Illinois Work Injury Drug Tests – When Should It Happen?

I learned a long time ago not to expect cases to go normal or for insurance companies or employers to follow the rules.  A great example of this came up on a case I was recently consulted on.

A caller was asked to take a drug test following a work accident.  That’s normal and the employer is allowed to ask for a drug test after the accident.  A positive test doesn’t mean you lose your case, but it does give them a basis to deny your case and creates a “rebuttable presumption” that you were high when the accident happened.  In plain English it means that you can use witnesses, your own testimony, a description of you got hurt, etc. to show that the drugs in your system had nothing to do with how you got hurt.

It’s typical that a drug test takes place right after the accident or within 48 hours.  The guy that called me was asked to take a drug test SIX MONTHS after the accident happened.  That is nuts.  Even if it was positive it would not show with any reasonableness that he was impaired when he got hurt.

What I believe happened is that some HR person didn’t do their job and is trying to cover their butt by getting any sort of drug test on file. Whether or not the worker has to take it is more of a question for a labor lawyer than work comp, but if it was my client I would tell them that if they did fail the test and their benefits got denied we’d have a good shot at penalties and fees for an unreasonable denial of a claim.

Common sense essentially needs to prevail in a case like this.  That of course doesn’t always happen.  Whether or not you have to take a test this late in the game depends on the company drug testing policy.  In general though, the longer they wait, the more likely it is that the test is meaningless.

Bottom line for you is that you shouldn’t freak out if you take a drug test and fail or know you are going to fail.  It doesn’t end your case, it just makes it harder.  But if they want the drug test to cover their mistakes then you can rest assured that as far as work comp goes, it’s meaningless.

Any questions about drug tests or anything else related to Illinois Workers’ Compensation law?  Contact us any time to speak with one of our lawyers for free.

Do You Have To Sign A Medical Records Authorization Form?

A caller asked:

“I was injured on the job recently and the insurance company sent me a a form they want me to sign.  It allows them to get all of my medical records from back to when I was born.  It feels really invasive.  Do I have to sign that?”

The short answer is no you don’t and the slightly longer answer is that you should never sign anything they give you without having an attorney review it first.

This caller was upset because her accident was caught on video and while she “has nothing to hide” she didn’t want to be taken advantage of.  That is smart and makes sense.

Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, the insurance company does have a right to any medical records that relate to your injury.  That includes access to any records after the accident date that you are seeking payment for or any care before the accident that relates to the same body part.

So if you hurt your back a month ago, they can have access to your medical records for your back problems when you hurt it in high school, but they can’t have access to your records discussing your treatment with your psychologist about marriage problems or your OBGYN records unless somehow those records have to do with this new work injury.

In other words, if you are claiming PTSD too from the job accident then looking at your psychologist records is fair game.  If you aren’t then it should be off limits.

What you really need to know is that insurance companies are fishermen.  They are always going to be fishing for something, anything that gives them a reason to deny your case or limit what they pay out on a case.  It might be b.s., but if they see ANY REASON to deny you they will in hopes that you’ll go away.

So you don’t sign anything or do anything that makes their fishing expedition easier. You always tell the truth, but you don’t give them access to information they have no right to look at.

Does this make sense?  Any questions or concerns about anything?  Fill out our contact form or call us for a FREE consultation with an experienced, easy to talk to lawyer.

What Customer Service Means In Illinois Workers Compensation Cases?

When you hire an attorney, you aren’t their boss and they aren’t the boss of you. A good relationship is when you work as partners and they give advice that allows you to make educated decisions.  Part of that happening is them being with you throughout the process and providing information.  It builds trust and actually makes it more likely that you will win your case.

A reader, when I told them that their current attorney wasn’t giving customer service, asked me what that actually means.  I thought it was a good question and when it comes to the whole case, I thought it would be good to provide a road map of what you have the right to expect.

  1. When the case is filed, you are notified within a week and given a copy of the Application of Adjustment of Claim.  Once an initial status date is set you are notified about that too.
  2. Your attorney checks in with you.  I recommend that you always call or e-mail your lawyer if you have questions or something important happens, but if you don’t, your attorney should be reaching out to you.
  3. They should be giving legal advice. If you ever watch a football or basketball game, there is one announcer who gives analysis of what they see happening.  Your attorney should be doing that too, not just when there is a problem with the case.  When you first explain what happened to you they should tell you what your chances of winning are and if there is any case law that works for or against you.  This should continue to happen as the case goes on.
  4. When giving you an analysis they should let you know your chances of winning and shouldn’t just tell you what they think you want to hear.
  5. The legal analysis should also explain case law if it applies and should lay out the dollars they are talking about.
  6. If you send an e-mail or leave a message for the lawyer, they should respond to you within 24 hours.
  7. They are your lawyer, not your dictator.  Their job is to lay out your options and your chances to help you make an educated decision.  Unless you are being really unreasonable they should explain and then let you decide what you want to do.  If you know the risks, but still want to go to trial, it should happen.
  8. They shouldn’t change their opinion at the courthouse steps.  In other words, they shouldn’t get cold feet just because the case is going to trial.
  9. They need to be aggressive.
  10. Above all else they need to know your case.  You aren’t their only client, but if they can’t know your case in their head, they should have it all written down in their computer so ALL of your information is at their fingertips.

