IL Work Comp – Don’t “Man Up”

Oh man, did a recent call I had with an injured worker make my blood boil! I get so pissed off by insurance companies and employers who do things that are blatantly illegal.

In this case, a worker got a terrible arm injury that required more than 50 stitches when they were pinned against a wall by a forklift. What happened next was I was told of three things that their boss said that are blatantly illegal/wrong.

1. The boss said no work comp because they should have jumped out of the way.

2. When presented with an off work slip from the doctor, the boss said they would get fired if they didn’t get back to work soon.

3. When the worker said that they should listen to their doctor, the boss told them to “Man up” and get back to work.

First off, Illinois is a no fault law when it comes to work comp. So the fact that this worker didn’t jump out of the way is irrelevant. Not to mention that their back was turned and the person driving the forklift had been on the job a short time and wasn’t properly trained.

Second, it’s incredibly illegal to fire someone for not getting back to work soon after you are hurt when a doctor takes you off work. The way this boss did it, if they did fire the worker, I think there would be a significant, high dollar lawsuit for wrongful termination.

And finally, you should never “man up” because someone else wants you to. It’s in their interests, not yours. And in this case, if the worker did go back to the job, they’d be highly susceptible to a terrible infection. They work in an area with a lot of dust and debris and they had more than 50 stitches. If that wound gets infected, it could cause all sorts of problems which could lead to them being off work for an even longer period and even put themselves at the risk of amputation or death from sepsis.

I see these “man up” statements a lot when it comes to people with back injuries. They get sent back to work with lifting restrictions. For the most part those restrictions get followed, but at some point the boss man needs help lifting something and tells their injured employee to man up and help out.

These tough talk guys are big phonies and usually the ones that whine the most when something is wrong with them. They are the fakest of tough guys and often terrible people that don’t care about others. They think they are the smartest guy in the room always. You know the type.

The good news is that the law is very clearly on your side. A good attorney can protect you through this process. If you ignore your doctor’s restrictions, you put your health and also your work comp case at risk. I can’t encourage you enough to think long term. I know people are worried about losing their job, but a good lawyer can help you document things properly and make sure that a year from now you don’t have regrets.

If you’d like a free consultation about an Illinois work injury, call us any time at 312-346-5578.

Ten Illinois Workers Compensation Truths To Be Thankful For

It’s Thanksgiving week. Side note. We are never closed. If you ever want to speak with a lawyer for free, fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578. If it’s after hours we have a 24 hour answering service who will page us right away. And we’ll call back right away, usually within minutes and always the same day.

There’s a lot to be thankful for. Here are ten great things about Illinois workers’ compensation right now.

1. In person hearings are making a strong comeback. Covid caused a lot of problems for the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, but we are on the way back to recovering.

2. One great thing Covid did for work comp was make it possible for mundane situations, like routine court statuses, to be done online through Webex. This has made the system and the lawyers who handle these cases much more efficient.

3. Illinois work comp cases are now worth more than they were at any time before. This is great news if you do happen to get injured. Settlements are getting much higher.

4. Some really bad attorneys have retired or lost their license to practice law.

5. Injured workers are becoming more educated about the law, their rights, how the system works, etc than any time before. There are a lot of great resources out there that provide free, straight forward information. We are proud to be one of them.

6. Under Illinois law, unlike some other states, you don’t have to let a nurse case manager come to your doctor’s appointments and you can prevent them from talking to your doctor about your care at all.

7. Unlike some other states, there isn’t a cap on how long workers’ compensation benefits can last. If you are seriously injured your benefits can last for years.

8. Unlike Florida work comp cases, from what I’ve been told, you don’t have to resign your job in order to get a settlement. And in Illinois, almost every work injury has some sort of value.

9. Settlements under Illinois workers’ compensation law are tax free. They are compensation for your injuries, not income, so there are no State or Federal taxes to pay.

