Should You Settle Your Workers’ Compensation Case?

We are experienced workers’ compensation lawyers who will talk to you for free.  Call us at in confidence at 888-705-1766 any time.

One question I occasionally like to ask is what is something that is well known by Illinois work comp attorneys that their clients don’t know. There is a lot that could go on that list, but near the top would be that you don’t have to settle your case, and sometimes you shouldn’t.

While an insurance company doesn’t have to make a settlement offer, they can almost always be forced to.  If they don’t, you take your case to trial and assuming you win, you get paid that way. In most cases, we recommend that clients settle because it’s usually more money, quicker, and a sure thing.

But that doesn’t mean you should settle or want to.  If your lawyer thinks your case is worth $75,000.00, and they are only offering $50,000.00, it’s likely worth it to go to trial and get that extra $25,000.00. If there are a bunch of medical bills not being paid and you can prove they are reasonable and related to your work injury, going to trial might be the best option.

And there is the best reason to go to trial that too many lawyers don’t discuss with their clients. In Illinois workers’ compensation claims, if you go to arbitration and win, you keep your medical rights open for life as relates to that injury. If you had a fusion not settling might be a good idea. If you had a knee replacement, you might want to keep your medical rights open. You can get compensation for future medical care when settling too, but in some claims, you want to go to trial just to be safer.

The bottom line is that the power is yours and the decision should be yours.  Your lawyer should lay out the pros and cons of arbitration and settling. They should make a recommendation, even a strong one, but at the end of the day, it’s your case, your life, and your call.

Shockingly, a lot of law firms will tell their clients that they won’t go to trial and say settling is the only option. I get why some lazy lawyers don’t want to do the work, but that’s their job and why you hired them.  It’s not like a work comp case lasts for weeks. At most it’s two doctor depositions and then a day of your testimony.  If they don’t want to do this work they should find a new line of work.

 

Injured Illinois Worker Asked To Commit A Felony

Most Illinois employers aren’t terrible people. They carry Illinois workers compensation insurance and try to create a safe environment for their employees.  They know that accidents can happen, take care of their workers, and want them to get better.

Unfortunately, some employers are scumbags and those are the ones that are often worth writing blog posts about.  Take the case of a recent caller.

He was injured working at a small, rural company. While they aren’t the only bad companies out there, I do find that a lot of the people who think work comp laws don’t apply to them tend to be at small companies.

In this case, the worker was asked to work a twelve-hour day doing a lot of heavy lifting. With about an hour left in the shift, he felt a sharp pain in his back.  He told his boss right away who yelled at him, “Don’t be a pussy,” and made him feel he had to finish the job.  He did, went home, popped a bunch of Advil, and went to bed. The next day he couldn’t get out of bed and had shooting pains down his leg.

He called his boss, told him he was going to the hospital, and asked for his work comp info.  The boss told him he was fired and that he should use unemployment to get paid while he couldn’t work.  In an act of kindness, he said he’d take him back when he was better.

The call to my office was to ask if he should take his boss’s advice.  The answer was a big, fat, NO!!!!

If he did this, he could be committing a felony. Filing for unemployment to get compensated for when you were injured at work is illegal. The only way he’d get benefits would be if he lied on his application form. And of course, if he did that he’d likely also lose his chance of ever bringing a work comp case.

These types of calls don’t happen every day, but sadly I do hear a version of something like this once a week.  My suggestions:

1. Remember that you have to look out for yourself.

2. Don’t take legal advice from your employer or insurance company.

3. Most importantly, in every work comp case in Illinois you need to be honest.  Tell the truth to your doctor.  Tell the truth to your employer.  Tell the truth on any form you fill out.  People that lie often get caught and it causes many other problems.

It’s a tough situation that this employer put this guy in.  These cases really piss me off.  The good news is that the law is on the side of honest injured workers in Illinois. If you have questions or want to talk with a lawyer for free, call us any time.

 

Burn Pit Injuries With Overseas Contractors

While the focus of our practice is representing injured Illinois workers, we have created a network of experienced attorneys throughout both Illinois and the country. Our goal is to help any injured worker we can. One of the attorneys we work with helps contractors injured overseas.  Those workers fall under a work comp program called The Defense Base Act.  It typically applies to people working for military contractors in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.  We can help you no matter where you live.  Call us at 888-705-1766 for free.

