Is Your Lawyer Fighting For The Best Result Possible?

One of the problems injured workers have when they are hurt on the job in Illinois is that they usually have no idea what their case is worth and have no experience with the formula used to calculate what cases are worth.

That’s OK as you shouldn’t be expected to know that.  The problem comes in when you have an attorney who is dishonest with you about what the case could be worth and just tells you that the settlement offer they’ve gotten is the best you can ever do.

Most cases have a range of what they could be worth.  The bigger the injury, the bigger the possible range of settlement or value if the case goes to trial.  So if you are a high wage earner and badly hurt your back, resulting in a spinal fusion, hypothetically your case could be worth between $50,000 and $125,000 if you make a full recovery.

While 50k is a lot of money, I’d be pissed off if I settled for that and later found out the case could be worth double.

It’s not always expected that you will get a settlement offer at the very top of the range of what a case could be worth, but if the offer you are told to take is at the very bottom then it’s likely that your attorney isn’t doing a good job for you if they tell you to take it.

Some shady attorneys will try to sway you by saying, “You could get zero if we go to trial.”  That can happen, but it’s a cop out and unless there are some really good defenses it shouldn’t be much of a consideration.

The worst Illinois work comp attorneys don’t even discuss a range with their clients.  They arrogantly tell you that your case is worth $X and you need to take that offer.  That, in my opinion, is selling you out.  At best it’s very bad customer service.  At worst it’s them just not wanting to do their job and get the best possible result for you.

Why would an attorney tell you to take much less than what your case is worth? The biggest reason is that they are lazy.  Work comp trials don’t take that much effort, but you do usually have to take depositions of a couple of doctors, prepare your client and go to court.  For some attorneys who are burned out or just don’t care, they will avoid a trial at all costs, even if it costs them money in the long run.  Stupid but true.

So how can you protect yourself?

You probably can never know for sure, but if your attorney won’t even talk about a trial, doesn’t give you a range of settlement value or insists you have to take an offer and can’t explain why it’s a good one then you’ve got some red flags.  In my experience those types of lawyers are also not great at returning phone calls or answering questions even before you get to settlement talks.  So if you sense that your attorney isn’t a fighter, my best advice is to get a new one before it’s too late.

How A $475,000 Settlement Put Over $800,000 In The Pocket Of A Client

A couple of years ago a potential client called me with a major injury case.  It was in central Illinois and you don’t want a Chicago attorney for a downstate case, so I referred him to a great workers comp attorney out of Decatur to handle the matter.  This is exactly why we have created a state wide network of like minded attorneys.  We make sure that every person who calls our office gets with the best lawyer for their particular case.

Fast forward and the case is settling for $475,000.00.  Attorney fees are capped at a little over $72,000 for a case like this one, but the client is going to walk away with over $800,000.00.  How is that possible?

When you are hurt at work, you can either settle and close out your medical rights as relates to your injury or you can go to Arbitration and assuming you win, keep medical rights open for life.  But if you settle and it’s known that you will likely need more medical treatment as relates to the work accident, the insurance company has to fund a Medicare Set Aside which is an account to pay for future medical bills.

In essence, the insurance company has to protect the Government from having to pay your bills for a work injury.  So in a case like this, a study was done and it was determined that this client needed over 400k in future medical treatment.  This happens a lot when someone has had a fusion and will need one in the future or is undergoing a lot of pain management treatment.

The catch is that the insurance company doesn’t hold the money.  They have to write you a check and that money goes in to your account for you to manage. Your attorney can’t take a penny of this money and while it could come back to bite you, if you take that money and spend it on a vacation or a fancy car or whatever you want, that’s your call.  I don’t recommend that, but there’s not a law against it.  And if you can get a new job with health insurance that will pay for the future care, what you do with this money won’t likely ever matter.

Bottom line for you is that when you are thinking about settling an Illinois workers comp case, you should talk to your doctor about any future medical care you may need before you settle.  And if you hear about an injured worker pocketing $800k or a million or some other really large number, it’s probably because of future money for medical bills

Bonus tip. Some insurance companies will ask to hold the money for you or offer to pay out those bills as needed.  Don’t do it. It’s not how the law works and not to your advantage at all.

