Dentists With Pulmoary Fibrosis and Illinois Work Comp

Dental workers are getting sick, is their work environment to cause? According to the CDC, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) may be linked to the dentistry field.   So if you are a dentist, dental hygenist or other dental worker in Illinois and you have pulmonary fibrosis, you may have a workers’ compensation case.

IPF is a pulmonary disease that causes scarring in the lungs, which over time makes it nearly impossible for a person to breathe. Typically, this disease starts with shortness of breath, a dry cough and possibly fatigue. The disease progresses quickly and aggressively with an average 2.5 years survival after diagnosis. There are many professions that can contribute or even fully be the cause of IPF. Many of these professions involve breathing toxicity on a daily basis. In the dental field, that can mean powder forms of acrylics, silica and other compounds. It is clear that more studies need to be done to determine what other job related exposures could be causing dental workers harm.

All of these breathable toxins a person could be exposed to at work, make this a workers compensation case. In this specific case, all medical bills would be covered by workers comp, as well as a percentage of loss wages due to the illness.

Since this is such a serious illness, it’s not uncommon for people to stop working after they are diagnosed.  To have a claim you likely have to file it with the State within three years of your last exposure which presumably is your last day worked.  In other words, if you think you may have been injured due to conditions at work, call us today to review your specific details.  It’s a free consultation and we will help you figure out if there is a case or not.

A couple things to know:

1. If you are going through this you are not alone. This CDC report was issued after it became clear that a lot of dentists were being diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, especially compared to other professions.

2. These aren’t slam dunk cases by any means. You have to establish the toxins you’ve been exposed to as well as the frequency and need a doctor to state that your job contributed to your problems.

3. If you do have a case, all of your medical bills will be paid for, all of your time off work will be compensated and you will receive a payment for the permanent nature of your condition.

4. There is no cost to start a case and no fee unless you are successful.

Not every attorney can handle a case like this.  If you want to speak with an experienced lawyer call us any time at 312-346-5578 for a confidential, free consultation.

Illinois Maximum TTD and PPD Rates Have Changed

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has updated the minimum and maximum benefits rates. The Commission provides these updates twice a year. These benefits rates are the upper and lower limits on the amount a person can receive on a weekly basis if he/she is not able to earn their regular wages because of a work injury.

For example, if you are injured and not able to work while you recover, you can receive Temporary Total Disability (TTD) payments. Another way of qualifying for TTD is if your doctor has given you restrictions on the work you can do post-injury, and your employer doesn’t have work for you that fits within those restrictions. TTD payments are equal to 2/3 of your average weekly wage. If you normally earn $900.00 a week, you would receive $600.00 a week according to Illinois workers’ compensation law. The precise amount varies from person to person, unless the minimum or maximum rate applies.

For injuries occurring on or after January 15, 2018, the maximum TTD rate is $1,463.80. The maximum rate serves as a cap on the amount you can receive. If 2/3 of your average weekly wage is above that amount, you won’t get the full 2/3.  So someone who makes $250,000.00 a year and is off on work comp would only get $1,463.80 at most.

The State of Illinois also sets a minimum rate so injured workers are guaranteed a certain amount. The current minimum is $220.00. If you have a spouse and/or children, the minimum rate increases for each dependent, and can reach up to the $330.00 maximum rate.

Here is a list of the updated rates as of January 15, 2018:
Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
Maximum = $1,463.80
Minimum = $220.00 (up to $330 if spouse and children)

Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
Maximum = $790.64
Minimum = $220.00

State Average Weekly Wage = $1,097.85

Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
Maximum = $1,463.80
Minimum = $548.93

The minimum and maximum rates are set, but your individual rate may fall in between those two limits. It is important to make sure your average weekly wage is calculated correctly and that you are getting all the benefits you are entitled to under Illinois law. You may not want to take your employer’s word for it, or the insurance company’s word for it. If you would like to verify that your wages and benefits are accurate, talk to an experienced attorney who knows wage calculations and is familiar with the ways in which insurance companies tend to underpay injured workers, please do not hesitate to contact us for a free consultation.

Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Truck Drivers

We are a Chicago injury law firm that helps people with accidents anywhere in Illinois.  We are experienced and fight for our clients for whom we get great results. If you’d like our help fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578 for a free consultation.

In over 20 years of being a lawyer I’ve helped people with Illinois work injuries from every state in the country.  This is mostly because I’ve represented a lot of truck drivers.

A truck driver is often injured at work, away from his or her “home base” on a delivery in a different state when an on the job accident occurs. Sometimes these accidents are actual vehicle accidents; some are related to injuries sustained while loading or unloading. Regardless of the severity of the accident, any on the job injury is serious and where the driver was hired, primarily work from, and even where they were hurt can make all the difference in determining which state will handle their workers comp case.

