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.

Knee Replacements And Illinois Workers Compensation

It’s not unusual for people as they get older to have trouble with their knees. Many people are able to manage their pain with over-the-counter pain medication like Advil. For others, however, a partial or total knee replacement may be the only solution.

Many people wrongly assume that knee replacement surgery and rehab cannot be covered by workers’ compensation unless they suffered a specific injury to their knee. In fact, you can have worn down knees from “life” (e.g., decades of physical activity, arthritis), but if your job contributes to your condition, your medical care should be covered.  That means 100% of your medical bills. NO co-pays, no out of pocket expenses. Under Illinois law, you’d also be able to get compensated for time off work and get a settlement to compensate you as well.

Not everyone we talk to understands what we mean when we say you can win a work comp case even if you have arthritis and not an accident. Let’s say, for example, that you’ve played competitive sports since you were a child, and you’ve held jobs that require manual labor. You’ve suffered wear and tear on your knees over the years and working at your current job over the last few years has aggravated or accelerated your knee problems. You would likely be entitled to workers’ compensation under Illinois law.  The job has to be a contributing factor, not the only factor.

What types of jobs might accelerate the deterioration of your knees? Studies have shown that the occupations toughest on the knees are in the industries of agriculture, construction, mining, service, and cleaning/housekeeping. Carpenters, bricklayers, and floor installers are particularly at risk.

And what job duties tend to aggravate knee pain and damage? Not surprisingly, excessive kneeling, squatting, lifting, standing, and climbing stairs on the job tend to aggravate workers’ knees.

Knee replacements have come a long way in the last decade or so. Doctors performing the procedure will cut away damaged bone and cartilage from the kneecap, shinbone, and thighbone and replace it with an artificial joint. The new joint is made of metal alloys, high-grade plastics, and polymers, and is attached with a type of cement. Surgery for a partial or total knee replacement typically lasts 1-3 hours. Short-term recovery, where patients can walk with minimal or no aid, usually occurs within 6-12 weeks. Long-term recovery, where patients can return to work and daily life activities, typically occurs within 3-6 months of the surgery.

If you are in this situation, with arthritis or general wear and tear on your knees that has worsened due to your job, please give us a call. We will listen to your situation and possibly help you ask the right questions to your doctor to make sure you receive the benefits you deserve. The overwhelming majority of people who have knee replacements experience relief from pain, improved mobility, and a better quality of life. Let us do our part in helping you get there.

Permanent Restrictions And Illinois Workers Compensation Settlements

We have been handling workers’ compensation claims in Illinois since 1997. If you would like a free consultation with an attorney, fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578. We cover all of Illinois.

The top work comp question any Illinois attorney gets is “What is my case worth?” The answer always depends on a lot of things including your wages, your age, the medical care you’ve had, and the medical care you might need in the future. The biggest factor though is what is your recovery and do you have any permanent restrictions?

The reality is that if you’ve been hurt at work and you need permanent restrictions, your case will be worth more money than if you had made a full recovery. A permanent restriction can be something like no lifting over 20 pounds, a limited time period in which you can type, or an order for you not to do any overhead work.  The more serious the restriction, the more the case is worth.

So how much more is it worth?

Every case is different. If you have a 20-pound lifting restriction but your normal job never requires that much lifting, it won’t make your case worth that much more. On the other hand, if you had to switch jobs within the company, the restriction will add value to your case.

Where a permanent restriction really changes what a case is worth is when your employer doesn’t have a job for you within your restrictions.  If you were a high-wage earner and now are without a job, if you can’t find a job making close to what you used to make, it’s likely your case will be worth somewhere in the six figures.  We’ve helped a lot of union workers who used to make $50 or so an hour and now can only make minimum wage. This is proven by going through vocational rehabilitation and doing a job search.  A case that might be worth $50,000.00 with a full recovery can suddenly be worth closer to $500,000.00.  The other factors such as your age are a factor too, but not nearly as important as your job status.

In other cases, your injuries are so severe that you have restrictions that not only your employer can’t accommodate them, nobody can.  When there is no stable job market for you due to a work-related injury, you are considered to be permanently disabled.  Those cases are also worth significantly more than a case where someone makes a full recovery and are almost always worth somewhere in the six figures.

The bottom line is that restrictions will increase what your case is worth and in some cases will increase it by a lot.  And if you want a free review to discuss what your case might be worth you can contact us any time to speak with a lawyer.

Does Your Work Comp Lawyer Ignore You?

The biggest problem people have with their Illinois workers compensation lawyers is bad customer service.  Some lawyers are rude. Others don’t fight hard.  And many are terrible about keeping their clients updated or returning phone calls.

I’ve heard lots of stories about an attorney not returning multiple phone calls or failing to get back to a client for a couple of weeks. That is inexcusable and a reason to fire the lawyer, but it does seem to happen a lot. What I heard from a recent caller though was unprecedented until I heard the same thing from a different worker a day later.

A woman called me about a recent work accident she was in.  We discussed the case and because she works five hours from Chicago, I connected her with a great southern Illinois work comp attorney I work with on cases.  While talking to her, I noticed that she had a case from a 2018 accident in which she had hired a different law firm. We brought up that case and she said that she hadn’t heard back from that law firm for two and a half years!