Illinois Temp Agency Tries To Illegally Deny Workers Comp Benefits

We write all of the time about the gross and often illegal ways that insurance companies try to deny Illinois workers’ compensation claims. Every now and then though we get calls from employees who tell us what their company is doing that also breaks the law.

The most recent one I heard of was from an injured worker in Chicago who works for a very large staffing agency. This temp service, like all others, is responsible for any workers’ compensation claims when they send out an employee to a business.

This particular worker was badly injured in a forklift accident and may need a major surgery.  He called me almost apologetically, thinking he was wasting my time because his temp agency employer had him sign a contract when he was hired that said if he was hurt at work he wouldn’t file for workers’ compensation, but instead would participate in mediation.

That contract is illegal and even though the worker signed it, it’s not enforceable.  In general under Illinois law, an illegal contract can not be enforced. It’s against the law to have an employee waive their rights to workers’ comp benefits in Illinois.  This contract is no more legal than you signing one that says you agree to murder someone.

But the contract did have it’s intended effect which was to discourage this and other workers from knowing and asserting their rights.  Just like with insurance companies, if three out of ten cases go away from their illegal activities, it’s a win for them. Heck, if one person doesn’t assert their rights it’s a money saver on the backs of their employees.

This type of stuff partly enrages me and partly amuses me because it’s so easy to beat.

Things for you to know as an injured worker in Illinois:

  1. You can’t waive your rights to workers comp or be forced to use mediation instead of the normal system.
  2. Temp workers have the same rights as any other employee in Illinois.
  3. If you signed an illegal contract it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

Our goal is for all workers to know their rights and make educated decisions. If you have questions or want to discuss representation anywhere in Illinois, contact us at any time.  All calls, chats and emails are free and confidential and you will always speak with an experienced attorney.

You Won’t Believe This Peoria Workers’ Compensation Attorney Story

A caller to my office injured his back a few months ago in central Illinois.  As we’ve created a state wide network of experienced work comp attorneys, I referred him to a downstate lawyer to discuss taking the case over from his current attorney.  It looks like it’s going to work out.

The crazy part is what this lawyer shared with me that he learned from our new client.  The first attorney was out of Peoria and the client revealed that in over four months he never actually spoke to an attorney once.  The lawyer in my network revealed that this is common for this Peoria work comp firm to do and that he’s seen it on dozens of cases.

Now I know a bunch of terrible work comp firms who don’t return phone calls and yell at their clients, but all of them have an attorney talk to the client at some point.

I take the opposite approach and choose to answer the phone when it rings if I’m available as I assume people are calling to talk with a lawyer and I don’t need anyone filtering out or screening phone calls for me.

But I’ve never heard of a law firm that is able to sign up clients without giving the client the chance to talk to an attorney first. In fact, I don’t know how you could choose to hire a lawyer if you don’t talk to them first and get a sense of how well they know their stuff, how they will treat you, what they think about your case and what they can do for you.

It’s the height of arrogance to put up some wall that prevents a client from talking to an attorney. I imagine they only get away with it because there aren’t as many law firms to choose from in central Illinois and some firms get the reputation as the place to go to whether it’s deserved or not, often from the amount of advertising they do.

Even if they allow you to talk with a lawyer if you ask for one, the fact that any questions are being answered by non-lawyers is, in my opinion, unethical. Non-attorneys should not be giving legal advice and if it’s clerks or secretaries that are answering the client questions that is a big problem.

This was truly shocking to me.  All I can suggest is that if you don’t get to speak with a lawyer on your first or second call to a law firm, you shouldn’t hire them.  And if it’s been months on the case and you’ve still never spoken to “your lawyer” you need to find a new firm to fight for you. Are they really your lawyer if they’ve never even heard your voice?

 

Getting Medical Treatment After A FCE

A functional capacity evaluation or FCE is an often day long process where an occupational therapist puts you through a series of tests to determine what your work capabilities are and if you need any physical restrictions.  So if you ever hear about someone having permanent restrictions of no lifting more than 20 pounds (or something else), it’s likely that they went through a FCE.