United States contractors working overseas often face challenges and risks on the job that they wouldn’t see at home. Some of those challenges are minor, such as differences in food and customs. A language barrier or less desirable living conditions may be bigger challenges. And at the far end of the spectrum are significant risks to one’s health and well-being.  The obvious one is the thought of being shot or injured by an IED.  There are a ton of car accidents as the roads in some of these countries aren’t great.  A common one that might not be as obvious is exposure to burn pits.

What are burn pits?

A burn pit is an area of a deployed military base where waste is burned in the open air. The term “burn pit” became widely used in the 21st century, especially in U.S. military sites in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the practice was used well before that. Burn pit operations can be an effective way to reduce waste, but they increase the risk of fire and produce dangerous fumes. Smoke and toxic compounds are emitted from the burning of plastic, metal, chemicals, electronic waste, shipping materials, etc. in the pits. U.S. military and military contractors have developed myriad health problems as a result of exposure to these toxic compounds and carcinogens.

What are the symptoms and health issues caused by burn pit exposure?

Burn pit exposure affects people differently. Those suffering from pre-existing heart conditions or lung conditions such as asthma may be impacted more severely. Proximity to the burn pit and the duration of the exposure are also variables impacting how greatly an individual might be affected.

Individuals exposed to burn pits often experience initial, short-term issues such as eye irritation, coughing, difficulty breathing, and rashes. Most of those exposure symptoms are temporary and resolve themselves. Unfortunately, exposure to burn pits have also caused long-term, very serious health issues including, but not limited to:

  • Chronic bronchitis
  • Emphysema
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Cancers (stomach, respiratory, skin, or brain cancers; President Biden believes his son Beau’s brain cancer was a result of his prolonged exposure to burn pits)
  • Leukemia
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Infertility and adverse birth outcomes
  • High blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions
  • Skin lesions and eczema

What should you do if you were exposed to burn pit smoke and are experiencing health issues?

First of all, see your doctor and share as much as you can about your exposure to burn pits. Where were you exposed to burn pits? When and for how long was that exposure? What health issues are you experiencing since that exposure? Secondly, feel free to give us a call to see if you might have a workers’ compensation case. Your medical care and expenses might be covered through workers’ compensation.

If you think you might have a case and want to discuss it for free with an experienced lawyer, call us at 888-705-1766 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

Annular Tears And Illinois Workers Compensation

Every day, I hear from callers who have suffered injuries at work. Some injuries are the result of a one-time accident or trauma, while some are caused by repetitive activity. Some injuries are incredibly devastating and painful to the worker, while others are manageable or more of an annoyance. Many people get injuries that they had never heard of before. Top of the list is an annular tear. An annular tear is an injury that in the beginning stages may not cause any discomfort, but if the tear gets progressively worse, fluid in the disc can hit the spinal nerves and cause a lot of pain.

What exactly is an annular tear?

The intervertebral discs, which act as cushions or shock absorbers between the vertebrae, are enclosed by a tough outer covering known as the Annulus Fibrosus. An annular tear is the ripping or tearing of the annulus fibrosus.  In plainer English, it’s a ligament tear.

What are the symptoms of an annular tear?

An annular tear is often mistaken for a simple back strain or pulled muscle. A person with an annular tear may feel pain that extends from the spine into an arm or leg. They might experience numbness, tingling or weakness in the extremity that makes walking and other simple activities difficult. Annular tear pain worsens when there is contact with a nearby nerve because of a herniated disc.

What causes an annular tear?

Annular tears may be brought on by repetitive actions over time, such as heavy lifting or bending, or by injury or trauma. It can also be part of the natural aging process whereby wear and tear or degeneration occurs.

How do I know if my annular tear is work-related and if I’m eligible for workers’ compensation?