I can’t even imagine how this is possible. In the very least, work comp cases have status hearings every 90 days or so. It’s the job of your lawyer if they aren’t talking to you about other case issues to let you know that a status hearing happened and what the next status date will be. They also should be seeking out updates related to your health or other cases issues.  If they don’t know your case and what is going on, they can’t properly represent you. It’s certainly up to the client to be an active communicator as well, but if you don’t hear from a client for a while, you need to get in touch.

This is customer service 101. It’s not taught in law school, but it’s basis or at least it should be.  From a selfish standpoint, that law firm isn’t going to get paid unless they settle the case. They can’t do that if they aren’t talking to their client. It blows me away that this could even happen once.

Yet it happened at least twice because the next day I heard from someone who hired a completely different firm in the Chicago area and hadn’t heard from them for just over two years. She had left messages without a call back. My best guess is that her original attorney left the firm and the case has gotten lost in the shuffle since then. Nobody feels connected to the case since they weren’t with this client from the beginning. Again it’s just shameful.

While these are extreme examples, they are a symptom of a bigger problem.  Some attorneys don’t think the clients matter. That is wrong and you should not stand for it. If your lawyer isn’t getting back to you then you need to move on from them.

IL Work Comp, Injured In Physical Therapy

I recently was contacted by an injured Illinois worker with a unique situation. I’ll let them explain.

I was in physical therapy while rehabbing a work related injury to my shoulder. During PT, I was doing lifting and ended up with a hernia. Will the work comp insurance take care of that or is it something else.

First off, in my 24 years of practice, I’ve seen a handful of injured workers hurt a different body part in physical therapy, but I’d never heard of a hernia happening until now.

Second, any injuries that stem from the original injury are covered under your first work comp case. In other words, this person wouldn’t have been in physical therapy if it wasn’t for the work injury.  Because the hernia can be traced back to the shoulder injury, it should be covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

This situation is more common than you’d think.  We see a lot of injured workers on crutches for a leg injury ending up with an elbow or shoulder injury due to the crutches. People who have injured one hand will favor the other and cause a new injury.  A leg injury might make you more likely to have a fall at home. If that happens and you are hurt it just adds on to the original case.

And certainly any injury that occurs during work comp related physical therapy should be covered.  You’ll need your doctor to agree that the injury happened due to being in PT. In some cases it’s easy such as if you have a fall on a wet floor or drop something on your foot. In other cases like this it’s unusual, but not impossible to get a hernia during therapy and a doctor’s supporting statement will go a long way toward getting benefits.

You can expect that the insurance company will fight any claim of injury due to being in rehab. They don’t want cases to get bigger and they don’t usually just roll over and pay on claims.  That’s alright, we don’t expect insurance companies to do the right thing.  The good news is that the law is on your side if this happens to you. If the medical documentation supports you, you should win.

So if you feel pain during physical therapy, make sure to tell the therapist so it’s reflected in the notes. If you have a fall, even if you feel fine at first, make sure they are aware in case things get worse later.  And above all, just tell the truth and don’t embellish. If you don’t report the pain one day because you didn’t think it was a big deal, as soon as you think it might be, make them aware of it.

We are experienced Illinois workers’ compensation lawyers. If you would like to speak with an attorney for free, contact us any time at 888-705-1766.  We cover all of Illinois.

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Horror Stories

Because we are experienced Illinois workers compensation attorneys who will talk to anyone for free, we get a lot of calls from people who are already represented by an attorney. We are happy to provide a confidential second opinion and will consider taking over the case if it makes sense for you and us.

Most people who have concerns actually have no need to switch lawyers. Usually we can explain what is happening and clear things up. A lot of times though we hear horror stories about attorneys who are doing a terrible job. Here are some low-lights of late, some of which border on legal malpractice.  Again, none of this was done by our office or any lawyer we’d recommend.

  1. A caller has been off work with a major injury for almost a year. Her benefits were cut off after she failed to attend an independent medical examination. Why didn’t she show up?  Her lawyer didn’t tell her that it had been scheduled by the insurance company. To make matters worse, the attorney acted like they did nothing wrong.
  2. An attorney told their client that if they didn’t get any improvement with their injury the case would have to be closed. I can’t even imagine what they were trying to say or why they’d say it and had to ask three times if it was really their lawyer, not the insurance adjuster, that said this.
  3. The attorney had a Zoom with the client and was in their boxers on the call.  Apparently they tried to be neck up only, but forgot about how they’d dressed and stood up to get something. It’s really just unprofessional.
  4. A young attorney told a potential client that they only had two years from the accident date to file a case, when the truth is it’s at least three.  It’s a horror story for so many reasons, the two biggest being that this is basic work comp law stuff and that no lawyer should give advice if they aren’t sure of the answer.
  5. The worker had a back injury and contact dermatitis. The lawyer they hired said contact dermatitis can never be work injury. That is simply not true.
  6. The lawyer said he’d only take the case on if the worker would go to the doctor he recommended.
  7. After asking for an in person meeting, the lawyer agreed, but only their staff was there and they wanted to participate by Zoom. It wasn’t fear over Covid, it seems they just didn’t want to come downtown.
  8. After telling the client’s daughter that they had a Spanish speaker on staff, it turns out that they really only have a person down the hall at another law firm who will help when they can.
  9. One lawyer accidentally emailed the client when they meant to email the other attorney and was complaining about the client.  That’s rude, inappropriate and careless.
  10. Multiple attorneys have refused to guide clients who needed help with other areas of law. A refusal to suggest another lawyer that might be able to help is just bad customer service.