Take for instance the case where a truck driver was employed in Illinois, but was injured on a delivery in Georgia. The driver’s employer is based in Illinois, which makes his case Illinois workers comp case regardless of what state he was in when he was hurt. In another case, a driver primarily works in Illinois, but is based out of Tennessee. While working in Florida, he injured himself; but because he works primarily in Illinois, he can file in Illinois. This is good news for the drivers because Illinois specifically is a much better state when it comes to filing workers comp cases for on the job injuries.

And of course any driver who gets injured in Illinois can file a case here no matter what their agreement with their company says.  Most of the drivers who don’t live here have come in contact with me because they were hurt here.

There are many reasons Illinois is just better with regards to workers comp. Some states limit the income you can receive from workers comp, others put a cap on the total you can receive regardless of your injury. Some states even take away your right to choose your own doctor and force you to use a doctor of your employers choosing.

This is all very important because it allows you, the injured worker, the right to choose where to file your workers compensation claim.  In fact, even if you settled your case in one state, we still might be able to get you more money in Illinois.  If you want to know your options via a free consultation we are happy to talk to you at any time.

PTSD and Illinois Workers’ Compensation Claims

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a really serious problem in our country. While it’s most associated with soldiers coming back from war, the truth is that it occurs in civilian jobs too.  The most common example is someone who gets robbed at gun point and mentally can not feel comfortable with a return to work. You can’t self diagnose a problem just like you can’t show a broken leg without an x-ray or a torn rotator cuff without a MRI.  You need to seek medical treatment with a psychologist or psychiatrist and follow their plan of care.

A recent case at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission highlighted what is needed to win a PTSD case.  A Village of Homewood firefighter was at a house fire when a flashover occurred in the house, causing major injuries to one of his co-workers and ultimately a death.  Having witnessed the fire and the injuries to his co-worker, the claimant alleged PTSD.

He won his case because to win a claim for psychological injuries at work in Illinois, you have to show that your injury came from a single, traumatic event.  So if your boss yells at you every day or there is too much work for you to handle, you will not win your case.  But seeing a co-worker die usually qualifies.

In this case, the fireman proved his injuries by seeking treatment with a psychiatrist for about nine  months.  The good news is that he was eventually able to return back to his old job and perform his work duties without a problem.  The bad news was that he continued to experience PTSD problems including flashbacks which occur multiple times a day as well as difficulty sleeping.

The key points in any one of these events are that it must be one time, shocking (something the general public doesn’t usually experience) and you have to prove your injury through medical treatment.

We’ve helped a lot of Illinois workers with PTSD and while we hope you aren’t going through that, we’d be honored to help you if you are. Having an attorney who understands these unique injuries and the seriousness of PTSD is really important.  A true PTSD problem isn’t something you can just wish away or make better with positive thoughts.  It’s no different than if you wanted to just wish away a broken leg or cancer.  We get it.  If you’d like our help or just have questions, call us any time at (312) 346-5578.

How A Truck Driver Proved He’s NOT An Independent Contractor

Shady employers cheat the Government and employees by calling their workers independent contractors when they really aren’t.  It happens to no profession more than truck drivers.

There was a recent court case decided in favor of a truck driver who was told he wasn’t an employee and did a great job of showing why he is.

A little back story.  This driver delivered freight for a trucking company.  One day he was unloading product from his truck and slipped, causing a back injury.  He filed for workers’ compensation benefits and was denied as they called him an independent contractor.

At trial he testified that he was not told which routes to take when making his deliveries, but was told which product to load, where to deliver it and when to do it.  He further testified that he hauled EXCLUSIVELY for the defendant and the Arbitrator noted that his deliveries were per-determined by the employer and started the same time every week.  Also, the employer had the right to fire the driver at will and did so when the injured worker could no longer do his job. In addition he had to take a pre-employment drug test.

While there were some issues that pointed to him being a contractor, namely that he owned the truck and had the ability to hire his brother to help him perform the work, the biggest point was that the trucking company had a right of control over him.

In any similar case, there will always be evidence not in your favor.  If you are a 1099 or signed an agreement that says you are not an employee, they will use that against you.  Bottom line for this driver or for you not matter what profession you are in is how much control do they have over you.

If you look at my office, I could call my secretary a contractor, but the reality is that I set her hours, tell her what to do and could fire her whenever I want. She has the ability to work for others outside of normal working hours, but from 9-4:30 she works for me.  She’s clearly an employee.  Contrast that with a woman who answered an ad of mine looking for someone to perform a research project.  While I’m instructing her on what needs to be done, she does it from home at her leisure and can do other jobs for other people and my work on the side.  She’s clearly a contractor.

A lot of business owners think they are smarter than they are or try to pull a fast one.  The good news is that Illinois work comp law has a lot of common sense in it.  No matter what they call you, if they control you then you should be able to win benefits.

