Why Did A Chicago Divorce And Criminal Lawyer Take A Workers Compensation Case?

Recently an injured Illinois worker contacted me and said that after being on the case for two years, he got a letter from his lawyer saying he will not handle the case anymore. It’s a case that needs to be taken to trial and this lawyer doesn’t want to do it.

My initial instinct was that it must be a terrible case.  Illinois work comp attorneys don’t withdraw from cases where they can make money, especially not after two years.  The way the worker described the injury made it seem like he was severely hurt and while he did test positive for marijuana, there were no other defenses to the case. Since it’s a repetitive trauma claim, the marijuana test really isn’t a worry. So I tried to figure out what was wrong with the case.

He gave me the name of his lawyer. I had never heard of this person which was a red flag. I don’t know everyone, but if you regularly handle work comp cases and have done so for a while, odds are that I’ve heard of you or seen you around. That doesn’t say anything about me other than work comp is my area of focus.  There are probably 500 other lawyers who could say the same thing.

That was a red flag and so was the fact that I learned that not only has this attorney been licensed to practice for less than five years, but he also appears to be practicing on his own after taking over his Dad’s practice.  But the biggest red flag was that when I went to his website, he listed his two main practice areas as family law and criminal law.  He also lists employment discrimination, business litigation and personal injury.

So why would this guy take a workers compensation case, especially one that is not straight forward if you don’t have experience?

I have three theories. Let’s discuss them in order of how likely they are:

  1. He’s a young lawyer who can’t afford to turn away business. I see this a lot. When I graduated law school, a very successful lawyer told me that he started his own practice right out of law school and the first day someone asked if he specialized in car accidents. He said yes even though he had never handles any case before. That is the kind of scummy thing attorneys do all the time.
  2. He assumed it would be easier than it is. We see this more often with car accident cases than work injuries, but there are some lawyers who think they are so smart that they’ll just figure things out. I get called all of the time by attorneys asking my advice on how to handle a case. My best advice is don’t take advantage of a worker by trying to handle a case you know nothing about just to try and make an extra couple bucks.
  3. His dad had probably handled some of these cases in the past. Maybe he thought his Dad could guide him or that if his Dad had done it so could he. Again that is looking out for his best interests, not the client.

Whatever the reason, this is the type of unethical lawyer behavior I come across all of the time. These lawyers can justify their actions in their head, but at the end of the day they are not doing what is best for their clients.

I might not be the right place for you to find a lawyer. You need to find the best fit for you. And while I do know plenty of really bad attorneys who only handle workers comp cases, most of the ones out there will do a decent enough job. Whatever you do, you are taking a huge risk by hiring a young lawyer who doesn’t have a track record of handling Illinois work comp cases. Every attorney these days should have a website. If that doesn’t talk about all of their work comp success and experience then it should be an indisputable sign that you shouldn’t hire them.

Don’t File For Work Comp In Illinois If This Happened

Under something called the exclusive remedy provision, workers in Illinois are not generally allowed to sue their employer for injuries sustained while working. It doesn’t matter if your employer was negligent or not. You are able to receive workers’ compensation benefits, but a lawsuit for negligence or even recklessness will likely get thrown out. This is not exclusive to Illinois and as far as I know exists in every other state.

The flip side is that you don’t have to prove fault when bringing a work comp case in Illinois.

For 99.99% of injured workers, that ends that.  That’s alright as Illinois has the best employee benefits in the country and you can get significant compensation for serious injuries.

But every now and then a worker in Illinois is hurt due to intentional actions by a co-worker or employer. If that happens you can sue.  The most common example is when someone assaults you, but we’ve been involved in cases where employers knew a machine was faulty and made a worker use it any way and they got hurt.

So this is where you need to make sure you don’t screw up.

If you are hurt while working, you will of course want to get medical care and compensation for your time off of work. But if you formally file a case with the State and willfully receive benefits for your work injury, you can be barred from bringing a lawsuit against your employer. There is case law that essentially says you can not in one court allege a work related accident and in another argue that you were hurt by an intentional act. If you do, the personal injury lawsuit could be dismissed, even if you otherwise would have won.