Hopefully you aren’t dealing with a horror story, but if you have any problems or want to speak to an attorney for free, please contact us any time.

I Don’t Trust Illinois Work Comp Insurance Companies

One of my strengths as an attorney is that I know that even after 24 years I can always learn more.  That’s one reason why I am always talking to other attorneys who I respect and picking their brains.

I had the opportunity to do that recently with a top Waukegan workers’ compensation attorney.  When going over different scenarios of advice to give injured workers at the beginning of a case, he summed things up best when he said the following:

Bottom line, I don’t trust Illinois workers’ compensation insurance companies.

While it sounds so simple, these are great words of advice to remember. One of the most common scenarios I come across is hearing from injured workers that they aren’t sure if they should get a lawyer because “the insurance company is doing everything they should so far.” To an injured worker not familiar with how the system works, this means they are getting their medical treatment and compensation for time off of work.

But when I dig deeper, I usually find what I expect to find. The insurance company is playing a longer game in order to save money in the end. What will usually happen is I’ll ask if they gave a recorded statement and find out the answer is yes. That’s a trap they set to try and find a reason to deny you. Then I’ll ask if there is a nurse case manager on the case.  That person is an insurance rep who contacts your doctors, often illegally and at times will try to be in the exam room. When I hear that they are involved, I let the worker know that is another trap.  It’s possible that the doctor didn’t order medical care they think you need because they were talked out of it before they could even bring it up with you.

Most doctors care about their patients, but also want to be paid. So if a nurse case manager is implying bills won’t get paid if they don’t follow the more conservative (and cheaper) plan they want in place, it might be that you don’t get that MRI or surgery even though the doctor thinks it’s best.

Even without those things, it could be an “independent medical exam” or surveillance or a medical authorization form that gives them access to your entire history of medical care even though they don’t have a right to anything not related to the job injury.

You don’t know what you don’t know and can’t be expected to have an understanding of every trap or trick out there. And believe it or not, the insurance company seeming like they are nice or doing the right things is often a set up that will burn you later. The bottom line is insurance companies are in it to make money for themselves, not look out for you.  They are not to be trusted.  Ever.

We are experienced Illinois work injury attorneys who will talk to you for free. If you want our help please contact us any time to speak with an attorney.

How A Green Bay Packer Can Have An Illinois Work Comp Case

Another NFL season is almost upon us. For Chicago Bears fans that means one thing. It’s time to get ready for another season of disappointment. I certainly didn’t think when I was in 8th grade that would be the last Super Bowl victory in my lifetime, but here we are.

For Chicago Bears players, unfortunately, the new season also likely means injuries.  They are like any other Illinois worker when it comes to accidents on the job and are covered by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

But you know what other NFL players can take advantage of the Illinois Work Comp Act even though their employment is in places like Green Bay, Wisconsin or Detroit, Michigan?  All of them if they get hurt while playing a game in Chicago.

When the Packers come to town, they are traveling employees. If they get hurt while working in Illinois, they, like any other worker whose business gets the benefit of them going out of state.  They get to file for an Illinois work comp claim.

This is a really important part of the law.  For Aaron Rodgers, if he gets hurt, he presumably isn’t going to be worried about money or having his medical bills covered.  But for around 75% of the NFL whose careers are less than three years, getting good work comp benefits could keep them out of bankruptcy or in some cases prevent them from being homeless.

Where you can bring a legal case is called jurisdiction. Under IL law for work injury jurisdiction, you can file your case here if you primarily work out of Illinois, were in Illinois when hired or your accident took place in Illinois.  So a Bears player can bring a workers’ compensation case here no matter where the injury took place and players on visiting teams can bring a case if they get hurt at Soldier Field or even if they get hurt while in Illinois for the game.

You don’t think of NFL players being on a business trip, but the reality is that they are.  So just like you, if they are in town for work and go to a restaurant and slip on a wet floor, that would be a covered work comp injury.  It’s not just the dangerous game they play that can cause a work-related accident.

While I’ve helped many pro athletes in the past, most of my readers work “regular” jobs.  But no matter what you do, it’s important to know that if you are injured while on business in Illinois, even if it’s not doing your primary job, you are covered by our laws.  And whether you play in the NFL, drive a truck, or are a salesperson, being able to take advantage of Illinois laws can literally be the difference of hundreds of thousands of dollars for you.

We are experienced Illinois attorneys who will talk to you for free. If you’d like to speak with a lawyer, call us any time at 888-705-1766.

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