Expect this.  When you get this type of service you’ll feel good about your case, no matter the result, when your case is over because you’ll know that your attorney did everything that they could for you.

Illinois Work Injuries When You Take A Risk

Taking shortcuts and exposing yourself to unnecessary dangers can ruin your chances in an Illinois worker’s compensation case. Especially if your injury is a direct result of your short cut or self-imposed risk.

Take for instance the case of Dodson v. Industrial Commission. In this case, an employee was injured while walking to her car, after she had clocked out of work for the evening. While the court determined she was to be considered within the course of her employment, it denied her injury claim.

That night she clocked out, it was dark and raining. The employee did not remain on the normal path to her car, and instead took a short cut, which was wet and icy. This is where she fell and got injured. The court said that the injury was a result of a fall due to a decision she made out of convenience and not of necessity.

This is similar to another case from 1944 in which the court noted the freedom of choice as well. Each employee has a choice of doing things “by the book” or maybe taking a more dangerous path or route. If the employee decides to take a shortcut and puts themselves in danger, there is a very good chance the employees claim for workers compensation will be denied.

Every case of course is different.  Some risks are foreseeable and reasonable and in those cases if you get hurt you still could win a claim for Illinois work comp benefits.  So the bottom line is don’t not pursue a case because you don’t think you will win.  Call us and we will evaluate your case for free and see if there is any way you can win or not. We are very direct and honest and will help you figure out if it’s worth pursing or not.

What Your Lawyer Should Do Before Settling Your Case

In 99% of cases you’ll get more money for settling your case with a lawyer than without.  Sadly I learned about the 1% recently where you won’t.

A caller to my office was upset because his Chicago workers’ compensation attorney did a settlement without talking to him first. He mailed the client contracts, but sent it to the wrong address and someone else forged his signature to the contract and sent it back. My guess is that they were hoping to later steal a check.  I believe this allegation because the firm that was representing him is the worst one in Chicago and we get more calls from their unhappy clients than any other firm.

For you, the question is what should your lawyer do before settling your case.  The first thing to do is call you.  I thought this couldn’t be handled any other way, but apparently this crappy firm thinks if you mail the contracts to a client, maybe they’ll sign and you won’t have to explain why you are getting so little for them.

Every other attorney I’ve ever met would handle it like this:

  1. Call you to tell you a settlement offer has been made.
  2. Tell you what they think of the offer and make a recommendation as to whether or not you should accept it or not.
  3. Ask what questions you have about the offer.
  4. Tell you what will happen if you accept or reject it.
  5. Assuming it’s the first offer and they think they can get you more money, discuss with you what the counter demand should be.
  6. Give you a timeline of when you can expect to hear next and when the case should get resolved.

Before they make a recommendation or settlement demand, they should get all of your medical records and make sure that all of your bills have been paid too.

The bottom line is that it’s unethical for an attorney to not tell you about an offer or attempt to settle a case without your permission.  If they do that they can and should lose their license to practice law.

In the bigger picture, this is about communication from your lawyer in general.  They don’t need to call or e-mail every week, but if they don’t respond to you within 24 hours it’s a bad sign and if you don’t hear from them by phone or e-mail on a regular basis it’s a bad sign too.

Tennis Elbow and Illinois Workers Compensation

Tennis elbow isn’t just for the Williams sisters. In fact, the majority of people diagnosed with lateral epicondylitis (AKA tennis elbow) have never played a game of tennis in their lives. When repetitive motions overuse the tendons in your elbow, the painful condition begins. Usually the pain is felt where your forearm muscles meet the outside of your elbow. However, the pain can also spread down your arm and to the wrist if it goes untreated. This is a very common injury under Illinois workers’ compensation law.

Nurses, plumbers, mechanics, housekeepers, painters, chefs, carpenters, and butchers are some of the professionals on the list of people who may be affected. All of these professionals use their hands and wrists, repeating motions all day long. Eventually this will cause a muscle strain injury. Repetitive motions may create small tears in the tendons of your elbow. The result of those small tears are the symptoms of tennis elbow including: pain and weakness that starts at the elbow and radiates downward. This pain may make it hard to turn a doorknob or hold a cup of coffee. It may even make it impossible to do your job.