10. In almost every instance, you get to choose your own doctor. And no matter who you treat with, there are no co-pays or out of pocket expenses. You can truly get the best medical care possible without it making you go bankrupt.

So there’s a lot to be thankful for. Of course, it’s best not to get injured at all, but those things happen. So I’m thankful that when workers in Illinois are hurt, they are protected by the strongest, fairest work comp laws in the country.

Bursitis In Illinois Workers Compensation Cases

Do you have bursitis? Do you think it’s related to your job? We can likely help. We are experienced Illinois work injury lawyers.  If you want to speak with a lawyer for free, you can contact us any time at 888-795-1766.

There isn’t any type of injury that we haven’t seen or helped with in the last 20 plus years. Most types of injuries refer to a specific body part. Some, like bursitis, can happen all over the body. Here is a general overview of bursitis and how it relates to Illinois work comp cases.

What is bursitis?

Bursitis is a painful condition that affects the small, fluid-filled sacs called bursae (plural of bursa). These sacs protect areas where bone would otherwise rub on muscle, tendons, or skin. This cushioning decreases rubbing, friction, and inflammation. But when a bursa becomes irritated and inflamed by overuse of excess pressure, bursitis occurs.

Where in the body does bursitis commonly occur?

Although there are over 150 bursae in the human body, a person is most likely to develop bursitis in the shoulder, elbow, and hip. Bursitis commonly occurs near joints that engage in repetitive motion. Here are the common bursitis locations with their medical name (according to my.clevelandclinic.org):

  • Shoulders: subacromial bursitis.
  • Elbows: olecranon bursitis, sometimes called miner’s or barfly’s elbow.
  • Knees: prepatellar bursitis or housemaid’s knee.
  • Hips: iliopectineal or trochanteric bursitis.
  • Buttocks: ischial bursitis or weaver’s bottom.
  • Feet: name varies based on if bursitis is in the big toe, heel, or ball of the foot.

What are the symptoms of bursitis?

Pain is the main symptom of bursitis. The pain from an inflamed bursa may build up over time or come on suddenly. The affected joint may feel achy and stiff. Moving or pressing on the joint may cause it to hurt more. The area might appear red and swollen. Less common (and more severe) symptoms that should be addressed immediately include the inability to move a joint, sharp or disabling joint pain, or a fever.

What are the causes of bursitis? What occupations see workers affected by it?

As we mentioned, bursitis is commonly caused by repetitive motions or repeatedly being in certain positions that put pressure on the bursae around a joint. We help employees with workers compensation claims that suffer from bursitis due to: lifting things over their heads repeatedly, leaning on their elbows for extended periods of time, and kneeling day in and day out. You might be prone to bursitis if your job involves the following: laying carpet, setting tile, refinishing floors, gardening, painting, or lifting boxes. But really it can be any industry and any type of job activity potentially.

How does a doctor diagnose bursitis?

Doctors will inquire about a patient’s medical history and perform a physical exam. If further testing is needed to confirm a bursitis diagnosis, it might include:

  • X-rays (to rule out other causes of your discomfort)
  • Ultrasound or MRI to detect swollen bursae
  • Blood test to see if there’s an infection
  • Taking a sample of fluid from the bursae, if there is an infection

How is bursitis treated?

In many cases, bursitis gets better on its own. Resting and icing the affected area, as well as taking a pain reliever, often work. However, if pain persists, other treatments might be required including:

  • Medication to treat an infection if that is the cause of the inflammation in your bursa.
  • Physical therapy or exercises to strengthen the muscles, ease the pain and prevent it from coming back.
  • An injection of a corticosteroid drug into the bursa to relieve inflammation in your shoulder or hip.
  • Use of a walking cane or another assistive device to temporarily relieve pressure.
  • Surgery to drain an inflamed bursa.

If you are suffering from bursitis related to your job, we would love to speak with you to answer any questions you have and/or help you get the best lawyer for your case. We cover all of Illinois and promise to treat you like a family member or friend.