IL Work Comp – One Reason Your Medical Bills Won’t Get Paid

It takes a lot to become an orthopedic doctor.  Because those jobs tend to pay so well, many of the best and brightest medical students take those jobs.  Most doctors in that practice make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year if not millions.  Essentially once you get in to that area of practice you’ll never have to worry about money again. That is unless you are so greedy that you lie and steal your way to more until you get caught.

While we don’t tell our clients who they have to treat with if they are injured (some really shady lawyers do and it’s often a tit for tat situation), we will make recommendations if asked.  If you are with a terrible medical group we will warn you and encourage you to seek treatment elsewhere.  That’s because some medical practices have such bad reputations at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission that insurance companies won’t pay the bills if you get hurt and treat there.

There is one outfit in the Chicago area that supposedly only has the patients meet with physician assistants instead of the doctor.  They then (allegedly) fraudulently bill as if the doctor saw the patient.  This is great for their bottom line and probably their golf game, but it’s terrible for your health and your work comp case.

One of these groups was all over lawyers last summer at a work comp attorney golf outing.  There’s nothing wrong with doctors and lawyers talking or being friends.  I do have a problem with attorneys who look out for doctors more than their clients and doctors who look out for lawyers more than their patients.  Many of these doctors will order treatment until the bills aren’t getting paid and will then say you are fine.  Some of them require you to do physical therapy at their office.

If you have a doctor’s appointment and don’t see a doctor, it’s a really bad sign. Physicians assistants shouldn’t be treating torn ACL’s, herniated discs, labrum tears or any other serious injury.  If your doctor is billing as if he’s seeing you when he’s not, it’s insurance fraud.

The bottom line is that these types of doctors are bad for your health and can lead to your medical bills not getting paid if you are hurt at work.  Insurance companies have to pay for reasonable medical care.  Fake billing of course isn’t reasonable medical care and could potentially lead to the doctor suing you.

My Boss Won’t Fill Out An Accident Report

There is an Illinois law that says when a worker is injured at work, the company has to fill out an incident report and file it with the State.

I can tell you that this law is like speeding five miles over the limit and getting a ticket. It’s a law on the books, but it’s ignored way more often than it is enforced.

A caller to my office was upset that her temp agency boss wouldn’t fill out an accident report because he didn’t want to ruin the relationship with the client where she was staffed.  Her boss made her feel like if he didn’t fill out a report that she couldn’t pursue a case for her injured back.

This was frustrating for her and is frustrating for any other worker that goes through that.  The good news is that not filling out an accident report has no impact at all on your ability to bring a case and receive benefits.  The real purpose of these reports has gone from the State collecting data to the insurance companies investigating a case.  In other words, the inaction of your boss might end up helping you in the long run.

To solve this problem you simply have to formally file a case with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission by filing a form called an Application for Adjustment of Claim.  Doing so and having it sent to your employer has the same practical effect that an accident report has and more importantly, it puts the insurance company on a timeline to pay your case or explain why it is denying it.

In general, the accident report is a perception versus reality situation and if you let it bother you, you are either being told incorrect information or over analyzing the situation.  Should you ask your employer to fill out an accident report?  Absolutely.  But if they refuse it’s really their problem, not yours, as long as you deal with it by formally filing your case.

This can be confusing and aggravating and in a perfect world the employer and insurance company would do the right thing, but the truth is that doesn’t usually happen.  No sweat. The law is on your side and while they might be looking out for themselves and their best interests, if you do the same and look out for yourself, everything will be fine.

Chicago Fire and MLS Players Are Leaving Money On The Table

We are work injury attorneys in Chicago who cover the entire state of Illinois.  We are straight forward, blunt and care about our clients.  If you need help with a case or just want to ask a question for free, contact us at any time.

In my spare time, I coach soccer and while it doesn’t have the reputation, I can tell you that it’s a big time contact sport.  As a result there are a ton of injuries.  In fact on the high school team I helped out with this year we had a torn ACL, a broken elbow, a torn quad muscle, a broken arm, a severe concussion, multiple knee strains and multiple ankle injuries.  Some were in practices, some were in games.  We saw our opponents lose players to similar injuries and broken legs too.

The physicality at the professional level is much greater of course.  If you ever see a MLS game up close you will see that it’s a grown man’s game and that players who hold on to the ball too long tend to get punished.  Simply put, there’s no way to avoid injuries.

Professional athletes have the same rights under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act as any other workers do.  Major League Soccer players for the most part don’t make a ton of money, at least not compared to other pro athletes and the injuries they suffer can have severe financial consequences for them.

Despite this, a search on the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission website only shows active cases for seven Chicago Fire players, most if not all who no longer play for the team.  Players from other teams who get hurt while playing in Illinois can also bring cases here, but I’ve found no evidence of anyone having done that.