Basically, you don’t want to lose a case on a technicality so you need to be really careful. This is especially true if a catastrophic injury happened like brain damage, life altering injury, death, etc.  Those cases could be worth millions which is more than you’d likely get through a normal work comp case.

So again, while this does not apply to most cases, it’s certainly something to be aware of. You absolutely have to consult with an experienced attorney to make sure you make the right decision and don’t do anything that could cause you to lose your rights.

We are happy to consult with anyone for free on any Illinois work injury issue. If you’d like to speak with an attorney, please contact us at 888-705-1766 for help anywhere in Illinois.

The Work Comp Insurance Adjuster Might Not Know What They Are Doing

One of the most important things for any injured Illinois worker to know is that insurance companies are nothing but businesses trying to maximize profits. In many ways this can hurt you as they will look for reasons to deny your case or cut off benefits and in many cases they will illegally not pay benefits without a reason at all.

They aren’t just a business when it comes to how they handle your case. They also are a business in terms of how they treat their employees.  They don’t want to pay huge wages, don’t want to spend a lot on office space and don’t want to pay too much for their adjusters to have training. This can all work to your advantage.  The lower wages mean some companies don’t attract the best talent or have happy employees.  The trend to work from home prevents inner office communication that can often aid people in learning their job. And the lack of training means you might be dealing with an adjuster that doesn’t know Illinois law or really what they are doing.

I’ve had an uptick of insurance adjusters reaching out to me to try and learn particulars about the law. I will do this if it can help an existing client, but generally speaking I say no as I’m for injured workers only and don’t want to help a billion dollar corporation, especially if this knowledge can be used to hurt a worker. Take for example a recent chat I had online:

[11:38:52 am] Michael: Thank you for contacting our work injury law firm. My name is Michael, may I have your name please?
[11:39:07 am] Visitor: sam
[11:39:18 am] Michael: Hi Sam, how can I help you?
[11:40:11 am] Visitor: I am a adjuster
[11:40:20 am] Michael: What can I do for you?
[11:41:08 am] Visitor: Trying to learn Illonois WC. Can you reference a training atty and not the State
[11:41:20 am] Michael: No. We are for injured workers only

This was from a guy who doesn’t know how to spell “Illinois” and I’d bet that he’s never handled an Illinois work comp case. It still wouldn’t be surprising if due to staffing shortages or budget cuts if “Sam” was asked to process a case in Illinois.

For you as an injured worker, this demonstrates why you can’t listen to the adjuster when they tell you that your case is being denied. They might just be making stuff up or hoping you will go away. They might assume the law they know in some other state is the same in Illinois.  Whatever the situation, they aren’t looking out for you.

Beyond that, I’ve also seen cases where an adjuster wrongly approved benefits when they didn’t know the law. For example, if you fall down stairs at work and get hurt, you have to show there was some defect in the stairs in order to win your case. A defect could be it was slippery, there was a crack, there was something on the stairs that you tripped on, etc.  Plenty of newbie adjusters don’t know this and have awarded benefits to workers who literally were day dreaming and missed a step.

The bottom line is that their ignorance can be used to your advantage and it’s one reason that even when we are fighting for you, a good attorney won’t act like an asshole to the adjuster.  If they like us, they will often listen to us when we tell them what should happen on a case without seeking outside counsel. Many of them just want to get through their day and don’t want to feel like they are asking a stupid question to their boss.

So while this isn’t every adjuster or even the majority of them, I’d estimate around 1 in 20 fall in to this category and it’s certainly something to look out for.

Lazy Insurance Adjuster Causes Work Injury To Get Worse

I’ve written a lot about lazy Illinois work comp attorneys, but there are also some work comp insurance adjusters who really are slackers.  It’s often a low paying and not very rewarding job. I’ve spoken to many over the years that really just wish to be doing something else. The turnover rate at a lot of these companies is really high.

Of course that shouldn’t be your problem. But it can be if you aren’t careful.  Take for example what happened to an injured worker who recently contacted us:

I got hurt at work an I have a neck injury I have been trying to get treated I was referred to a physical therapist but have had 3 appointments canceled because they can’t get hold of my adjuster.

