Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act And Workers Comp

I’ve kept this blog going for over ten years because I like helping the general public get educated on Illinois workers’ compensation laws.  One thing I try to do is not give cookie cutter posts, but instead raise issues that affect real people, even if they aren’t what most readers are thinking about. Sometimes you don’t know your rights until you are alerted to them.

So today I want to write about the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) and what it has to do with work comp.

But first, what is BIPA?  Basically in the last decade or so, many companies have had employees punch in to work with fingerprints, eye scans, facial recognition or other biometric ways that were unheard of a short time ago.  In response, the State passed a law that says you can do this, but you have to follow rules for safeguarding, storing and destroying this information. Your biometric data is unique and if someone who had bad intentions got a hold of it, they could financially ruin you.  Companies also have to make disclosures to employees about this practice and get written consent for it.  If they violate any part of the BIPA Act, you can sue.

I bring this up because under something called the exclusive remedy provision, you are usually barred from suing your employer for negligence.  So when a company called Power Solutions International was sued by an employee for violating BIPA, they tried to have the case thrown out.

The worker won the case because you are only barred from suing your employer for negligence for unintentional acts.  If you are walking the factory floor and a co-worker hits you with a forklift, it likely wasn’t on purpose. So even if that person had no license or training, suing for negligence would not go anywhere.

With BIPA though, failure to follow notice requirements or other parts of the law is intentional, no accidental.  You also aren’t talking about physical injuries, but instead financial ones and a denial to control your own body.

So while an employer tried to use the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act to get around violating the law, in the end common sense prevailed and they lost.

There are a lot of Illinois companies who are violating this law, toward their customers and workers.  We are for work comp only, but work with labor attorneys who have had incredible success with these cases.  One firm we know and recommend was able to settle over $60 million for violations in just a couple of months.

So if you feel your data rights may have been violated, call us at 312-346-5320 and we will refer you to a firm that can help you.  With these cases there is never a fee unless you are successful.

 

Jewel Workers Compensation Claims

We are experienced Chicago work comp attorneys who will talk to you for free about your case.  If you would like our help, please fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578 to speak with a lawyer. 

One of the great rewards of doing this job is that I get to learn about all sorts of industries and get to know the people in them.  When I was in college, I worked in the summer as a deli counter worker for about a week.  I was terrible at the job and still have scars on my fingers from the meat slicer.  My best friend worked with me and was in charge of the fried chicken and had to carry vats of hot grease.  We were just dumb 19 year olds, but even then talked about how there must be so many injuries on the job.

Fast forward almost 30 years and I’ve had the pleasure of talking to and working with many Jewel Food Stores employees.  Talk about salt of the earth great people.  What’s impressed me about them is how dedicated they are to their job and how long they’ve stuck with it, even when they aren’t treated the greatest.  It’s a good, mostly union job done by hard working Chicagoans.

Due to the varied nature of the jobs at Jewel, there are a lot of work related injuries.  Some of the claims I’ve seen in my 20+ years as an attorney include:

– Many back injuries from lifting heavy boxes.

– Tons of cuts to my deli worker brothers and sisters.

– More slip and falls on wet floors than I can count.

– A handful of employees who have been assaulted by unruly customers.

– Falls off of loading docks.

– Carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel from repetitive activities.

– Many leg injuries from being hit by a car in the parking lot.

– Many leg injuries from being hit by a shopping cart.

– Hypothermia from working in the cold.

The list goes on.  I could honestly write a list of 100 unique accidents that I’ve heard of for Jewel employees and still have more to discuss.  There are so many different types of jobs and activities that need to be done.  Employees at Jewel are definitely “do what it takes” type workers and when you are in that situation, you will often perform job duties that put you at risk of injury or are unfamiliar to you which can make them dangerous.

We have worked with hundreds of Jewel employees over the year and understand the jobs and injuries that those workers face. If you would like to discuss a claim or just have general questions please contact us at any time.

It’s Valentine’s Day. Does Your Work Comp Lawyer Love You?

Hiring an attorney is a little different than hiring a plumber or Uber driver or even a handyman. When you hire us, it’s almost never a one day job.  We are going to have a relatively long term relationship with you.  We don’t need to be best friends, but you as a client have a right to be treated well.  In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are ten signs that your attorney is showing you the love you deserve.

1. They call you back. In a relationship, communication is key.  If you call your girlfriend and she doesn’t call back for a week you’d think something was up.  Well it works the same way with your attorney.  It should never take 24 hours for them to get back to you.

