“Do I Still Have An Illinois Workers’ Compensation Case”

I saw this posted on a legal Q&A forum and I thought it was worth discussing here.  An injured Illinois worker asked the following:

I work in a hospital and I hurt my back crawling on a cement floor putting cell slides away on August 23rd the same day I told my Supervisor. My Supervisor told me to tell my other Supervisor and he was no where to be found. I went to the prompt care that night due not being able to walk or straighten my back and excessive pain. I was told on 9/7/2018 that I didn’t follow the proper follow through. Monday I called into work due to not being able to work and then went Human Resources and filled out a Application for the incident report and then went to Health Occupation. This what Human Resources told me to do. My question is this, how do I find out if I still have an Illinois Workman Compensation Case. My Case Worker told me to continue with Health Occ and Physical Therapy. Well I don’t want to be stuck with $1000s of dollars due a MRI and Physical Therapy. Both my Supervisor’s have been harassing me as well. Need your opinion and advice. Thank you in advance.

There is no such thing as proper follow through, at least not as they are describing it.  She reported her injury the day she got hurt.  That was the proper follow through.  Getting prompt medical treatment was proper follow through too.

She definitely still has a case and all she needs to do to protect herself is file an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the State of Illinois  That will force them to respond to the medical bills.

The reality is that she has done everything right and is just being pressured for no good reason to act like her bills aren’t work related.  Of course there is no reason she should pay anything out of pocket or be stuck with any medical bills at all.

Essentially the company is making up some reporting steps that don’t exist. When you are hurt on the job in Illinois, you have to report it to your employer within 45 days of it happening, hopefully sooner.  If you get medical treatment right away it makes it almost impossible for them to say that your treatment wasn’t for a work injury.  They are playing games with her health when she has done everything right.

The positive here is that it will be an easy problem to solve once the form is filed with the State. Of course it’s a joke that she had to go through this at all.

If you have any questions about your case, please call us at 312-346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois and every consultation is free.

When Illinois Firefighters Are Hurt In Training

Everyone gets that if you are hurt doing your normal job, your injuries should be covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  So if you are a firefighter and run in to a burning building and tear your meniscus or hurt your neck while doing so, there would hopefully be no dispute that you were hurt at work.

But as soon as you do something that helps your job, but isn’t the “main” part of your job, the insurance company will look at it funny and try to find a way to deny you.

It happens to every type of worker, but there was a recent case where an insurance company tried to screw over a firefighter.  The good guy won in the end, but it’s ridiculous he had to go to trial to do so.

What happened was a firefighter went to a training course offered by a neighboring fire department.  While participation in the class was voluntary, it was a class that was meant to improve his work skills and taking a class that improves those skills were a required part of his employment.  Beyond that, he received permission from his boss to attend the course and his employer paid for it.

So what the Judge’s found in this case that went to the Appellate Court was that the skills learned in the class, including rapid intervention training, were a required part of his job. The class made him better at his job.  The course was open only to firefighters, not the public at large and the employer gave him incentives to take this course by giving extra job benefits to workers who took the course.

The training required strenuous physical work and the Court said it could “reasonably be expected” that he would perform this type of training.

In plain English, the employer benefited from this training and approved of it happening.  So while he wasn’t at his normal place of employment or doing what he does on a day to day basis, it was still a part of his job.

In this case it was a fireman, but it could happen with most types of employment too.  Imagine a football coach who goes to take an instructional course taught at another school or even a lawyer like me who has to travel to meet State required continuing legal education requirements.

Hopefully this isn’t confusing, but if you have any questions about Illinois work comp law and want to talk to us for free get in touch any time.

When Your First Injury Causes A Second Injury

Most Illinois workers’ compensation cases are one injury.  You slip on a wet floor and hurt your knee.  You type too much and get carpal tunnel.  You lift a heavy object and throw out your back.  You get the idea.

