Injured At Work And Your Company Files For Bankruptcy. What Happens?

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Bankruptcy laws when used well can help individuals get out of massive debt and get a fresh start.  Unfortunately, sometimes businesses can use it to screw over their employees who are owed wages or vendors who are owed payments.  You can be owed thousands of dollars and end up with nothing.

For injured workers in Illinois, a bankruptcy can affect your case.  Unlike workers who are simply owed wages, injured workers don’t usually end up getting shut out of compensation they are owed.

For most companies that go under, they, as required by law, carry workers’ compensation insurance.  So even if they are out of business, their insurance will still cover your injuries.  When they file for bankruptcy it could put a temporary pause on your case.  That is called a “stay.”  If that happens, your lawyer can go in to court and get an order that allows the work comp cases to be processed because the employer isn’t paying any money toward the case.  In other words, your receiving work comp benefits isn’t unfair to the workers and vendors who are owed money.

One the stay is lifted, the case will proceed as normal. And quite honestly, in some cases there is never even a delay.  So for most injured workers, you don’t have to stress that your employer is bankrupt.  In fact, if you have any restrictions about your job duties due to your injury you can receive TTD benefits because there is no job to return to.  This is true even if your employer was accommodating your restrictions before they shut down.

Some bigger employers are self insured.  I’m talking about Amazon, United Airlines, The City of Chicago, UPS, etc.  These are organizations that are not likely to go bankrupt, but if they did there are protections in place that make sure injured workers don’t get denied the benefits they are owed.

The one work comp scenario where a bankruptcy can affect your case is when the work comp insurance company goes bankrupt.  That doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen.  When it does, your benefits will be stopped for a while, but eventually the State of Illinois takes over through the Illinois Insurance Guarantee Fund.  They pay on cases when an insurance company goes out of business. It’s way better than nothing, but when they get involved cases tend to slow down and you lose some rights such as the ability to file for penalties when there is a delay in your payments.  Those cases can be frustrating because injured workers can rightly feel like they are being treated unfairly and we as lawyers don’t have the ability to solve problems as quickly.

The bottom line though is that no matter who your employer is, a bankruptcy doesn’t end your rights at all if you’ve been injured on the job.  Don’t listen to any employer, friend or insurance adjuster who tells you otherwise.

And as always, please contact us with any questions.

Injured At Work. What Happens Next?

A reader of our blog contacted us and asked the following:

I hurt my back the other day while working in Chicago.  I reported it to my boss and went to the doctor. Do I wait to hear from the insurance company or should I do something else?

That’s a good question. There is no right answer, but I do think there is a best answer, especially if you think the injury might be serious.

Insurance companies aren’t scummy in every case, but they do have a goal of limiting what they pay in every case.  One way they do that is by delaying the approval of your case. So if you get hurt and need a MRI, they might say the case is under investigation.  This could cause needed medical care not to happen right away.  Ultimately that can hurt you.

So for me, if an injured worker has what could be a serious injury, I encourage them to file the case with the State.  This is done, typically through a lawyer, by filing an Application For Adjustment Of Claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  What this does is get your case assigned to an Arbitrator in case there is a dispute and puts you on the offensive instead of being at the mercy of hoping an insurance adjuster does the right thing.

Getting proper medical care right away is often the difference between a minor injury not becoming a long term problem.  Filing a case doesn’t guarantee anything, but it lets the insurance company know you are aware of your rights and beyond that allows you to address an unreasonable denial by them much faster.

Beyond filing, the most important thing to do is get medical treatment. You have a right to choose your own doctor and should.  Don’t fall in the trap of treating with the company clinic or a doctor that the insurance company says you should go to. You want someone who is independent and will look out for your health.

If you are unable to work due to your injuries, you should start receiving temporary total disability benefits or TTD.  To get this you need a note from your doctor that takes you off work or says you can work with restrictions that your employer can’t accommodate.  TTD is 2/3 of your average weekly wage and is tax free.  Checks should come at least every two weeks.  This is another good reason for formally filing a case because it’s common for insurance companies to delay payment or “forget” to pay you.

What happens after that really depends on the case issues and how serious your injury is.  If you have any questions about the Illinois work comp process, please contact us any time for a free consultation.

When You Get A Settlement Offer, Don’t Do This

In every Illinois workers’ compensation case, when you are all better and back to work, you want a settlement.  Getting an offer is exciting, but the lure of money in your pocket can often lead to mistakes. If you get a settlement offer, these are things you shouldn’t do in most cases.

1. Don’t say yes right away.  Even if your case is ready to settle, you almost never get the best offer on a first offer.  So while getting an offer of $50,000.00 might sound great, if you can get to $70,000.00 by countering and having a little patience, it’s worth it.

2. Don’t worry that the offer is going away if you don’t accept. It is against the law for a settlement offer to be made and withdrawn.  Often an insurance company as part of their “tough” negotiation strategy will tell you that you have until a certain date to accept.  The reality in Illinois is that even if they take it away, they’ll almost always give it back.  They want the case to be over or they wouldn’t make an offer.  The only times we see this not happen is when new information comes to light that gives the a defense.  For example if they discovered a Facebook post you made stating you pretended to be hurt at work, they’d surely take the offer away.