Diagnosing tennis elbow is fairly easy for your doctor. One of the questions he or she may ask is if you do a lot of repetitive motion at your job. If they don’t ask that question you need to make sure that they are aware of what you do at work and be as detailed as possible. Your doctor will conduct a series of tests that may include x-rays, an MRI and/or a nerve conduction study (EMG). Once a determination has been made, the treatment of tennis elbow is typically physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medicine, and rest of the arm. In extreme cases, surgery to replace or repair the tendon may be needed.

Because these cases usually happen from work over time versus a single incident, you can expect that the insurance company will try to fight your case. They will likely argue that your activities outside of work played a role in this injury happening. If they ask for a recorded statement do not provide one because they will surely try to get you to admit to a lot of computer and phone usage at home as well as other “off the clock” repetitive activities.  Be warned as well that it would not be surprising if the insurance company hired a private detective to follow you and see what activities you are doing with your injured arm away from work.

If you have any questions about elbow injuries at work or ANYTHING at all related to Illinois work comp law, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time for a free consultation.

What Are My Rights When Hurt At Work In Illinois?

Of all the things you should know when you talk to a lawyer, one of the biggest is that any reasonable or sane attorney won’t expect you to know everything or anything about the law related to being hurt on the job in Illinois.  I’m saddened by the number of people who are embarrassed that they don’t know basic work comp facts.  I don’t know how to draw blood from a patient, build a building, teach kids, etc.  I don’t know your job and don’t expect you to know mine.

So don’t be afraid to ask questions and expect answers.  If your attorney isn’t giving guidance then what are they doing?

In the spirit of making sure everyone is educated, which increases your chances of success in your case, here are my thoughts when someone asks me what their rights are when they are hurt at work in Illinois:

  1. You have the right to medical care, 100% of which should be paid for by the insurance company of your employer.  This means no co-pays or out of pocket expenses.
  2. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have your own health insurance.  It’s not needed under Illinois work comp law when you are hurt at work.
  3. You have the right to choose your own doctor.  The company can send you to a doctor of their choosing, but you don’t have to treat with them.
  4. You have the right to schedule your own doctor’s appointments.  If the insurance company assigns a nurse case manager to your claim, they can’t choose when you see the doctor.  Often they’ll try to schedule your appointment around their schedule.  That shouldn’t happen.
  5. You have the right to see your doctor alone.  These same nurse case managers will attempt to come in to your appointment or talk to your doctor about your case.  That shouldn’t happen either.
  6. After the accident happens, if the insurance company asks you for a recorded statement, you have a right to refuse and not have your benefits affected in any way.
  7. You have the right to be paid for your time off work.  You get paid based on calendar days missed, not work days.  It’s 2/3 of your average weekly wage, tax free.
  8. You have the right to be paid for time off work due to a work injury for as long as your disability exists.  There’s no time limit on these benefits in Illinois.
  9. You have the right to have your wages from a second job included in the calculation of how much your average weekly wage is as long as your employer knew about the second job.
  10. You should expect that payments for your time off work should take place every other week and that checks aren’t late.
  11. In most cases, if you are working overtime on a regular and consistent basis, you have the right to have those hours included in your wage calculation.
  12. If your injury is as good as it’s going to get and there is no job for you to return to, you have the right to get vocational rehabilitation (job placement) assistance from a company of your choosing at the expense of the insurance company. During this time you have the right to continued off work benefits.
  13. You have the right to require the company to pay your travel expenses to and from a doctor that they ask you to see for an independent medical exam.
  14. If they don’t provide travel expenses for that exam, you have the right to refuse to go.
  15. You have the right to not get fired because you filed for work comp.
  16. You should expect that medical bills will be paid in a timely manner and if the case is disputed it’s your right under Illinois law that a medical provider can not go after you for payment while the case is pending.
  17. For almost any injury, you have the right to expect a settlement when you are all better.
  18. Once a settlement contract is signed by all parties and approved by an Arbitrator, you have the right to expect payment within 30 days.
  19. You have the right to go to arbitration in your case if you aren’t happy with a settlement offer or if you want to keep your medical rights open as it relates to your injury.
  20. You have the right to appeal your case if you don’t like how arbitration went.

As you can see, you have a lot of rights and this isn’t a complete list and has nothing to do with the rights you should expect when working with an attorney which would be a big list as well.

If you have ANY questions and want to talk to a work comp attorney for free, fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578. We cover all of Illinois.