Since an annular tear can be a natural result of aging, it is important to discuss your particular symptoms and work activities with your doctor to help determine if your injury is work-related. It may be clear cut if a sudden accident at work caused the tear and pain out of nowhere, but you may also be entitled to benefits if your repetitive movements at work led to your pain.  If you never had back problems before a work accident that’s a clear sign the injury is work related.

How do you treat an annular tear?

Once an annular tear is diagnosed through a physical exam, CT scan and/or MRI, treatment may be started. Mild tears may heal on their own with rest. Pain medication, cold/hot therapy, massage and physical therapy may be needed in some cases. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary. It’s really important to get treatment with an orthopedic doctor as soon as possible.

While I never heard of an annular tear before I became an attorney in 1997, we’ve been involved in a lot of these cases for injured workers.  We would be happy to talk to you for free about any case. Fill out our contact form or call us at 888-705-1766 any time.

If I File For Work Comp Will People Find Out?

One of the reasons shady insurance companies and greedy employers are able to continue to take advantage of people is that often injured workers let them get away with it. In many cases, I’ve seen workers apologize for getting hurt even when it was due to no fault of their own.

This thought occurred to me recently when I got a call from a Chicago doctor who got Covid while working at her hospital. It was in large part due to lack of PPE and severe under-staffing. Even though she got really sick and continues to have problems even back at work, this is what she asked me first:

If I file for workers’ compensation benefits, will anyone find out about it?

She was worried it would reflect negatively on her and also that people would gossip about her.  Here’s what I told her and what you should know:

  1. Filing for work comp in Illinois isn’t a lawsuit, it’s a claim for benefits. Do you worry about using your health insurance, vacation time, FMLA, etc? Of course not. These are similar benefits that are earned and deserved by workers.
  2. While technically a work comp case gets filed with the State and theoretically someone could see it, that almost never happens. Have you ever looked up a work comp case for someone else? My guess is no and why would you.  99.99% of people don’t care.
  3. If you are injured due to them not taking safety seriously, it’s not going to get better if they don’t have to account for their error.

The people who will know you are pursuing work comp are likely an HR rep or maybe your boss. It’s not meant to be an adversarial process and it’s certainly not interesting enough for others to care about it.  The only time, in my experience, that people talk about it is when you are a worker who is a faker and trying to pull a scam.  If you are telling people you got hurt at work, but then posting on Facebook that you were injured when skiing, that will draw some attention.

The biggest thing we get told by clients who have to go to arbitration over disputed benefits is that they can’t believe how it was nowhere near as big of a deal as they thought it would be. There aren’t “aha” moments or screaming lawyers or even a jury.  You tell your story and an arbitrator reviews the evidence and makes a ruling.

There can be a lot to worry about when it comes to Illinois work comp claims. Number one is your health.  Far down the list should be what will others think.

If you are nervous or just have questions, call us any time for free and in confidence at 312-346-5578.

Drinking Coffee On The Job Can Be A Work Injury

Most people have heard the story of the woman who sued McDonald’s after she got badly burned from spilling coffee on herself. What’s less known is that she didn’t get the millions people think she did, and that she only won the case for her severe burns because it was proved that McDonald’s had known that their coffee was too hot and a danger to customers, but made it that way anyway.

I’ve actually never gotten a call from someone who burned themselves while drinking coffee at work.  The facts of how it happened would determine if it was a case or not. I did get a call from someone who had a severe injury drinking coffee that is kind of a crazy story.

A worker was traveling for her job and was at a hotel.  She went downstairs for breakfast, got some food and poured herself a cup of coffee. Or at least she thought she did.

In this case, some hotel worker had actually put the coffee maker through a cleaning process and this woman ended up drinking a cleaning product, not actually coffee. Why this happened in the main eating area is anyone’s guess, but the end result was that she sustained severe chemical burns to her mouth and internal injuries to her lungs that required hospitalization.

While she certainly has a lawsuit against the hotel, she also clearly has a work comp case as she’s based out of Illinois.  Traveling employees under the Illinois Work Comp Act are covered for any injury that is considered to be “reasonably foreseeable.”  Basically, any activity you’d do while traveling that isn’t reckless (such as driving drunk) is foreseeable.  It’s of course expected that she’d have breakfast and drink something.  Since she got hurt while doing that, she should get work comp benefits.