While these tests do happen a lot in Illinois workers’ compensation claims, it’s important to know that they happen after your doctor feels you are at maximum medical improvement (MMI) which in plain English means you are as good as you are likely going to get and there isn’t much more they can do for you.

Once you have a FCE you either can return to work with your old employer if they can accommodate your restrictions or would begin the process of vocational rehabilitation to find work with a new company.

A caller who was aware of all of this had a great additional question.  What should she do if she needs more medical care after the FCE?

While some insurance companies will try to argue that being at MMI means they don’t have to pay for any more bills, that’s simply not true.  The reality is that just because you aren’t expected to get better, that doesn’t mean that you can’t get worse.  For some people to prevent this means taking pain medications.  For others that means continued pain management treatment or physical therapy.  For some it could mean you need a surgery down the road and for others it might just mean you need to check in with your doctor every few months.

Whatever your situation, it’s important to know that you can and likely will get medical care after a FCE and it’s still the responsibility of the insurance company to pay for it.  Beyond that, before you settle your case, it’s very important to get a realistic idea of what future medical care you will need.  If you had a fusion or other hardware put in place, it’s likely that it will need to be replaced at some point.  If you are taking pain relievers or need some treatment, you can still settle and be compensated for that.

The payments for this future care come in the form of a Medicare Set Aside which is an estimate as to what future treatment you will need.  The insurance company will present a dollar amount to you.  That is typically not negotiable but can be used as a way to drive up your settlement if you aren’t happy.  In the alternative, if you take your case to arbitration, you will keep your medical rights open for life as it relates to your work injury.

Does this sound confusing?  It can be.  If you have any questions you can contact us any time to speak with a lawyer for free.  Bottom line though is that nothing is more important than your health and just because a doctor says you are as good as you are going to get does not mean you can’t have any more medical care.

Shoulder Impingement and Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law

We are Illinois workers’ compensation lawyers who give direct, honest advice, for free.  We’ve helped over 10,000 people in the last 20 years and would be happy to help you.  Fill out our contact form, start a chat or give us a call in order to speak with an experienced lawyer.

The shoulder consists of three bones—your upper arm (humerus), shoulder blade (scapula), and collarbone (clavicle). The top of your upper arm bone (shaped like a ball) fits into a shallow socket in your shoulder blade. While strong ligaments keep the “ball” centered in the socket, your rotator cuff muscles (which also cover the upper arm bone) allow you to lift and rotate your arm. Issues with any part of these areas can cause you to experience pain in the shoulder.

The shoulder has an incredible range of motion and is actually the most flexible joint in your body. And given the number of everyday activities it’s involved in it’s easy to see why shoulder pain is something to take seriously and no surprise that there are many Illinois workers’ compensation cases for shoulder problems    caused by repetitive activities.

There are several factors and conditions that can contribute to shoulder pain. One of the most common cause of shoulder pain is shoulder impingement syndrome. This is where the rotator cuff gets caught between the acromium (part of the scapula that covers the ball) and humeral head (the ball portion of the humerus). When you pull, rotate or pull an object, your rotator cuff acts as the powerhouse. Repetitive use can make it more susceptible to injury.  You don’t realize it typically until it’s too late, but doing the same thing over and over can cause major problems.

Shoulder impingement may be related to certain repetitive lifting movements, or tasks with frequent overhead reaching movements. Physical work, heavy lifting, non-stop twisting at the shoulder places workers at risk for shoulder pain. Many professions such as carpenters, painters, warehouse staff, nurses and retail staff are at risk of such workplace shoulder injuries.

While we don’t give out medical advice and encourage you to see a doctor right away if you are having any pain, signs of this in the cases we’ve seen include having problems reaching over your head, pain when lifting your arms up and general shoulder and arm soreness.