Neuropathy And Illinois Work Comp Law

Jobs that require you to use repetitive motions of different body parts can cause major damage to your nerves. One of the nerve issues could be peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is typically diagnosed after some sort of damage has occurred to the nerves in your body. This damage could be from a sudden impact such as a fall or a car accident, or by repeating the same motion over and over again.  In other words, it happens all of the time under Illinois workers’ compensation law.

The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy include numbness, prickling or tingling in your hands and feet that eventually could travel up your arms. Extreme cases also can include sensitivity to touch, muscle weakness, heat intolerance and much more. The good news is this condition is treatable and there are medications available that can help reduce the pain while your body heals. The bad news is that insurance companies fight these cases very often and if your treatment gets delayed your injuries can become permanent and life altering.

If you have fallen, or been in an accident, or use repetitive motions at your job and you are experiencing nerve damage symptoms, you may have a workers compensation case. The first thing you should do is go to a doctor and have a complete examination. Make sure you explain to your doctor from the first meeting that this happened at work or if it’s a repetitive trauma situation, that you suspect it is work related. Make sure to be very descriptive of what happened and/or your job duties.

Work you’re your doctor and follow their recommendations, which may even include a nerve conduction study or EMG. All of your doctor’s appointments, medications, and treatments related to the damage should be covered as well as possible compensation for missed work while you heal.   That means no co-pays and no out of pocket expenses related to your care.

It’s extremely important to have a lawyer in your corner who understands the medicine behind neuropathy and can show how it is related to your job duties or a job injury.  If you want our help with a case, we’d be happy to talk with you for free.  We cover all of Illinois and have been helping injured workers for over 20 years.  Fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578 any time and we will do whatever we can for you.

Asbestosis, Mesothelioma and Illinois Workers’ Compensation

We received a call recently from a very nice man who had worked in warehousing his entire life and was constantly exposed to asbestos.  His question was can he bring an Illinois workers’ compensation claim and if so, who would it be against?

Asbestos cases are tricky because most injuries don’t show up for ten or so years since your exposure, sometimes longer and sometimes not at all.  Under Illinois law, your case would be against the last employer you had exposure with, but due to statute of limitations issues you have to show that you were employed in the last three years with them.

Many of our clients and the people who call us have asbestos related diseases like mesothelioma or asbestosis, but haven’t worked in a long time.  These are diseases that can’t be caused by anything else so it’s not a question of did your work or other asbestos exposure cause the problem, it’s a question of is it too late to bring an Illinois workers’ compensation claim?

The good news, if there is any, is that because of good asbestos related disease laws, even if you can’t bring a work comp case, you can still bring a case against the manufacturers of asbestos products.

We are a big believer in making sure that you pursue or at least consider every case possible.  If we can get a work comp case going for you, we want to do that because it will get all of your bills paid and compensate you in the short term for an inability to work.  We also partner with Illinois based asbestos and mesothelioma law firms that handle nothing but those cases.  This is designed to get you maximum compensation.

From a work comp standpoint, the most important thing to do is get to a doctor and if you are no longer working, get with an attorney within three years of your last employment date if possible.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or any other asbestos exposure related disease, contact us today to discuss your options.  It’s always free to talk to our attorneys. We cover all of Illinois and can be reached at (312) 346-5578 or through our contact form.

You Can Have More Than One Case At The Same Time

I got a call from a really nice woman who had hurt her shoulder a few years ago, had surgery and returned to work on light duty.  While working light duty she lifted a box overhead, felt a pain in the same shoulder and went to the doctor.  After a MRI she discovered that she had re-torn her rotator cuff and needed another surgery. She’s expected to be off work for at least six months and is currently receiving TTD benefits.

The issue is that three years ago she was working around 35 hours a week at $15 an hour as she had just started the job.  Now she’s working about 50 hours a week and makes over $20 an hour.  She has an attorney who told her that the TTD is based on the original accident date from three years which of course means a big financial loss for her.

Her attorney is wrong.

Temporary aggravations don’t result in a new case, but this is clearly way more than a temporary aggravation.  It’s a separate, new accident and that means that a new case should be filed with the higher average weekly wage and as a result, higher TTD.

Just because it’s the same body part doesn’t mean you can’t file more than one case at a time. While we discourage our clients from filing a case for every minor thing (because it makes you look like being a hurt employee is your job), if you have real treatment and a real injury you should of course file a case, even if there’s more than one accident open at once.

Some people work in dangerous jobs.  Some people have bad luck.  Others try to do more than they probably should and their body breaks down.  None of that stops you from having a case or more than one case at once.

I really don’t get why this attorney is giving such bad advice.  It can’t be a laziness thing because this doesn’t require much work.  Perhaps they only dabble in Illinois work comp law and don’t know what they are doing.  Either way, when you have a work related injury that gets worse from a work activity, you can have two cases and if this results in a higher wage payout for you that’s allowed too.

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