Sometimes though your work injury can cause a new injury.  You see it the most when someone has an injury to their arm or hand and end up hurting the opposite arm/hand from overuse because they are relying on it too much.

Another big one is when someone is on crutches and the use of crutches causes a shoulder or elbow injury.

A recent case shows a type of second injury that happens a lot but isn’t pursued enough.  A worker had a back injury from catching a patient that the insurance company wasn’t disputing.  What happened was that the back injury made it harder for her to get around and keep her balance.

As a result she was walking one day and her leg gave out, causing her to fall.  She extended her arms to catch herself and in the process hurt her shoulder.

So now a compensable back injury is also a shoulder injury that is fought tooth and nail by the insurance company.  The case went to trial and it was found by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission that “but for” the back injury, the shoulder problem never would have happened.

The concept of “but for” basically means that because the first thing happened, the second thing happened.  In general, if you can trace an injury back to the original problem, then it should all be covered by workers’ compensation.

It’s unfortunate that this worker had to go to trial to get her benefits, but as they usually do, the hearing officers got it right.

Another “but for” problem we see is when someone becomes really depressed after a major injury. If you have a serious operation like a back fusion and can no longer get around or work, if you need psychological treatment because you are depressed and had never needed it before, the work comp insurance carrier should pay for it.

This is really one of those “it doesn’t hurt to ask” type situations.  If you can honestly tell yourself that but for the original accident these other problems wouldn’t have happened then you need to make it a part of your case.

IL Work Comp – When Your Case Is Denied, What Do You Do?

Every day across Illinois, hundreds of people get hurt while working.  Most of those injuries are minor and require little to no treatment. Some of those accidents are of course more serious and require significant medical treatment.

Because you don’t have to pay a penny for medical care when you are hurt at work and because you get to choose your own doctor, your employer’s workers comp insurance carrier will have to get involved.

Insurance companies can be ruthless.  They can act nasty and you know they want to screw you.  Or they can act nice in hopes you won’t realize they are out to get you.  For them the goal is to limit what they pay for your injury.

Now imagine you are walking down the hall at work when you trip on a loose piece of carpet.  You fall and as you do so you put out your arm and end up breaking your wrist.  Seems like a pretty straight forward case, right?  It should be, but cases that obvious will still get denied some times.  And if there is any reason for them to possibly deny you like a failed drug test or a pre-existing condition, you can guarantee your case will be denied.

So what do you do in Illinois when your case is denied?

1. Don’t panic. As I said it happens all the time. The denial isn’t the final decision.

2. Stop talking.  Often insurance companies will twist your words against you to help them deny your case.  Your case is already denied.  Don’t make it worse.

3. Call a lawyer.  It’s free and at this point you have no choice.  If your case is denied because of a failed drug test or pre-existing condition you still can win.  If you said something that was misinterpreted, you can still win.  Getting a free consultation will help you figure out if you really have a case or don’t.

4. Get medical treatment.  Nothing is more important than your health and you don’t want your injury to get worse because you didn’t go to the doctor.

There is a system in place where we as lawyers can get our clients benefits when their cases are unfairly or wrongly denied.  Often once you get a lawyer the insurance company rolls over. Other times we have to go to Arbitration.  Either way, the best thing you can do for you is to learn your options and make an educated decision.

If you’d like a free consult to discuss what happened to you, contact us at any time.

Is Your Lawyer Working For The Insurance Company?

While I always encourage people to work things out with their lawyer if they can, when you have a crappy one and know it, it’s best to switch before it’s too late.  It doesn’t cost anything to switch work comp lawyers in Illinois and if it can you on the right track it’s worth it.

While the number one complaint I get as to why someone wants to change lawyers is that their attorney doesn’t call them back, a close second is that they don’t feel like their attorney is doing anything for them.

For the people who feel (usually rightly so) that their lawyer isn’t a fighter, many will say something like, “I feel he’s working for the insurance company” or “I feel that the insurance company must have paid him off.”