The Number One Reason We See Illinois Work Comp Cases Denied

We are Chicago work comp lawyers who via our state wide network help people with work injuries everywhere in Illinois. We promise to give you free, honest advice about your case. Contact us at 888-705-1766 any time.

First off, in my experience, when an Illinois work comp insurance company denies a claim, it’s quite often not for legitimate reasons. They try to deny you because you had a similar injury years ago or they make up some other reason.

And while I know that insurance companies are sneaky and often straight up lie to injured workers, that doesn’t mean that every time they fight a case they are in the wrong. In fact, the most common reason they fight a case has to do with something an injured worker says. And for whatever reason we’ve been seeing this mistake a lot lately.

When you go to a doctor/hospital for treatment, the forms they have you fill out asks if your injuries are work related. They don’t tell you this, but they are asking it because it could change who they have to send the bill to. Too many workers, for whatever reason, say that they weren’t hurt at work when they were.  This also happens when people fill out forms for short or long term disability.

Sometimes it happens because the worker doesn’t realize that the injury is work related. That’s understandable. But when you are given the chance on these forms to state how you hurt yourself and the things you mention have nothing to do with your work activities, that kills your case.

What I don’t want anyone to do is lie. That includes not guessing at an answer. If you don’t know if an injury is work related or not, you don’t have to check yes or no, but instead can say, “Not sure. I want to talk to the doctor about that.” On a recent call, a package handler at a major company told us he had a flare up of back pain a month prior. But he told the doctor he had been dealing with that pain for six months. When your stories are inconsistent, it gives the insurance company good cause for not approving your benefits.

In some cases, workers know they were hurt at work, but tell a different story to the doctor anyway. Usually it’s because a boss makes them feel bad or promises to take care of them. Doing so will immediately cause your work comp case to be denied if you file one. The only way to overcome that is if some witness will come forward and corroborate your story or there’s video evidence of how you got hurt. And even with that, it will cause an unnecessary delay to your case. I can tell you that we see this happen all of the time and almost never does the employer do right by the employee. And if they wanted to do right by them, they should know that this is why they have work comp insurance.

I can tell you as someone whose career started off by defending insurance companies – it was a great learning experience, but yuck – the first thing a defense attorney does when they get a file assigned to them is review your medical records. If at any point we see an inconsistent story as to how you were hurt, it will immediately cause a recommendation that the case be fought.

Bottom line is that you should always tell the truth. And if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t give one.

Why Is My Work Comp So Delayed? It’s Been 12 Weeks!

An injured Chicago worker who has a lawyer called us to vent about her case. She didn’t call her lawyer because he hasn’t called her back the last two times she called and she thinks he’s on vacation. I was happy to let her rant and get out her frustrations. One thing I liked about her is that she got to the point. When I asked what was the problem, she didn’t give me a long story, but instead said:

Why Is My Work Comp So Delayed? It’s Been 12 Weeks!

Upon further prodding, I discovered that she hurt her shoulder while lifting a heavy box at work. She reported it right away and it was a witnessed accident. She went to the doctor right away and told them she was hurt at work. She followed the doctor’s suggestions for medical care. In other words she did everything right. While initially she was paid for a few weeks of missed time and her medical bills were paid, once a MRI was recommended the approvals stopped and now it’s been almost three months without payment and she can’t get the medical care she needs. This is putting her health at risk in many ways.

So why is her case delayed?

The most obvious answer to me is that she hired a weak lawyer. From what I learned, no doctor has said her injuries aren’t work related and the only given reason for the delay is that “the insurance company is investigating the claim.” That is a complete bullshit denial and if her lawyer was more aggressive with trial motions, she’d be paid by now and progressing with her medical care.