Simply put, these players are leaving money on the table and if they have career ending injuries or serious accidents like a torn ACL, we are talking big money. They also likely are only treating with the team doctors who might be looking out for the team when they could treat with a doctor of their own choosing if they wanted to.

It’s the same story in the WNBA where the Chicago Sky only has four active cases despite scores of injuries taking place. One of those cases is for Elena Delle Donne who might be the best player in the league and is no longer with the team.  I get that some marginal players might be nervous to bring a case, but with both the MLS and WNBA, established players aren’t doing it either nor does it appear they are doing it when their careers are over due to injury.

I don’t know the unions for these teams, but I wonder if they are giving their members the best advice.  These aren’t athletes who are able to retire when their careers are done and their careers are often cut short due to injury.  Failure to file cases is essentially giving money they are entitled to back to their teams.

We have been involved in many cases for pro athletes, but whether you are in the NFL or work construction or are a CNA, we want all Illinois employees to exercise their rights.  When one group doesn’t it has the ability to impact others.

 

Can I Go On My Vacation After I Got Hurt At Work?

A caller to our office suffered a really serious shoulder injury that was going to keep her out of work for three months or more following a surgery.  She was in physical therapy and making great progress, but got very upset and nervous after receiving a call from an insurance adjuster telling her that she was at risk having her benefits cut off.

Long story short is that she and her husband had planned a wedding anniversary trip for a long time and it was coming up in a week.  It was supposed to be a week of rest and relaxation in Mexico, but it would cause her to miss three physical therapy sessions.  The adjuster said that if she went her benefits would be cut off for not being compliant with her medical care.

So, can they do that?

Like most cases, the answer is it depends.  Getting hurt at work doesn’t mean you give up your life.  If you hurt your shoulder you’ll probably have to drop out of your bowling league, but it doesn’t prevent you from going out to dinner with friends.  You aren’t expected to be a shut in and sit on your couch all day until you are 100% better.  Life goes on and you are allowed to live it.

So can she go on a vacation for a week? Absolutely.  She’ll need to be careful with the luggage and if she gets caught water skiing or doing some other activity that would be bad for her arm, that could hurt her case.  If she decided she wanted to leave for an unreasonable period of time (e.g. more than 10 days or so) then it could hurt her case.  If she wants to go on another vacation right after this and miss more therapy it could hurt her case.

Otherwise this is not unusual or unexpected and we’d push back hard against any attempt to screw with her benefits.  Imagine if it was her daughter’s destination wedding.  Is she supposed to skip that?  That’s ridiculous.  What if it was her high school reunion?  Or Thanksgiving or Christmas? Life goes on even when you are hurt at work and you are allowed to live it.

The bottom line is that missing three physical therapy sessions won’t derail her recovery and quite honestly, she can talk to her therapist and they can give her a program to do while on vacation that will be 90% as good as going to the center.  And it won’t cost the insurance company any money!!!

This is as they say a nothing burger other than an over zealous insurance adjuster messing with her.  The good news is that it’s an easy fix.

If you have any concerns about a case, contact us at any time for a free consultation.

IL Work Comp – Gave Two Weeks Notice And Then Got Hurt

We are experienced workers’ compensation attorneys, based out of Chicago, with a state wide network of like minded lawyers so we can help you anywhere in Illinois. We offer honest, blunt advice and treat our clients like family members. If you have a question or want help with a case, fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578 for a free consultation.

A reader asks:

I have been working at a warehouse and put in my two weeks notice because I found another job. A couple days after I did that I was lifting a box and strained my back.  I’ve hurt my back before, but never like this.  My boss thinks I’m faking, but I have a new job lined up that I can’t work anymore. What do I do?  Do I have a case?

Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, you are covered if hurt on the job from the moment you start working until the moment you stop.  Just because he had put in his two weeks notice did not stop him from being an employee nor did it take away his rights under the law.

So he can get all of his medical bills related to the injury paid like any other worker.  If he’s completely disabled from working he will get TTD benefits.  When he’s all better he can get a settlement.

The one issue that he’s created for himself is that if his doctor releases him to work with restrictions, the employer can lie and say that they would have accommodated those restrictions and given him a light duty job had he not quit.  That’s an argument for another day though.

The other issue you can bet will be raised, because Illinois work comp insurance companies are ruthless, is that they will “investigate” this case because to an insurance company, if you get hurt after putting in your two weeks or your boss doesn’t believe you, then surely you are trying to pull a scam.

The way to counter this nonsense is to simply get an official claim on file at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  Once that happens it puts the insurance company on a time limit to respond and their failure to do so could result in penalties against them.

For you the worker, the most important thing is your health so if you do get injured, even if it’s on your last day as you’re getting ready to walk out the door (we’ve seen that happen), just report your injury, get medical care and listen to what your doctor has to say.  Your case is essentially like any other and your rights are the same as well.

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