I can assure you that insurance companies don’t pay off lawyers and that while it feels like your lawyer is working for them not you, it’s really more that they are lazy, incompetent and/or just not good at their job.

That said, I get why some people feel this way.  A recent caller to our firm was told two things that are so blatantly false that I can get why she felt the attorney was not in her corner and on the take.

  1. Her benefits had been cut off and she went to an IME exam (also known as a Section 12 exam).  It’s been many weeks and while benefits are still cut off and supposedly it’s because of the IME, they won’t give her lawyer a copy of the report.  He told her that he is not entitled to one.  That’s just not true.
  2. She’s been off work without pay for six weeks.  Her attorney told her he can’t file a trial motion until she’s been off for 12 weeks.  Also way false.

These blatant lies are because the lawyer either doesn’t want to get the case ready for trial or doesn’t know the law.  It’s not a favor to the insurance company, at least not intentionally.

So while I highly encouraged her to switch firms and can get her much more aggressive and competent representation, it’s not a matter of a lawyer being on the take.

These lies were really some of the worst I’ve heard by an attorney as of late.  It’s pretty pathetic. The good news in this case is that it’s not too late to right the ship.

Do I Get A Settlement If I Have A Full Duty Release?

A reader clicked on our live chat feature and asked a very good Illinois workers’ compensation question:

I have a back injury and was released to full duty.  Do I get a settlement?

It’s a question we hear a lot. Under Illinois work comp law, pretty much every injury is worth something even if you get all better. While cases are worth more when you have permanent restrictions, getting a full duty release is not a bar to getting a settlement.

Insurance companies don’t have to make you an offer and when they do it’s usually for way less than the case is worth.  But if they are telling you that you get nothing or less because of a full duty release that is just an out and out lie.

Settlements in Illinois are for what is called permanent partial disability or PPD.  When you are as good as you can get medically speaking (maximum medical improvement is the legal term) it’s time to think about what your case is worth.  While you may be back to your old job, that does not mean the injury won’t affect you in the future.  Most accidents lead to scar tissue or arthritis or generally speaking weaken your body.

Even if you feel that you are better than before, unless you just had a bruise or small contusion your case is likely worth something.  How much it’s worth depends on how serious the injury was, the treatment you’ve had, your need for future care, what job you are able to return to, the amount of money that you make and a few other factors.

While attorney fees are 20% of what is recovered, when insurance companies make you an offer without a lawyer, they typically lop 20% off the top.  In other words, you’ll end up with more with a lawyer than without.

In 2011 the laws in Illinois changed to make something called an AMA rating (American Medical Association).  It’s basically a bogus guidebook that tries to state what impairment you have when hurt.  If you have a full duty release your AMA rating is often 0% or otherwise very low.  That’s not how settlements work in Illinois work comp so don’t listen to the insurance company if they try to scare you with that.

If you have any questions about a settlement or anything else related to work comp and want to talk to an attorney for free, call us at 312-346-5578, fill out our contact form or click the live chat button.  We cover all of Illinois.

Ulnar Nerve Injuries and Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law

If you have ever bumped your elbow and felt a tingling down your arm, you have hit your “funny bone.” However, anyone who has hit this area knows there really isn’t anything funny about it.
Interestingly enough, the “funny bone” isn’t even a bone. Actually, it is a nerve trapped between the elbow bone running down through your shoulder to your little finger called the ulnar nerve. This nerve communicates the feelings between your arms and hands to your brain.

Damaging the ulnar nerve can cause a loss of sensation and muscle weakness, known as ulnar nerve palsy. This condition affects the ability to make fine movements, perform routine tasks and is extremely painful. In severe cases, it can cause muscle wasting, or atrophy.