Many people fail to realize that a shoulder impingement is an injury that can become dangerously chronic, affecting the quality of life for years to come. This form of shoulder injury can happen to anyone and can be caused in many ways. Injuries can range from discomfort to debilitating, and greatly impede a worker’s range of motion and ability to perform job duties.  In the worst case scenario you won’t be able to work again or will have to change careers.  As a result, getting treatment before the problem gets out of hand is important.

If you think your job contributed in any way to your shoulder problems, you would have an Illinois work comp case.  Although insurance companies tend to fight cases where the injuries are from doing the same activity over and over, we have helped many people win those cases and would be thrilled to help you.  Contact us any time.

Don’t Resign Your Job If You Were Injured At Work

A caller to my office was a driver for a major shipping company and got injured in two accidents, resulting in a severe neck and back injury. He was a high wage earner and it’s doubtful that he will ever get back to that job again.  With a 30 year work life expectancy he stands to lose a lot of money which means that this Illinois work comp case is likely worth a few hundred thousand dollars.

Or I should say it would have been worth that much.  This really nice guy hired an attorney that doesn’t know much about Illinois work comp laws.  He was offered around $20,000 to resign and retire from the company and his attorney told him that was no problem and that he should take the money as it would help him with his finances.

The BIG PROBLEM with this advice is that once he resigned, he essentially ended any chance of receiving wage differential benefits that would make up for the amount of money he will lose since his yearly pay will dramatically drop once he returns to the work force.  He also risks having his TTD benefits get cut off and loses a chance to make the insurance company pay for vocational rehabilitation.

It was a huge screw up by his attorney.

So I’m here to tell you that if you have an active work comp case in Illinois, don’t resign or quit, especially if you have a major injury, are facing significant future medical care or won’t be able to replace your old wage with a new one that is the same or better.

Resigning or quitting too early can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.  I estimate that this case will now be worth no more than $75,000.  It’s not chump change, but certainly not the same as $300,000.

I get that some people can feel pressure to quit or need a severance that gets offered, but if you do so without talking to an attorney who knows how to handle these cases, like this gentleman it can really cost you.

Bottom line is that you might be able to quit or resign, but doing so without knowing how it will affect your case is a really bad idea.  We would be happy to talk to you for free at any time if you would like to discuss it.

Can The Work Comp Insurance Company Limit Your Treatment?

One of the worst thing that Illinois workers’ compensation insurance companies do is take advantage of “go along” people.  By that I mean there are a lot of people who will just go along with whatever someone else says as they assume they are being told the truth and don’t want to make waves.  This is an insurance company strategy that saves (makes) them money by essentially lying to people to cause them to give up their rights under Illinois law.

The latest one I came across was a nice, older man who hurt his knee on the job.  He’s never filed a case before and is ‘”not the suing type” so when he insurance company told him that he was limited to six weeks of physical therapy sessions, he went along with it.  When they told him that he had to treat with the doctor they designated, he went along with it.  When an unpaid bill came up and he asked about it, they told him they’d paid what was required by law and he went along with it.

All of this lead to him working on a bum knee for over a year, not getting any further medical care and now being in a lot of pain.

Unfortunately if he had known his rights, he would have seen a doctor of his own choosing who, if the physical therapy didn’t work could have extended it or done a surgery or other procedure.  Had he formally filed a case, it would have stopped any bill from going in to collections.

The lesson from all of this is that insurance companies are not doctors, shouldn’t give medical or legal advice and don’t get to tell you what medical procedures are reasonable or not without a supporting, credible medical opinion.

If they do try to limit your medical care or not pay some of your bills, you should push back hard.  In fact, in one recent case an insurance company had to pay the injured worker a $10,000 penalty fee for not paying all of their bills without good reason even though they had paid a lot of them.

Illinois workers’ compensation law protects injured workers who are legitimately hurt on the job.  The only way the law doesn’t work for you is when you don’t know your rights and an insurance company uses that to their advantage.

As always, if you have any questions about a case and want to talk to an attorney for free, start a chat, call us or fill out the contact form.

When You Delay Getting Treatment After A Work Injury

A recent caller had a story that I hear all to often.

She had hurt her back at work in Chicago and reported the injury right away. She went to the doctor and talked to the work comp insurance adjuster who told her, without any good reason, that her case was going to be denied.