Insurance companies do this when they think they can get away with it.  The lawyer she hired isn’t one that does work comp all day every day. In other words, he doesn’t have a track record of winning cases and since he also does divorce, traffic, car accidents and wills, the insurance company properly assessed that he wouldn’t do anything for this client. It was also a situation where this woman works in Chicago, but lives about an hour outside of the City. She hired an attorney near her an the insurance company again properly assessed that he wouldn’t want to come to Chicago for trial hearings.

Not every delay is this clear cut. Sometimes there’s a real investigation going on, but in almost no case should it be three months and you are still in a wait and see mode. Maybe they’ve scheduled you for an IME and that’s why it’s delayed. That can be legit. Maybe they aren’t investigating but actually denied your case for some reason. That can be b.s. or legit or somewhere in between, but at least you are told the reason and can respond. But a general delay without cause, especially when a case seems so clear cut, shouldn’t happen.

A good lawyer would file a 19(b) petition for immediate hearing and petition for penalties and attorney fees. They’d then pick up the phone and likely solve the problem with the adjuster or a a defense attorney. The solution for this worker is to get a new lawyer who knows what they are doing as is willing to do what needs to be done.

Can I Quit My Job If I’m On Workers Comp?

One of the benefits of the strong jobs economy is that there are a lot of good jobs out there. Most people don’t have to stay in a bad job because a good paying job is available in many cases where you don’t have to have a crazy boss or toxic co-workers.

While I would never recommend that you stay in an unsafe or unhealthy work environment if you don’t have to, the timing of when you should leave needs to take in to account your workers’ compensation case if you have one.

Under Illinois work comp law, you get three main benefits: Payment of medical bills, payment for time off of work due to your injury and a settlement. In almost every case, if you quit, it won’t change your right to have medical benefits paid for by the work comp insurance company. The worry is that if you do take on a new job, that it will somehow aggravate your condition. If that happens, there will be a dispute as to who is responsible for your medical care and you may find your medical benefits get cut off temporarily while that gets sorted out.

The bigger and more common risk has to do with payment for time of work which is called TTD benefits. If you are hurt at work and have to take time off work for something like recovering from a surgery, you are compensated for that time. In many cases, your doctor says you can work, but with restrictions such as no lifting more than ten pounds. What we see a lot is someone quits a job and is given restrictions that never would have been accommodated had they not quit. Now the company says, “We would have had a job for them, but alas, they quit, so we aren’t going to pay them.” Regrettably they usually get away with it.

The point is that if you are going to be off work for any significant period of time, quitting is probably not the right call unless you know you will have a new job that you won’t have to miss any time from.

Even then, it’s possible that quitting could reduce your ultimate settlement by tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. One of the factors that goes in to what your case is worth is whether or not you can return to your old job. If you voluntarily leave that removes that factor from the equation. And if your injury becomes so severe that you’ve suffered a significant wage loss, you might lose your right to compensation for that. It’s not that you won’t get a settlement. You will. It just might not be for as much.

Every case is different of course. My advice is to have a free, confidential consultation with an attorney before you make any decision. If you’d like to do that with us, please call us any time at 888-705-1766. We help everywhere in Illinois.

IL Work Comp, Getting Approval For A Spinal Cord Stimulator

This is a post that thankfully won’t be relevant to most people who read my blog. That’s because it’s going to discuss a major back injury and treatment for people who can’t get better through physical therapy, epidural injections or surgery. I’m talking about a spinal cord stimulator.

A spinal cord stimulator is like a pacemaker for your back. It gets surgically implanted in to your body and sends low levels of electricity to your spinal cord in order to decrease pain. It’s an often last resort pain management measure for very seriously injured people. The doctors who place these devices in your body typically have very high level training in interventional pain management. The procedure typically takes around two hours.

It’s a pretty effective procedure, but it does come with a lot of risks including infections, a punctured spinal cord, the device migrating and bleeding. It also is common for it to need maintenance or need to be replaced.

As you can imagine, this procedure is not cheap, so many Illinois workers’ compensation insurance companies try to avoid paying for it.  There is a recent case brought by a Walmart employee that shows how to win approval.