Another known injury to the ulnar nerve is cubital tunnel syndrome. It’s similar to carpal tunnel syndrome in the sense that both nerve injuries affect the hand, but carpal tunnel syndrome has to do with the median never. Cubital tunnel syndrome involves pressure or stretching of the ulnar nerve, causing numbness or tingling, pain in the forearm and weakness in the hand.

Most of us use our hands and arms a considerable amount when working. Unlike most nerves in the body, the ulnar nerve is unprotected most of the way down, making injuries here more common.

Several work-related activities have been associated with ulnar never palsy. Lifting, working in tight places, digging, using handsaws or large power machinery, constant leaning on the elbow(s), shoveling, hammering and operation punching machines all make one more at risk to injuring the ulnar nerve.

Damage to the ulnar nerve can also result from a car accident, slipping and falling, repetitive arm movements or an accident involving machinery or equipment.  Unlike a broken bone, nerve injuries require a significantly greater period to recover.

The best advice we can give you is that if you start to experience elbow pain is to stop doing the work you are doing and see a doctor ASAP.  Often when you take a rest or do some physical therapy, the problem can be cured.  If you think the problem is work related or might be you should notify your employer right away. If your doctor gives you restrictions you should follow them.

Because these injuries are usually the result of repetitive trauma they are often fought by insurance companies, but that should not discourage you.  If your job activities contributed to your condition you likely have a case.

If you have any questions about elbow injuries at work or anything at all, please call us any time for a free consultation.

Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyers

While we are workers’ compensation lawyers for Illinois, we do try to help our clients/callers with any injury issues they have.  That’s part of delivering good customer service.  It’s also our job as lawyers to analyze every possible issue.  So while I don’t personally handle medical malpractice cases, if I suspect someone might have a case, I refer them to one of the handful of Illinois medical malpractice law firms that have a great track record for these cases.  If you would like our help in finding the best medical malpractice lawyer for you, call us at 312-346-5578 or fill out our contact form.

It is not unusual for a malpractice case to stem from a work injury with the most common one being brain injuries from a surgical error or some sort of major injury due to a botched back surgery.

Medical malpractice lawsuits are hard. While many firms say that they do these cases, the reality is that only a handful can show a true track record of success with them.  These cases are time intensive and cost a ton of money (on average $100,000 I am told) so it’s usually Chicago medical malpractice lawyers who are getting the best results since they can afford to front all of these costs.

Unlike workers’ compensation where you have at least three years to file a case, in Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits you can have as little as one year and as much as eight years from when the malpractice happened to file a lawsuit.  It all depends on who the defendant is and how old the victim is.  Most cases are two years from the malpractice date, but no more than four years from when it happened, but again it could be shorter or longer.

If you look at the list of biggest malpractice verdicts in the last five years, it’s around ten firms that get most of the great results.  Some are better for birth injuries.  Others are better for a failure to diagnose cancer. Some do well with brain injuries.  Some firms seem to only take cases in Cook County while others will go anywhere.

The point is that there is no one best law firm for Illinois medical malpractice lawsuits, but instead a handful that give you the best chance of success.  You certainly don’t want a firm without a track record to take on your case.

Unlike workers’ compensation or car accident cases, almost every malpractice case involves a catastrophic injury.  That’s because of the costs and time involved.  We will talk to you about any case, but even with negligence by a doctor or hospital, if you don’t have something like death, permanent disability, brain damage, loss of a limb, etc., it can often not be worth taking the case.

Cost wise, if any law firm asks you for a penny up front for expenses, they are the wrong firm for you.  The only expense you should have on a case is getting the medical records.  The law firm should pay for all of the expert fees, deposition costs, etc. They get reimbursed when they win.  Their fee, set by Illinois law, is 1/3 of what they recover for you.

Because there can be numerous defendants on a case and often each defendant has their own law firm, it’s not unusual for these cases to take years to complete.  While I can file a work comp case the day you call me, it takes on average six months from the date you first call for a law firm to properly investigate a case and file a lawsuit.  It can’t be done without an affidavit from a doctor supporting that malpractice has occurred.