This will go down as one of the more unique accidents I’ve ever been called about in 24 years of being a lawyer, but it’s not the craziest story I’ve ever heard.  There have been people injured riding a bike in a volcano in Hawaii that got work comp. There have been wildlife attacks.  I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I once heard about a flight attendant getting bit by a shark in Australia. Even though none of these people were “on the clock” in the traditional sense, they won because when you travel for work, you are on the clock once you begin traveling.  Just about any injury that happens while traveling for work is on the clock as well.

If this is confusing or you just have questions, we are happy to talk to you for free.  Call or email us any time to talk with a lawyer.

More Job Accidents Happen This Week Than Any Other

Did you get hurt on the job this week?  You’re not alone.  Work accidents this week are more common than any other.  In some industries they are up by 5.7% as compared to a normal work week.

Why is that happening? It’s daylight savings time.  Because we sprung the clocks an hour ahead this week, we are all getting less sleep, especially if we are still arriving to work on time. As you get older, it takes your body longer to adjust to this new schedule.  I know I had a harder time waking up the last few days compared to my younger self.

Monday this week is the worst day of the year for work accidents.  Because people are getting on average 40 minutes less sleep their bodies and minds aren’t as sharp as normal. On average there are 3.6 more accidents a day on that Monday compared to other days.

So what are companies in Illinois and elsewhere doing about it in order to protect themselves and their workers? Pretty much nothing.  They could start the work day a half hour later and let workers ease in to the week. They could schedule more risky activities for later in the week.  They could give more breaks throughout the day.  From what I see, most companies aren’t doing anything other than saying good luck.

The obvious answer that I think most people would appreciate is to end daylight savings time for once and all. If we didn’t “fall back” and loss an hour we wouldn’t need to add an hour in the spring. More daylight would be appreciated by most people unless you are someone who is a fan of it being pitch black at 5 p.m.

From our standpoint, we always say that you have to look out for you. If your employer isn’t putting things in place to make you safer this week and every week, then you need to ask for them. If they won’t give them then you need to make decisions that best protect your health.  Maybe you are a hard worker and hardly ever take a break. This is definitely the week to take one.

While you can’t sue your employer if you get hurt and they didn’t make any daylight savings schedule adjustments, you can of course bring a work comp claim. If you have questions about how this works or want to speak with a lawyer for free for any other reason, contact us any time at 888-705-1766.

What Is The Most My Case Can Settle For?

Without a doubt, the most common question we get is, “What is my case worth?” Some people want to know that out of curiosity. Others want to see if it will be worth it. A few want to make plans to spend the money.  Some feel better by knowing there will be compensation in the end.

A not-so-common question at the beginning of the case, but one that you should absolutely ask your lawyer as you are getting to the point where you might make a settlement demand is “What is the most money my case can settle for?” It’s an important question because, by settling, you are closing out your right to more medical care or additional compensation from the work comp insurance company. If the offer isn’t good enough, you can go to trial and keep your medical rights open for life while still getting compensation similar to a settlement.

So what’s the most an injured Illinois worker can get?

While there isn’t a cap, there certainly is a limit.  What a case is worth depends on many things including:

  • Your age
  • Your average weekly wage
  • How serious your injury is
  • The part of the body you injured
  • What medical care did you receive?
  • Do you have any permanent restrictions?
  • Are you back to your old job?
  • Do you need future medical care?
  • What physical problems do you still deal with?
  • If you are back at work, how stable is that job?
  • Do you have a wage loss due to your injury?
  • What is your accident date?
  • Are there any defenses to your case that the insurance company has?

That’s not a complete list, but all of those issues are important. It’s also why knowing that your 35-year-old neighbor got $60,000 for a similar injury to yours isn’t relevant. Your case is your case and your unique facts matter.

Unless you are permanently disabled, we can likely tell you the most you could possibly get if we have answers to these questions.  When it comes to future medical care, you can also get a lump sum for that treatment that should go directly into your pocket and not be subject to attorney fees.