2. They treat you well.  Imagine your boyfriend and you are out to dinner and he starts screaming at you.  In front of everyone.  You’d be mad, scared, embarrassed and hurt.  Well some work comp attorneys think it’s ok to scream at their clients.  It’s not.

3. They don’t flirt with others. Some people try to make their significant other jealous by flirting with other people.  With a good lawyer, when they are with you, all of their attention is on you.

4. You want your friends to be with someone as good as the one you have.  The best compliment you can give an attorney is to refer a friend.  They should make you want to get them more business because of how they are killing it for you.

5. Their friends treat you well too. A lawyer’s support staff doesn’t have to kiss your ass, but they should treat you well and feel like a part of the team.

6. They are honest. Nothing is worse than catching the person you are with in a lie. Your attorney should always tell it to you straight.

7. They don’t steal from you. This isn’t super common, but some attorneys have stolen settlement checks or TTD checks.

8. They are experienced. Most people wouldn’t want to date the 40 year old virgin, especially if they acted like they were really experienced.  Well you don’t want to hire the 40 year old attorney only to have them assign you the young lawyer in the office who just got licensed to practice.  That’s not showing you love, that’s them training someone on your case.

9. They don’t talk bad about you behind your back. When I started my career I was a defense attorney.  It always amazed me when I was trying to settle a case how many lawyers for injured workers would tell me all the bad things about their client.  If you are getting the love you deserve, your attorney should present you in the best light possible.

10. After getting to know them, they don’t creep you out. Most people have a friend who started dating someone that seemed great at first, but when everyone gets to know them they are creepy.  Most attorneys put their best foot forward when they first meet you. If months later they seem like a different person or you learn who they really are, that’s a bad sign.

I hope everyone has a fun and safe night whether you have a Valentine or don’t. And most of all, if you have a lawyer for an Illinois work injury, I hope they are showing you love.

How Do You Know Your Injury Is Work Related In Illinois?

Here’s an Illinois work comp question we get a lot.  “How do I know if my injury is work related?”

Sometimes the answer is simple and obvious.  If you have never had back trouble and pick up a box and feel a pop in your back, if that happened at work it’s work related.  If you are walking down the hall and slip on a wet floor, tearing your ACL, that’s work related.

A lot of other cases of course aren’t as obvious.  What happens if your back is just really sore all of the sudden?  How about if you now have numbness and tingling in your wrists and fingers?  Maybe you fell at work and felt no pain at the time, but three days later have trouble getting out of bed.  Is that workers’ compensation?

Whether it’s an injury from doing repetitive work or from a single incident that doesn’t flare up until days later, there is one major question that needs to be asked.  Did your job contribute to you having this problem?

Put another way, if you job caused, aggravated, accelerated or played a role in your injury, then you likely should be receiving Illinois workers comp benefits?  The law in Illinois doesn’t say your job has to be the only cause or even the main cause.  If your job duties play some sort of role then you are supposed to get benefits.

With the example of a worker who has numbness and tingling in their wrists and fingers, it’s a sign they have carpal tunnel syndrome.  One thing that can lead to carpal tunnel is pregnancy.  Another thing that can lead to it is typing all day.  Both of those things could contribute to your problem and if that’s true then you should get workers’ comp.

Maybe you hurt your back a year ago, but have been feeling good for about six months.  One week on the job you do a lot of heavy lifting.  By the end of the day on Friday you are really stiff and the next day you can’t get out of bed.  An MRI reveals a herniated disc.  It’s true you had a pre-existing problem, but also true that your job aggravated that condition.  In my opinion, if this happened to you, you’d win a case for Illinois work comp benefits.

Bottom line is that while insurance companies will deny your case for good and bad reasons, don’t take their word for it.  If your doctor states that your job duties were a factor in your need for treatment, you should prevail. Make sure when talking to your doctor they have a good understanding of what you do at work and don’t ever assume they know what the law is.  We’ve seen tons of cases where a doctor has said an injury isn’t work related only to change their opinion when they realize that the job just has to be a factor, not the only or main one.

If you have any questions about whether or not you have a case or anything else, you can call our lawyers for free any time.  We help everywhere in Illinois.

Does Your Lawyer Have A Conflict Of Interest?

We are plain speaking, experienced attorneys who help people all over Illinois with work injuries. If you would like to speak with a lawyer for free, fill out our contact form or give us a call.

Every two years, Illinois attorneys have to do 30 hours of continuing legal education (CLE).  I do all of my CLE online.  Most of it is boring and if I’m being honest, not very relevant.  I get most of my real continuing education by reading trade journals, doing research and talking to other attorneys.