The longer the problem goes untreated, the greater the chance that the injury can get worse. In some cases, it’s possible to end up needing surgery because the initial physical therapy was delayed.

In some cases it’s not laziness, but an actual strategy that some insurance companies deploy. If they don’t call you back or health care providers back, they are hoping you will get frustrated and try to use your own insurance or just give up.

Unfortunately not every medical provider understands that they don’t need the permission of the insurance company to provide treatment and others don’t care. So what do you do if this happens to you?

It’s a situation where if you don’t have an attorney you are likely do get screwed over.  Without the ability to file a court motion, there’s really no way to counter pressure the lazy or manipulative insurance adjuster.  But they can’t play games or ignore cases when a petition for immediate hearing under Section 19(b) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act comes across their desk. At that point you will discover that they can be made attentive.

What typically happens in those situations is one of two things: 1. They send the case out to an attorney and we deal with them and solve the problem. 2. They suddenly take our calls and respond to emails because they don’t want the additional costs of hiring an attorney.  Typically they will make an excuse at that point, but roll over and start authorizing treatment.

In some ways it’s like dealing with children. They want to know what they can and can’t get away with. You have to be willing to let them know that you aren’t going to put up with nonsense. It’s almost dumb that you have to get an attorney when there should be no dispute to your case, but the reality is that it’s what you have to do to protect yourself.

As always, please contact us for free with any questions or to discuss your case. We can be reached at 888-705-1766. We cover all of Illinois.

Illinois Carpal Tunnel Lawyer Tips – 20 Things To Know

I’ve had a big interest in carpal tunnel cases during my legal career. My first trial involved a carpal tunnel claim.  And these cases in general can be interesting because they are often fought by the insurance company but usually winnable. Here are 20 facts, in no particular order, about Illinois work comp carpal tunnel claims. If you have any questions or want to speak with a lawyer for free, call us at 888-705-1766.

  1. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is an injury to a passage way in your wrists that houses the main nerve to your hand.  When tissues in that passage way get inflamed, it causes pressure on the nerves.  The nerve that gets damaged is called the median nerve and is responsible for feeling in the palm side of the thumb and most fingers.
  2. The main symptoms of CTS are numbness, tingling, and pain in your hand and/or thumb, and pain that goes from the hand up the arm. Over time, it can lead to weakness in your hand if not treated properly.
  3. Most work related carpal tunnel claims are a result of repetitive actions like typing, frequent use of hands on assembly line or other heavy use activities.
  4. Some CTS injuries are caused by one time incidents, usually involving blunt force to your hand or wrist.
  5. To win an Illinois work comp case for an injury like this, you don’t have to show that your job was the only factor or even major factor. You just have to prove your employment activities were a contributing factor.
  6. Proof is typically provided by an orthopedic doctor. They will state in writing that your job caused, aggravated or accelerated your condition.
  7. To make the opinion of a doctor more credible, it’s important that they have a detailed description of your job duties including how often you work, how long you’ve been doing your job, the specific activities you perform, how many minutes in a row you do them, the force applied on your wrists while working, the weight lifted, etc.
  8. Carpal tunnel can be hereditary or present in people who are obese, diabetic, pregnant or have thyroid issues. It is also more common in women than in men.
  9. Treatment for carpal tunnel can include rest, a brace, physical therapy or surgery.
  10. The success rate for CTS surgery is very high and usually the recovery time is four weeks or less.
  11. If left untreated, carpal tunnel can lead to permanent damage in your thumbs and wrist.
  12. In 2011, Illinois workers’ compensation laws were amended to limit the amount a worker can recover for a carpal tunnel injury if they make a complete recovery.
  13. The new laws were in response to claims brought by southern Illinois prison workers that they had wrist injuries from continually pulling heavy doors. Someone wrote a news article alleging abuse of the system and the law was enacted as a compromise when reforms were put in to place.
  14. Carpal tunnel is typically diagnosed with a simple study called an EMG which is a nerve conduction study.
  15. The EMG can be noraml and CTS can still be there although usually the study is pretty accurate.
  16. The best way to prevent carpal tunnel is frequent breaks, proper positioning of the wrists and rotating jobs.
  17. Of course saying it can be prevented is easier said than done. If your employer isn’t supportive then most prevention steps won’t work in reality.
  18. If your carpal tunnel isn’t fixed with surgery and you have permanent restrictions, your employer will have to provide work within your restrictions.
  19. Insurance companies will hire IME doctors to examine you and discuss if your condition is work related. There is one notorious doctor who almost always says that the CTS isn’t from work and leads to the insurance company denying benefits.
  20. Because of these hired gun doctors, these cases often go to trial. They are very winnable in most cases, but it’s important that you have an aggressive attorney in your corner who is experienced with taking cases to trial. Any lawyer with less than ten years experience is not the right law firm for you in our opinion.