This is a mouthful and we’ll get back to blogging about work comp after this.  Bottom line is that we know the best lawyers for these cases.  That doesn’t guarantee you a result, but does give you the best chance of success.  If you want to know who we think is right for you just give us a call.

Facet Joint Syndrome And Illinois Work Comp

Countless jobs out there cause strain to the joints by repetitive movement. The constant and repetitiveness of standing, bending, twisting, lifting, reaching and walking can actually be a serious detriment to your health. These simple and continual actions can create wear and tear on joints over time causing many to suffer from arthritis, osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease. Like any joint injury or disease, facet joint injuries can greatly hinder your ability to work.

You might be asking ‘what is a facet joint’? Well, your facet joints actually play a very important role in your everyday motor functions because of the big part it plays in the extension of your back.
The facet joints are not exactly like your knee or finger joints. Rather, they are the moving connectors between the bones in your spine, allowing you to twist, turn and bend. There are two facet joints at each level of the spine, allowing spinal column stability while still giving the ability for movement. The facet joints are not completely immobile and are coated by a very low friction cartridge allowing one another to slide on top of each other.

The joint cartilage can also weaken and even break down over time and has arthritic changes or osteoarthritis. This often can be referred to as facet joint syndrome or disease. This is a progressive condition continuing as the joint deteriorates causing significant pain and discomfort.

Primarily facet syndrome is caused by wear and tear and overuse, such as in repetitive work environments like carpenters repeatedly bending and lifting or assembly line workers performing tedious tasks. Other causes can include a significant motor vehicle accident, specifically in cases of whiplash where there are cervical or lumbar facet joint injuries, and a presence of other spinal conditions.

The diagnosis for facet disease is based on the patient’s symptoms and can only be confirmed by CT, X-rays, MRI scans or injections. However, physicians may not be able to diagnose and detect a facet injury immediately or even several days after an accident.

Facet joint pain can be chronic or recurring, showing up even with the slightest of a wrong movement. Temporary relief and long-term treatments is needed to prevent flare-ups and chronic pain.
Treatment for facet joint injury is usually nonsurgical including physical therapy, exercise, medication or with the work of a chiropractor. Nerve ablation and fusion surgery are also occasional treatments.

Facet disease or syndrome will affect everyone to some extent, but if it becomes symptomatic or disabling, you might want to consider if your job duties contributed to this condition.  As always if you have any questions about this, call us any time for a free consultation.

Proving Carpal Tunnel Is Work Related In Illinois

A reader asked us a long question that I will shorten for the blog.  The question was essentially:

Do you need a doctor to say carpal tunnel came from working on your job or can you beat a case due to the type of work a person has performed for many years?

It’s a good question.  You’d think that if the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has found hundreds of cases of typing all day or working on an assembly line caused carpal tunnel that it should be obvious your carpal tunnel is work related.  Unfortunately it’s not that simple.

When you bring a claim you have the burden of showing that it’s more likely than not that your job played a role in whatever injury you have.  So while typing and forcefully using your hands all day can cause carpal tunnel, so can many other things.

As a result, to win your case, you need an opinion from a doctor, preferably an orthopedic one, that discusses the role your job had in your injury.  You shouldn’t just ask your doctor if it’s work related but instead should be very detailed about your job duties and then ask the question.  The doctor needs to know how long you’ve been doing the job, how often you do the activities, what type of force or angle you use, what you notice while working, what you notice at the end of the shift, etc.

It would be the same for any other injury that is from repetitive trauma and not a singular accident.

You could theoretically win without a doctor’s opinion, but it would be a terrible idea to go that route.  I certainly can’t recall a case that was won that way and even the worst lawyers I know don’t go that route.

Whether you want to hire a lawyer or not, I highly recommend that you speak with one before asking your doctor to comment.  Asking the question the right way and understanding the law can often be the difference between winning and losing one of these cases.