Every now and then though, a speaker says something that catches my interest.  This happened recently when I watched a presentation on conflicts of interest.

All lawyers know that you can’t represent an injured worker against a business and also represent that business on a different case.  That would be a clear conflict.

What the speaker said that hit home for me is that a conflict of interest is when your interests are different than what is best for your client.

I see these less obvious conflicts all the time in the way some attorneys handle their cases. In fact there are a bunch of red flags that are conflicts.  These include:

– Your lawyer insisting on you seeing a certain doctor for your injury.  It’s usually because that doctor sends them business so they feel they need to return the favor.

– A lawyer who encourages clients to take on legal funding loans because that company entertains them or kicks them back some money.  Your attorney should make clear that in most cases, these loans are outrageous and a bad idea.

– A lawyer who won’t take a case to trial. This is a biggie.  Some cases shouldn’t go to trial because they are too small.  But I’ve been at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and seen plenty of attorneys settle a case for less than it’s worth instead of going to trial because they had Cubs tickets or wanted to cut out early on a Friday.  Other times lawyers don’t take a case to trial because they just don’t want to do the work.  Their selfishness hurts you.

– Assigning a really young lawyer to handle your case.  This is a conflict because the attorney wants the young lawyer to get the benefit of experience.  It helps their law firm in the long run. However, what’s best for the law firm is not best for you.  You need and deserve and experienced attorney who isn’t cutting their teeth on your case/

– Attorneys who settle short on one case because they think it will help them on others.  I’ve seen this happen with firms who have a lot of cases against one company. If your case is worth $30,000.00, they might settle for $20,000.00 in hopes of getting a higher amount on a different case that is worth in the six figures. They are looking at the big picture of what’s best for their firm, not what’s best for you.

There are others, but these are common ones that you should look out for if you can.  The other thing the CLE presentation I saw said was that if you get a feeling in your gut something is wrong, it probably is. I recommend that if you have a feeling in your gut that your attorney isn’t looking out for you that you listen to it and go get a second opinion.

What Are My Rights If I Was Injured On The Job In Illinois?

One of the most common and broad questions we get is something like, “I was hurt at work, what are my rights?”

The simple and generic answer is, you have a right to medical care and compensation for your time off work. That’s a pretty simple explanation.  It answers the question, but not really.

Take for example a recent caller who lives in Illinois and was hurt working in Illinois, but works for a company out of Indiana.  Even though his injury was very severe and he was at the emergency room, his boss showed up and told him he had to leave.  He went on to say that the only treatment they’d pay for was at some Indiana clinic an hour away.

That injured worker wanted to know their rights.  In that case, they had the right to say forget you, I’m staying at the emergency room.  And if they did, the employer or their insurance company would have to pay for it.  In general you have the right to get emergency care right away.  There are no networks or providers or anything you have to worry about.  You get to the doctor and focus on your health.

Does the employer have the right to make you go to one of their doctors?  Yes, but for a one time visit. They can’t make you treat at their company clinic.  You should exercise your right to decline their request if they want this because most company clinics seem to be willing to say whatever the employer wants.  They don’t seem to focus on your health as much as saying you are fine to work.  They are also hesitant to order tests like MRI’s that can help figure out what’s really wrong with you.

You have a right to a second medical opinion if you don’t like the first.

You have a right to refuse surgery.  You can’t turn down physical therapy or any other non-invasive treatment. If you do that you can lose your benefits.

It’s absolutely your right to refuse to give a recorded statement.  There is no good reason to give one even if the insurance adjuster makes you feel like you have to.

You have a right to not allow a nurse case manager or other insurance representative to talk to your doctor.  They will try to interfere with your medical care.  You don’t have to let them.

It is absolutely your right to take your case to Arbitration if you aren’t happy with a settlement offer. It’s a good idea to do that if you want to keep your medical rights open.

There are a lot of other rights.  In general though, if you feel you are being pushed around or taken advantage of you likely have the right and ability to push back and fight.  Insurance companies and some employers will try to get away with a lot.  They will push the envelope on your rights.  You have to push back.

Games Workers’ Comp Adjusters Play

As I get older, my weekends are certainly way less about going to bars than they were when I was in my twenties.  My wife and I like to go to dinner with friends.  We also do game nights with our friends.  It’s a good excuse to get together and laugh at ourselves and our inability to draw or give good clues.  It’s also a good excuse for a drink.