I hope these tips are helpful. If you have any questions or want to speak with an attorney, please contact us any time.

Diabetes And Illinois Workers Compensation Claims

We have been helping injured workers in Illinois since 1997. If you would like to speak with a lawyer for free, please call us at 312-346-5320. We cover all of Illinois.

One of the first things I was taught about Illinois workers’ compensation law is that “employers take you as they find you.”  In other words, if a company hired a person who has a history of back trouble, if the job makes the condition worse, they can’t get out of paying workers’ compensation benefits just because there was some pre-existing condition.  If a worker could get healed by a surgery, but can’t have it because they have a heart condition, if this prevents them from ever returning to work again, the insurance company can’t get out of paying benefits.  Workers in Illinois aren’t presumed to be in perfect condition nor are they expected to be.

In the same way, if a personal condition makes a minor injury a major one, you will be compensated by work comp for a major injury, not a minor one. This happens all of the time to Illinois workers who have diabetes.

The biggest way we see this is in a worker who hurts their foot.  Maybe the types of boots you have to wear cause a blister on your foot.  For most people this would recover quickly and not even lead to a work injury case.  You’d put on a band-aid and maybe some Neosporin and move on with your life. But if you are diabetic, blisters can be harder to recover from and lead to prolonged medical care. In the worst case scenario it could lead to a foot amputation. If that were to happen, work comp insurance would be on the hook for everything.

We also see diabetic workers with foot contusions that don’t heal and lead to fractures when non-diabetic people would recover rather quickly. Again, they must take you as they find you so if your diabetes or any other underlying condition makes your situation worse, that won’t be punished.

Unfortunately, of course, some insurance companies are less than honest about how the law actually works and will deny treatment that they shouldn’t or say something isn’t covered when it is.  Like any other case, you can’t assume that the insurance company is being truthful nor can you expect them to look out for you and your well being.  Never assume that they know the law or that they aren’t ignoring it. You should get a free consultation with an experienced attorney whether that is us or someone else you find that you feel comfortable with.

And the bottom line is that having diabetes is not something that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is going to punish you for. And if it ends up making your case more valuable, that is how that law was intended to work.

Illinois Work Comp – When The Insurance Company Says They Need Records

If there is one thing I wish every injured Illinois worker would know, it’s that insurance companies will play games.  One way or another, they are looking for a way to minimize what they pay you, even when it seems like they are doing everything right.  A common tactic is to not actually deny care, but say they can’t approve it yet because they don’t have the necessary documentation. Here is a recent email from an injured worker that shows this clearly:

I was hurt at work a few months ago.  Workers comp has been cooperating until now. I saw my dr on and he said he wanted to get a cervical spine mri and he has me off work until next Tuesday 7 when he can review the mri with me. When my workers comp case manager was informed she called and told me that they wouldn’t pay for the mri or the days off bc I hadn’t been getting any cervical treatment, she said she looked and couldn’t find anything in the papers. I have all the report forms from my appointments and my therapy orders where it is mentioned numerous times. I’m not looking for any more compensation than what I deserve. I have done everything they have asked me to do and I feel this is mistreatment. Do you think you can help me?

First off, I doubt that they don’t have the records that they need.  If the insurance really wanted to get the records, they could do so with a simple phone call. News flash, doctors want to get paid for their care. So if the case manager just called the doctor’s office and asked for supporting documentation, it would be provided ASAP.

