they agree that if not for the work injury this new problem wouldn’t have happened or wouldn’t have happened so soon then you should win your case.

As always, if you want a free consult with one of our lawyers, start a live chat, fill out the contact form or call us at 312-346-5578.

Is Your Illinois Work Comp Lawyer Late?

Attorneys are required to do 30 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) every two years. I’m listening to one right now about time management and attorneys and it brings up a great point.

In a nutshell, there are a lot of lawyers who are late.  They miss deadlines to email you, to call you, they are late in showing up to court, they don’t keep you informed about what is going on, etc. There is a lawyer rule that requires attorneys to promptly respond to client concerns and these attorneys violate these rules all the time.

According to this CLE, lawyers who are late and have bad time management skills are the number one reason why they get sued or have ethical complaints against them.  I get that.  It’s like going to a restaurant and not having a waiter show up for 20 minutes to take your order.  How much longer would you give them before you complained and/or moved on?

I mention this information because you shouldn’t be expected to automatically know what to look for when hiring a lawyer and what to expect once you’ve made that decision.  You deserve to know about red flags.

While a sloppy, lazy attorney who doesn’t communicate with you could do a good job for you, it’s certainly more likely that you won’t be happy or get the best result possible. You might not realize the attorney you hired sucks when you first hire them, but if becomes apparent as the case goes on the only good news is that you have the right to switch firms.

Some lawyers hate their jobs, but keep doing them.  Some are just disorganized.  Others aren’t self aware.  What do all of these have in common?  None of them should be your problem.

If you see red flags, get a new firm before a settlement offer is made.  If you aren’t sure if something is normal or if your attorney is good you can call us for free and in confidence.  If we respect your attorney we will tell you. If we think what you are going through isn’t normal we will tell you.  But never assume that this bad behavior is how all lawyers are because that is simply not true.

Winning A Workers’ Compensation Case Against Walmart

I’m not a fan of Walmart and have long refused to shop at their stores. This is based on their terrible history of how they have treated their employees. I realize that this doesn’t make a dent in their bottom line, but I can’t support a company has a history of making employees skip meal breaks, skip rest breaks and work off the clock among other things.

So as a result I’m always happy when we get a call from a Walmart injured worker because it’s a company I love to go against.

Most of these claims are outside of the Chicago area because until recently there were no Walmart’s in Chicago. But I work with a team of lawyers throughout Illinois that has a track record of winning cases against the giant retailer.

Many Walmart workers wrongly believe that getting benefits against their company will be impossible.  While it is a multi billion dollar company, they have to follow the same Illinois work comp laws as everyone else.

The biggest myth about these cases is that because the company is so big, they will have a team of lawyers to fight the case.  While they do hire good law firms to defend them, work comp cases aren’t worth enough money to hire a team of lawyers.  In other words, if your case is worth $50,000.00, they aren’t going to pay a bunch of lawyers $30,000.00 to fight it.  No company does that.  They do hire a good firm and that firm will assign one attorney to fight your case.

So while there can be a fight, that’s true in every Illinois work injury case.

The one thing that Walmart does do from our experience is try to get employees to take low ball settlement offers for less than there case is worth. That’s their right and the way to beat this is to simply take the case to trial or get it ready for trial.  When they know your lawyer is serious they will come with their best offer.  And if their best offer isn’t good enough then we’ll get you what’s fair after a short Arbitration.

Because there are so many employees at Walmart you see just about every injury imaginable with their workers.  The most common is a back injury from lifting and it’s usually workers in the warehouse that have this problem.  But you also see a lot of slip and falls, shoulder injuries from overhead lifting, falls off ladders, forklift accidents and many repetitive trauma claims.

The other really big myth with Walmart is that lawyers are afraid to fight them.  I can promise you that is 100% false.  Like I said, we love cases against them and at the end of the day it’s not much different than taking on any other big employer.  I can never promise a result in a case, but do guarantee we’ll do everything we can to help you.

If you’d like to discuss a possible work injury case against Walmart, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

 

“I was hurt my second day on the job”

We are experienced Illinois work injury attorneys who will talk to you for free and give direct, honest advice.  If you want our help fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois.

I don’t know how to install drywall.  I can be handy, but installing drywall is something I’ve never learned and wouldn’t be expected to know if I started talking to a contractor.

You aren’t a lawyer.  So we don’t expect you to know the ins and out of Illinois workers’ compensation law.  So wondering if you have a case or not is not a dumb question or anything you should be afraid to ask.

The danger with the law though is that many people will give you legal advice even though they aren’t lawyers.  Maybe they watch a lot of TV shows.  Maybe they have been in cases themselves.  Maybe they like to read about the law.  It’s not that they can’t be right, but more often than not they are either flat out wrong or missing crucial information.

I thought of this the other day when someone called me wanting to know if they had a case.  Here’s what they asked me:

“I hurt my shoulder the second day on the job.  My boss said I can’t file for workers comp because I haven’t been there long enough.  Is that true?”

Usually when a boss says this I think they are trying to screw the worker for the benefit of the company, but in this case it turns out that the boss was in another State and believes that’s the law where he is.

For Illinois, the moment you start working you are covered by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  Literally you could clock in, turn around and slip on water and tear your ACL and have a case before you’ve ever done any real work.

And if on the second day on the job you are lifting something and feel a severe pain in your shoulder as happened to this caller, you have a case as well.

Now on the other hand if you work for a day or two and allege that caused carpal tunnel or some other repetitive trauma type problem, you’d have a much harder time proving your case.

But don’t take legal advice from any non-attorney who tells you that you don’t have a case.  They might be right, but there’s a huge chance that they are wrong.  It costs nothing to ask an attorney, so ask and make an educated decision from there.

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