This woman does not have health insurance through her job and can’t afford to pay the bills out of pocket.  So she persisted off of pain meds, hot baths and ice packs until finally, after six months, the pain is too much to bear.

She called me now wanting to file a workers’ compensation claim and wondered if it’s too late or not?

Legally speaking it’s not too late, but when you delay treatment or have a big gap in care, it makes your case much harder to prove.  The defense to a case like this will be that if you were really injured you would have continued with medical care and the fact that you haven’t been to the doctor for so long points to the real cause being you hurt yourself outside of work.

I know that this woman is telling the truth because as I said, her story isn’t unique.  Health care in the US generally sucks so people without insurance do what she did all the time.  Sadly it makes their mild injuries often much worse.

So what’s the legal lesson from all of this:

1. Try not to delay your care. If you were hurt on the job and your case is denied, call us at (312) 346-5578 to talk about it for free. If we think your case is a good one, we often can get adjusters to start benefits or in the least we can often recommend doctors who will work with you.

2. If your care has been delayed, don’t wait any more as your health is too important.

3. To win a case when you have a gap in treatment, you need to give your doctor a clear history of how you got hurt, why you delayed your care and they need to state that your current condition is related to the job accident.  Without that winning is going to be an up hill battle.

4. If you do have a workers’ compensation case in Illinois, 100% of your medical bills are paid for.  So not having insurance should never be a reason you don’t get medical care.

5. In many cases, you hurt a body part like your back in a specific incident (e.g. lifting a box) and then continue to work. It can be argued that if you continue to do a lot of lifting in the following months that you have a repetitive trauma injury and the lack of medical care shouldn’t hurt you.

Big picture is that you need to figure out what your legal rights and options are. Contact us any time if you want to discuss it. We don’t promise you a result, but do promise to give a hard look at your case and offer direct, blunt, plain English and free guidance.

 

A Foot Injury Became Worth $10 Million, Illinois Workers Compensation

One of the most unfair things about the law that you can’t do anything about is the bad luck of the draw.  If you are sitting at a stop light and get rear-ended by a person with $20,000 in insurance and become paralyzed, you are likely only going to recover that $20,000.  On the other hand, if you are struck by a semi-truck or some other commercial vehicle, your case would likely be worth millions.

The same holds true when it comes to Illinois workers’ compensation cases.  There was a sad case recently of a laborer whose foot got run over by a vehicle on the job while he was re.  It was a really bad crush injury and his foot was amputated.  Essentially at 28 years old this worker has a life altering injury and will never be the same.

Under work comp law, a case like this would probably be worth $500,000 or so plus payment of all of the medical bills.  That’s no small settlement, but also doesn’t really compensate him for what he’s lost.

The “good” news, if there was any on this case, is that his foot wasn’t run over by a co-worker, but by a driver of a concrete truck that was with another company who was working on the same job.

Under Illinois work comp law, you can’t sue your employer or co-workers for general negligence so if it had been one of them that was responsible, there would not have been the possibility of a lawsuit.  He would have been limited to only work comp benefits.

In this case he was able to sue the concrete company who had a massive insurance policy.  As a result, right before the trial the case settled for $10 million.  I’d personally rather have my foot, but this huge settlement will allow the young man to not have to worry about making a living in the future or how he will pay for his medical care.

Just like in my first example, if he was working on the highway when this happened and got hit by an every day driver with a small insurance policy, this big recovery never would have happened.  Illinois work comp laws fill in the gaps a bit, but if you ever read about a huge settlement or trial result from a work injury, know that it’s because there was an outside company involved.

Bonus legal tip. Firms that do just work comp cases are great at those because it’s all they do.  If you or a loved one is severely hurt by the negligence of a third party, most work comp firms aren’t right for you.  We don’t try to take on those cases because we know that there are a lot of firms in Illinois who can get a better result based on their experience.  So if you ever want our opinion on which firm is the right one to hire when you’ve been seriously hurt by someone other than your employer, please call us any time.  We follow this closely and know the firms that get the best results.

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