But their goal isn’t to find the truth. Their goal certainly isn’t to get you healthy. Their goal is to save money. So many injured workers just throw in the towel because these games frustrate them.  It works enough that it’s worth it to these greedy insurance companies to mess with you even when they don’t really have a legal leg to stand on.

The good news usually is that we can help in these situations.  Having an attorney does stop some of the game playing, although certainly not all of it. We aren’t asking insurance companies to just give money away. What we want is for them to follow the law and really not to lie.  You’d get punished if you were caught lying about your injury. The same should happen to them when they don’t tell the truth about “needing records” or anything else related to your care.

For them, a win is saving some money.  They don’t look at it from the standpoint that their “win” could cause you a lifetime of pain due to delayed care.  The truth is that while insurance companies do have real defenses to some cases, not approving treatment because they lack records or information is almost always b.s. and a huge red flag that they are playing games.

As always, if you want to speak to a lawyer for free about your case, fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578.

Illinois Work Comp Lawyer Asks Insane Settlement Question

Man, just when you think you’ve heard it all, you hear about some terrible lawyering that just makes your jaw drop.

Before we get to that, let’s discuss why you would hire a work comp attorney.  The biggest reason is to protect yourself. An experienced law firm has been involved in thousands of cases and has seen every insurance company trick and knows how to make sure you don’t get taken advantage of, get the medical care you need and eventually get the biggest settlement possible.  You look to a lawyer to give you advice and explain how things work.

There are so many chances for a competent attorney to do this throughout a case. When it comes time to settling your case, they should gather your medical records, discuss with you how you are feeling, discuss how work is going and make a recommendation of what the case might be worth and what the settlement strategy should be. Remarkably, a lot of bad Illinois work comp attorneys don’t do this. They will review your medical records, but don’t have a conversation with their clients.  That’s not the actions of a good lawyer.

What I heard that shocked me though was an attorney who did have a conversation with his client about settling. It was short and involved one question.  The lawyer asked, “What are you looking for?”

That’s insane.  It’s the lawyer’s job to determine what the possible settlement range is and what might happen if a case goes to trial.  They should be able to explain how they got to those figures and make a recommendation of how to proceed.  Asking a client what they are looking for is not doing legal work. It’s not providing customer service at all.  It’s quite honestly bizarre and a huge red flag.

It’s almost like if you go to a doctor for back pain and they ask you what type of surgery you want without explaining the benefits and drawbacks of each choice.  It’s not your job to figure out what a case is worth.  It’s the job of your lawyer to lay out your options and help you make a decision.

I’ve tried to think why this attorney did this and I can’t think of a great answer. Maybe he’s hoping the client will ask for less than the case is worth and he’ll look like a hero if he gets that or more. Maybe he doesn’t know what he’s doing.  Maybe he just doesn’t care. What’s nuts is when the worker responded by telling him, “Shouldn’t you tell me what it’s worth?” the lawyer responded by saying he always wants to first know what the client wants.  Again, that’s just insanity.

As I talked to this worker more, I learned there were other red flags during the case such as phone calls not getting returned or the lawyer once saying that they can’t go to trial if the defense attorney doesn’t want to. The lesson of all of this is that once a red flag appears, it’s usually happening for a reason and it’s best to get a second opinion before it’s too late.

Illinois Work Comp Attorney Bad Settlement Strategy

When it comes to working with an Illinois workers compensation attorney, there isn’t a worse feeling than realizing that the lawyer you hired isn’t fighting for you.  You hired them in the first place to be your advocate and look out for your best interests.  If they aren’t doing that, then what are they there for?

Sometimes it’s obvious that they aren’t fighting for you. They don’t have any suggestions. They won’t file any trial motions. They generally seem to just roll over and do nothing.

Other times it’s more subtle.  Case in point, a recent case we consulted on.

A factory worker has a really serious back injury. He had surgery and there is not dispute that his back was injured in a work related accident. There is a $75,000.00 offer to resolve that case and all of the medical bills have been paid.  At first glance it doesn’t seem to be a case of a lawyer not fighting for their client.

A closer look shows this worker also hit his head when the accident happened. He complained of a headache at the ER, but because his back injury was so serious, the majority of his medical care in the first six months focused on that.  There was some belief that his back problem was causing headaches, but that turned out not to be the case as the headaches didn’t go away after the surgery.