The answer to this question is not a realistic one at the beginning of a case, but certainly, one that should be discussed at the end of your claim.  The more we get for you, the more we get for us, so selfishly we are motivated to do the best we can for you.  If you want to discuss your options for free, contact us at any time. We cover all of Illinois.

When Your Employer Won’t Turn Your Claim In

I really, really can’t stand shady insurance companies.  I also have disdain for employers who act like the rules don’t apply to them.  This happened recently to a caller of mine who unfortunately had a common problem.

He badly injured his knee in a work-related accident.  He has no medical insurance, but somehow managed to get an MRI and needs surgery.  Under Illinois work comp law, 100% of medical bills should be paid by the work comp insurance and he should be able to focus on his health. It’s a no brainer.

He went to his boss and asked who to talk to about the bills. His boss told him that he didn’t want to turn the accident into his insurance company. Usually, when this happens the boss tries to get the worker to lie to the doctor and say the accident didn’t happen at work. It usually is accompanied by a lie that they will pay the bills which never happens.

In this case, he’s just blowing off the employee and not doing anything to help him even though he wasn’t at fault at all.

The good news is that this is a really solvable problem. By hiring a lawyer, an injured worker will formally file their case with the state through a simple form called an Application For Adjustment of Claim.  Once that is filed it basically forces the employer to turn the accident in because if they don’t, they’d lose their coverage.  Either way, it empowers us to contact the insurance company directly.

My bigger concern when this happens is that the company will try to do something shady once you file.  Maybe they will lie about how you got hurt. Maybe they will pressure a witness to change their story or testify against you. Perhaps they won’t turn over wage information without a fight.  Shady people will be shady.

We can protect you against those actions and make sure you don’t get screwed over.  I don’t want to act like these types of employers are nothing to worry about.  They can be.  But on the list of things to freak out about, this is pretty low on the list.  A good lawyer will more than level the playing field and allow you to focus on getting healthy.

Bottom line is that you don’t need your own medical insurance if you are hurt on the job. Work comp is your insurance whether you work for a good person or not. As always, you can contact us any time for free to discuss any concerns you have.

Work Comp When Surgery Is Delayed Because Of Covid

While it’s not the worst part of the Covid pandemic, Illinois workers’ compensation claims have been affected in many ways due to Coronavirus.  I’m not talking about people who got Covid at work.  We are able to help most of them.  I’m talking about people who have been unable to get medical care after a work injury.

Due to Covid protocols, elective surgeries have been delayed.  I’m not talking about nose jobs or breast implants. Stuff like carpal tunnel, meniscus repair, rotator cuff repair, back fusions, etc. are all usually considered elective procedures.  And of course, those are common surgeries that are needed for people who are injured on the job in Illinois.

We can’t force a medical provider to give you a surgery or move up their schedule. I assure you that they want the money from the procedure and are similarly frustrated by these delays.  While this issue should go away as the vaccine gets rolled out more, there are some things to know if you can’t get surgery for a work-related injury because of Covid.

  1. If you are off work until you recover from the surgery, you should continue to get TTD benefits despite the delay.  We’ve seen some insurance companies try to cut off benefits, but since the delay isn’t your fault, they should continue unless there is light-duty work for you within your restrictions.
  2. You do have a right to a second opinion.  While we don’t recommend that you doctor shop, it’s not against the law to get another opinion or seek the surgery from a physician who is able to perform it when yours can’t.  That said, if you are going to do that, you should get a referral from your current doctor so there’s no risk the bills won’t be paid for exceeding the number of medical opinions you are entitled to.
  3. If you don’t want surgery because you are afraid of getting Covid at the medical facility, you don’t have to get it. In fact, you can never be forced to have a surgery.  If you choose not to have it now, but want it in the fall or whenever things get better, if your doctor says you still need it then, you can get work comp to pay for it at that time.
  4. If you catch Covid from getting a surgery or in general from visiting your doctor, that would be considered part of your injury and you’d be entitled to compensation for it.

This has been a very fluid situation over the last year, but in general, you should know that the law is on the side of Illinois workers with honest, legitimate claims. If you’d like to talk to a lawyer for free to ask questions or get help, you can contact us at any time.

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