Insurance adjusters in Illinois workers’ compensation claims like to play games too.  They aren’t playing Cards Against Humanity or Pictionary.  They are playing games with your health and livelihood.  What are some of the games they play you ask?  Here are some of their favorites:

Ignore the injured worker.  Your check is late?  You want approval to see a doctor? You call the insurance adjuster and they never call you back.  They are hoping you will get frustrated and not go to the doctor or just drop your claim.

Deny for no reason.  This is a popular one.  A worker gets legitimately injured on the job, reports the accident and goes to the doctor.  A couple weeks later the insurance adjuster sends a letter saying that after an investigation they’ve determined that your injuries aren’t work related and your case is denied.  Is there a good reason for that? Of course not.  But if you believe them then they will save a lot of money.

Fake investigation. A cousin to the bogus denial, you get the adjuster on the phone and are trying to get approval for a MRI or other medical procedure.  They let you know they can’t approve it yet.  They tell you that your case isn’t denied, but under investigation. What do they need to do to finish the investigation?  Usually nothing.  They’ll tell you that they are trying to gather medical records, talk to possible witnesses, etc, but it’s usually b.s.  Those things do need to happen, but it doesn’t take weeks.  They’ll blow you off as long as they can.

Case closed. This is a favorite. You’ll get medical care and lost time paid for.  Then one day you’ll call your adjuster to try and get a settlement and they’ll tell you that they closed your case.  How’d they do that?  They didn’t! It’s again a ploy to try and make you go away and save them money.  As long as you file your case with the State before the statute of limitations expires, your case can be magically re-opened.

I’m not a doctor, but let’s pretend I am.  Illinois workers’ compensation insurance adjusters love to pretend they know what’s best for your body.  If your doctor recommends physical therapy for three days a week, they’ll tell you that you can only get it two days a week.  Why?  Because on some case that was all that was needed so they are going to act like they know what’s best for you.  Why should you listen to an orthopedic surgeon when you have their very biased judgment instead?

I need to see it all.  Illinois work comp adjusters are entitled to see your medical records if you are hurt on the job.  The records they can get are the ones related to your injury.  So if you hurt your back at work, they can see those records as well as those for any prior back problems. They don’t have a right to see records related to your pregnancy or colonoscopy or cancer treatment or mental health treatment or anything else you aren’t claiming is work related.  But they will try to.

All of these games are designed to help the insurance company save money and potentially screw you over.  We of course know how to play these games and win which is one big reason to get an attorney. If you have questions or would like to discuss a case, please call us for free any time at 312-346-5578.  We help all over Illinois.

 

 

 

When A Great Illinois Work Comp Attorney Is No Longer Great

I’ve been an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney since 1997.  When I started, my first boss warned me about the attorneys to look out for because he felt they were shady.  This was part of my training. He also let me know who he thinks are the top lawyers that he respects.  That’s good information to know because it can affect how you negotiate a case.

Many of those “top” attorneys are still practicing law some 22 plus years later.  I’ve gotten to know most of them. Some weren’t as great as my old boss thought. Some are real superstars that if you tell me you hired them, I’d tell you that you made a good decision.

There are some though, that for whatever reason, don’t give a shit about their clients anymore and have lost their work ethic.  There is one very well known and regarded work comp attorney in Chicago who fits this description.  In the last few months, I’ve heard from at least ten of his clients, and it’s always the same story. They feel he doesn’t communicate and won’t fight for him.

Now, this is someone who has been a real leader in the industry and has tried a ton of cases.  He has a track record of some pretty amazing results.  So why the change?

I can’t say for sure, but in general there are a lot of things I’ve seen make attorneys lose interest over the years.  This can include:

  • Getting sick.
  • Losing a loved one or seeing friends pass away.
  • Having enough money that they don’t need to work.
  • Seeing other people not working as much as they used to. You don’t want to turn down golf invites over and over.
  • Believing that clients will still hire you based on reputation.
  • Arrogance that their way is the only way based on their belief they are successful.
  • Not wanting to work any more, but not wanting to be at home with their spouse.

There are other reasons too.  This one particular attorney is over 60 and has been a lawyer for almost 40 years.  Some guys that age just love it and want to grind. Others feel like they’ve put in their time and don’t look at your case as being nearly as important as it is to you.

So what do you do if you hired a lawyer that you heard was great, but they aren’t doing a good job?

1. Talk to them about it. If you have concerns about how they communicate, call them on it.  Maybe they don’t realize it or have an explanation.  Or maybe that’s just who they are now.

2. If you aren’t too far along in your case, talk to a new attorney about switching.  Too far along is usually, but not always, when there has been a settlement offer made.