He asked his lawyer to help in getting him in to a neurologist and the lawyer refused. The worker found one on his own and paid for the treatment out of pocket. That doctor states that there was a traumatic brain injury (TBI) during the work accident and that this worker can no longer return to his job.  That could make the case worth hundreds of thousands more.

The lawyer said he doesn’t think they can win the brain injury part of the case and is encouraging him to take $75,000.  That is a terrible settlement strategy.

The worst case scenario if they go to trial is somewhere around the $75,000.00 he’s been offered already.  The best case would be an Arbitrator awards what will amount to around $300,000.00.  Now the lawyer might think there’s only a 10% chance of prevailing. But with the report from the neurologist, he can do many things that will get more money in the hands of his client.

  1. Make a settlement demand based on the neurologist saying this person can’t work anymore.
  2. This strategy will force the insurance company to get an independent medical exam to address the head injury and if it’s work related.
  3. If that doctor says no then their position isn’t any worse off.
  4. If that doctor says yes, suddenly the settlement value of this case has at least tripled and it cost nothing to try that.  While most IME doctors are hired guns, I’ve seen this happen many times before, especially for areas of medicine like neurology.
  5. Even if the IME is against them, they now have some leverage to get a higher settlement. If the likely trial outcome is $75,000 and your lawyer used the possibility of winning the head injury part of the case to get you $125,000, that’s a huge win.

It was terrible settlement strategy by this attorney to not go this route at all.  There’s no guarantee it will work, but it has to be tried. And it truly shows a lack of understanding about how insurance companies and their lawyers work.  The defense attorney never wants to say a trial victory is guaranteed. So they have to lay out the best and worse case scenarios too. If they say it’s a 25% chance they’d lose everything at trial, then some insurance person will likely not want to risk that happening and will authorize more money to settle. It won’t come close to your full best case scenario, but it should be more than your worst case scenario.

The bottom line is that even with everything this attorney got for his client on the back injury, he wasn’t really fighting for him and his bad settlement strategy was the proof.

Illinois Work Comp – Don’t Do The Right Thing

The first thing I tell any injured worker who is looking for tips on how to win their case is to be honest.  That doesn’t mean to overshare information (e.g. don’t give a recorded statement). But it does mean tell the truth whether it’s telling a doctor how you got hurt or not making your injury seem worse than it really is.

A well meaning plant worker could have used my advice before he got hurt. He was lifting heavy machinery when he felt a big strain in his groin area. It was suspected right away that he had a hernia and he headed to the ER right away. His boss gave him a ride and asked him to say he was hurt at home. The boss promised to pay any unpaid bills and for his time off work.

As you can imagine, the bills came in and were quite large as he had surgery. The boss then changed his story and eventually fired this hard worker.

So he came to us looking for help. The first thing we asked was, “Why did you lie?”  The answer he gave was that he wanted to “do the right thing” by his employer, so he went along with it.

He of course was not “doing the right thing.”  He was set up by his lying boss who knew that if he lied to the doctor, it would hurt his chance of having a successful work comp claim. This has led to thousands in unpaid medical bills and no compensation for his time off of work as he recovers from surgery.

You aren’t screwing your employer by telling the truth. If they ask you to lie, they aren’t doing the right thing for you.  They are putting your health and livelihood at risk. I’ve seen people lose work comp cases because they agreed to lie and end up homeless.  It’s simply not worth it and at worst could lead to health care fraud charges against you.

Workers’ compensation claims in Illinois aren’t lawsuits.  You getting hurt isn’t going to harm the long term viability of your company.  Their “worst” case scenario is that their insurance rates go up a little bit.  In this case, the worker was asked to lift hundreds of pounds with just one other person. The employer didn’t do the right thing by getting more people to help.  They certainly didn’t do the right thing by asking him to lie.

So if “doing the right thing” is going to cause you problems, you absolutely should not do it.

Bonus tip: I’ve never seen evidence of any employer paying for medical bills out of pocket for a work related injury that required more than one visit.  And if they did that would be way more expensive to them than just letting you file a claim with their insurance.