In that case, the worker actually injured her foot when a pallet fell on it and developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). She wasn’t getting any better so she began treatment with a pain management doctor and a physiatrist who specialized in interventional pain management. The key point here is that she tried normal treatment, it didn’t work and she then sought out higher level specialists.

Both of those doctors recommended a spinal cord stimulator due to her chronic pain. One of the doctors noted how young she was which made that option better than narcotics. Despite two very experienced and specialized doctors having the same opinion, Walmart denied her approval for this treatment.

The good news is that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation saw through this denial that made no sense and awarded placement of the spinal cord stimulator which will hopefully greatly improve her life. It’s of course ridiculous that they didn’t do what they could in order to make her life better sooner instead of later.

In sum, you have to start with conservative care in most cases (physical therapy) and then gradually increase the type of care that you’re getting when you don’t get better. And you need to get with experienced, reputable physicians. In almost any case when that happens we will be able to win benefits at trial if not sooner.

DWP, Medical Only Claims, And Other Illinois Work Comp Questions

We are experienced Illinois work comp attorneys who will talk to you for free. Please call us any time at 312-346-5578. We help with accidents and injuries everywhere in Illinois.

We get so many great questions that every couple of months I like to do a blog post about them. Here are some of the best ones we got this fall.

What does DWP mean in Illinois workers’ compensation?

It means dismissed for want of prosecution. That’s a fancy way of saying that your case was up on the status call at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and your lawyer didn’t show up. If the case was filed more than three years ago it will be “DWP’d” and you’ll have 60 days from notice of the dismissal to have it reinstated. Twice this year we’ve had calls from injured workers whose lawyers didn’t show up and also didn’t get the case reinstated. When that happens your only option is to sue your attorney.

My lawyer said the IME doctor is a classic Dr. No. What does that mean? My attorney doesn’t like to answer questions so I don’t want to bother him as he always makes me feel stupid.

First off, it’s a huge problem if your lawyer doesn’t like to answer questions and makes you feel stupid. That’s a sign you have a terrible lawyer and should fire them. That said, a “Dr. No” means that the doctor the insurance company is sending you to is essentially a hired gun and will say whatever they want him/her to say. It’s also a bad sign, but one that an attorney who will fight for you can deal with.

I’m a teacher and was told that we have to use 14 sick days before we get paid wc. Is that true?

Not only is it not true, it’s a terrible lie that someone told this teacher. The Illinois work comp laws apply the same to everyone. There is no waiting period at all.

What is a medical only claim?

We see that a lot when insurance companies say the case is closed when it’s really not. Basically it’s their way of saying they will pay your medical bills and nothing else. Of course nothing in the law says they can do this. They are just trying to get away without paying you a settlement or in some cases without paying you your time off of work. It’s blatant breaking of the law, but just a common trick they use to try and save money. The bad news is that it sometimes works because unsuspecting workers don’t find out what the law actually is. The good news is that we can turn this around usually as soon as we formally file the case.

I was injured on the job while working as a semi driver. I broke my neck and it pressed on spinal cord causing right side weakness. I have Bad PTSD flashbacks anytime I’m on the interstate just as a passenger. Can my employer force me to go back to driving even with the PTSD diagnosis?

Nobody can make you return to a job. As far as being able to refuse work and still get paid, this driver could if he has a doctor in his corner that takes him off of work or gives him restrictions of no driving. If so they’d either have to pay him while off work or find work for him within his restrictions. This is true in any case. As long as you have a credible doctor in your corner and a legitimate injury, you should be able to receive work comp benefits.

If you on workers com for almost 2 years, should they raise your weekly benefit every 6 months?

Unfortunately that doesn’t happen. Your pay rate is based on your wages at the date of accident. If you are found to be permanently disabled, you will be entitled to a cost of living increase.