Being perfectly honest, there are some attorneys who it’s hard to find someone good to take over from them. That’s because of their presence at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. So my advice is not to fire them before you have someone good in place. Beware attorneys who only dabble in work comp.

I do know good attorneys who will consider taking over from other firms. If you want a recommendation or just want to chat about a case, please contact us at any time.

When Your Boss Gets You To Say You Weren’t Hurt At Work

There was some TV show back when I was a kid, maybe Different Strokes, where one kid had drugs and asked a friend to hold it for him.  The friend was reluctant to do it, but gave in to the pressure.  They are told if anything happens, they will take the blame.  As you can imagine, he got busted, said it wasn’t his, and that didn’t do him any good.  There was probably another lesson in there about staying away from drugs, but you get the idea.  I’m sure Mr. Drummond wasn’t pleased.

The modern version of that happens often with Illinois work injuries.  You get hurt on the job, tell your boss you were hurt at work, and they ask you to tell the doctors it happened at home or somewhere else.  You are reluctant to do so, but like your job and your boss, and they promise that they’ll pay your medical bills.  You think that sounds reasonable, so you lie at the ER.  Your injury is more serious than you thought and suddenly there are $20,000 in medical bills.  When you ask your employer to pay them they essentially say, “What you talking about Willis?!?”

So now you can’t get medical care, you’ve got a lot of debt, and your injury is getting worse.  You call a lawyer and tell them your story.  They won’t help you because of the lies, and things go downhill in your life from there.

I hear a version of this all the time.  I recently was contacted by the one person we might be able to help.  His boss told him to lie about how he got hurt, but was dumb enough to do it by text message.

So why do people agree to lie?  There’s pressure.  There’s fear of losing their job.  A misplaced faith in the employer.  A lack of understanding about how workers’ comp really works.

Why does the boss ask you to lie?  If they own the company they are worried about their insurance rates going up.  If they are a supervisor, they are likely compensated by reducing safety issues. Some of these guys literally just don’t want anyone to get any money. They’ve committed a felony and don’t have insurance.

Whatever their reasons, they know how work comp really works and are only looking out for themselves.  There is not one reason a superior would ask you to lie that is for your benefit.

I get that you can feel pressure, but I promise you that I’ve never seen an employer ask a worker to lie and have it not blow up.  The best case scenario is your group insurance pays most of the bills and you end up paying a bunch out of pocket.  That “best case” scenario is also you committing the crime of insurance fraud.  The worst is that it literally ruins your life and you go bankrupt when being honest would have protected you.

We always tell our clients and callers that you have to look out for you.  If someone is asking you to lie, they are looking out for themselves and themselves only.

So please don’t lie.  And if for some reason you feel no choice but to lie because they promise they’ll pay the bills, make sure you get a written agreement from them first.

The One Time You Can Sue Your Employer If Hurt At Work

There is a general rule that you can’t sue your employer for negligence if you are injured on the job. That rule was what created the whole workers’ compensation system in Illinois way back when.  As far as I know, that’s how it is in every state.  The trade off is that you don’t have to prove fault when you get hurt at work either.  This is called the exclusive remedy provision which is fancy legal talk for you can’t sue if you get hurt on the job.

This law hasn’t changed, but there is one exception that does allow you to sue your employer if you are injured while working. It’s rare, but important enough that it’s worth mentioning.

If you are driving for work, or otherwise hurt from someone else’s negligence, and get into an accident, you have a potential lawsuit against the person who hit you.  So if you are a UPS truck driver and you get sideswiped by a car and hurt your back, you can sue the driver of that car.

In car accident cases in Illinois, when an at fault party doesn’t have insurance, you can make a claim against your uninsured motorist policy (UIM).  If you are driving for UPS, you’d have to technically sue UPS because they are self insured.  So you are suing them to get the benefits of the UIM policy.

What you aren’t doing is suing your employer for negligence.  You are suing to get your rights allowed under Illinois personal injury law.  In some cases, a PI lawsuit can be worth more than a work comp claim, especially if you are seriously injured. UIM policies exist to compensate you if the at fault person doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance. The fact that your employer is paying that bill doesn’t mean a thing.

So like I said, it’s a rather rare situation, but car accidents do happen on the job.  If the other party has bad insurance or no insurance, you can look to your employer to fill in the gap.  Even if you have to sue them to make it happen.

We’ve handled many cases like this and would be happy to talk to you for free about any questions you have.  Fill out our contact form or give us a call any time. We cover all of Illinois via our state wide network of attorneys.

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