 

As always, if you have any questions about anything related to Illinois work comp law, please contact us any time.

Work Comp When You Die From A Drug Overdose

A very nice guy called me the other day with a sad situation. His cousin had been injured on the job and was receiving workers’ compensation benefits for a back and neck injury. As you might expect, part of his treatment not only included physical therapy, but also pain medication. Prior to the work injury his cousin never took prescription drugs, but did drink regularly and smoke marijuana occasionally.

Long story short is that he died of an opioid related drug overdose. They were told by a lawyer that they didn’t have a case because the death was drug related.  As a famous football commentator says, “Not so fast my friends.”

If he had overdosed on heroin or fentanyl that he had bought on the street, it would be hard (although not impossible) to argue that his death was work related. That type of death would indicate he likely died from simple recreational drug use.

In this case it seems he died due to taking drugs that were legally prescribed for him due to a work related back and neck injury. He had severe shooting pains down his arms and legs which are big signs of a herniated disc. The insurance company was balking at paying for a MRI so the caller believes his cousin increased his drug usage and that led to the fatal overdose.

Since he was taking the medication for the work injury, it’s part of the work comp case. It’s no different than if you were to have back surgery and die on the operating table. If your medical treatment leads to a further injury then that becomes part of your case. He leaves behind a wife and child who are entitled to compensation for burial expenses and up to $500,000.00 for the death.

I believe that would be the right result even if he didn’t take the medication as prescribed. He did so because his treatment was getting delayed and he was in severe pain. It’s reasonable and foreseeable that something like that would happen. Quite honestly I think a good argument could be made that even if he was taking heroin for his pain and died it would be a part of the work comp case.

This is where having a trial attorney really makes a difference. The lawyers we work with on cases regularly try cases and aren’t afraid of a challenge. This case isn’t a slam dunk, but it’s one that should result in benefits being paid to his survivors. It’s not much different than the cases where an insurance company has been ordered to pay for drug counseling due to addiction caused by drugs from the work accident.

Illinois Work Injuries When You Fall Entering The Building

A common myth about Illinois workers’ compensation law is that you have to be “on the clock” or otherwise punched in to bring a case for an injury. That’s simply not true. If you are doing a reasonable activity that you’d be expected to do and have an accident, that can be a compensable workers’ compensation case. This reality is shown when workers have falls entering a building either before a shift or after a break. Two recent Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission decisions show what I’m talking about.

In the first case, a nurse at a state mental health facility worked an overnight shift. She was told to start at 9:00 p.m. The main door locked at 8:00 p.m. so she had to use a side entrance.  It had snowed that evening. While walking in, she slipped on a tile floor because her shoes were wet from the snow. This caused injuries to her wrist, ankle and knee. Of note was the fact that the parking lot had not been plowed. All of these factors increased her risk of having an injury. She entered through a door not accessible to the general public. She wasn’t on the clock, but once she got to their building she was doing things to benefit the employer. That’s what you need to win a case.

In the second case, a Joliet custodian was taking one of his two allotted 15 minute breaks when he fell on ice while walking on a ramp back in to the building.  He injured his hip, back and had some teeth knocked out. The insurance company fought the case saying that the custodian shouldn’t have taken the ramp back in to the building. That sounds ridiculous and it is, but they did force the case to arbitration. Fortunately common sense prevailed and the Arbitrator awarded benefits. That was because it was common for employees to use the ramp and it wasn’t dangerous or reckless to use it. And because it was common for workers to access the ramp, it was found that the employer was ok with it. In other words, if this was a rule violation he might have been in trouble. The fact that he was coming off a break was a non factor because he was still on their property.

The bottom line is that while we see fights on cases for falls while entering a work building, more often than not the defenses to these cases are bogus and fail at trial. Don’t be discouraged or bothered if an insurance company is making your case more difficult than it should be. These are solvable problems and we are happy to help you solve them. Contact us any time to speak with a lawyer for free.

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