3. Don’t think about settling until you are ready. Insurance companies like to close cases because it gives them a fixed cost.  As a result, one of their new, sneaky strategies is to make an offer soon after you are injured.  Once you settle the case, your medical rights get closed out.  So if you are going to need any additional medical care or miss any time from work, thinking about settlement is a bad idea.

4. Don’t settle as soon as your doctor sends you back to work. You can start thinking about settlement when released to work, but if an offer was made I’d suggest you respond by saying “I want to see how things go at work for the next two to three months.  If I’m feeling good then, I’d be happy to start negotiating.” If you settle right away and your injury flares up, you might not have any way to pay for your medical care.  Make sure you can work without problems.  Also, if you settle quickly and then discover you can’t do the job, you might lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars of value on the case.

5. Don’t forget to think about future medical needs. If you had a major surgery, are still taking pain medication, going to periodic therapy, etc., you can settle your case, but the insurance company has an obligation to pay for anticipated future medical care.  This is done through a Medicare Set Aside.  It takes some time, but this is additional money that should go in your pocket and can be tens of thousands of dollars if you had a major injury. For smaller cases it’s not needed.

6. Don’t get so excited about the offer that you forget what else you are owed. We take over a lot of cases where people call us and say that they haven’t received TTD benefits for over a year and that their lawyers hasn’t done anything about it. In some cases those people come to us after an offer has been made.  We’ve had a lot of calls where the worker has been offered a fair settlement for the injury itself, but nothing for the $40,000 in TTD they never got paid or outstanding medical bills.  If you are owed 40k in TTD, getting a 40k settlement isn’t likely a good thing.  Maybe the case is reasonably disputed, but before settling I’d certainly want to at least negotiate the money that you might be owed if the case went to trial and you win.

7. Don’t forget to call all of your medical providers. If there are any unpaid medical bills, you want them either paid before you sign the contracts or entered in to the contracts themselves.  Call EVERY medical provider you’ve been to and see if there is an outstanding balance.  Get this done before you sign because if something turns up after the fact, you could be stuck paying the bill.

I hope this helps, if you have any questions please contact us for free at any time.

Should You Apply For Work Comp Or Long Term Disability?

A caller to our office wanted to know if they should be getting workers’ compensation benefits or long term disability benefits through a policy their employer provided.

They were injured on the job in Chicago and filed a workers comp claim with their employer.  Although there was no basis for it, the insurance company denied the case saying it was not work related.  As a result he filed for long term disability (“LTD”).  That too was denied because on the application it asks if you were hurt on the job. He answered honestly and sad yes, so he didn’t get LTD either.

Although it sounds like it burned him, the reality is that by answering honestly, this worker will end up with work comp benefits.  His case was denied without reason.  Had he filled out a form stating that his injuries weren’t work related, he would have created a defense to his case.  Once he gets a lawyer to file his work comp case, he should immediately get paid and have his medical treatment covered.

The point of this post though was should you file for work comp or LTD? It’s actually a simple question.

You can’t get both.  If you were injured on the job, you should file for workers comp.  First off, it’s the truth as to why you can’t work. Second, unlike many LTD policies, there is no cap on benefits and usually you get paid more. Third, it covers your medical care.  Fourth, you will get a settlement at the end.

On the flip side, if you weren’t really hurt at work or don’t know (e.g. a repetitive trauma situation), you should file for LTD until a doctor states that your problems are work related.  That said, if you think it might be work related, you should make clear on your application that you aren’t sure.

If you do start to get LTD and then it turns out that it’s work comp, the work comp insurance would have to reimburse the LTD insurance.

On the other hand, if you go to trial or in some other way it’s determined that you didn’t have a work injury, you should be able to get short or long term disability.

Whatever you do, we recommend two things. One, be honest.  It’s people that lie for short term gain who lose in the long run.  Two, don’t sign anything or fill out a form without having an attorney look at it.  By doing this you protect yourself and give yourself the best chance of a great result in the end.

Illinois Workers Compensation And Bedsores

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It doesn’t happen in a lot of workers’ compensation cases in Illinois, but in some where a worker has a very serious injury they can be sent temporarily to a nursing home or rehab facility to aid in their recovery.

You don’t picture a nursing home as being filled with people who months before were healthy laborers, but it happens.  Within nursing homes patients can have all sorts of injuries and physical issues.  One that you need to on the look out for if you are in a nursing home or rehab facility are bedsores.

Bedsores are also called pressure ulcers and decubitus ulcers.  They are skin injuries that come from pressure to the skin.  Stage one bedsores are relatively minor and can look like a cut that needs to be healed.  A stage 3 or 4 bedsore is much more serious and can literally cause your bone to be exposed and can potentially kill you.

These injuries happen a lot at these facilities because the patients there have conditions that limit their ability to change positions and spend a lot of time in a bed or chair.  They are most often found on your tailbone, back, hips, heels and shoulder blades.

Bedsores are caused by pressure and friction and can be made worse by medical conditions including poor blood flow and immobility.

Now you are at a work comp blog site, so the question is what do you need to know if you or a loved one gets a pressure sore at a rehab facility after having been injured on the job in Illinois?  Here are three important things to know.

  1. You may have a lawsuit against the facility where this occurred.  If the sore gets to stage three or worse, it’s a sign that the medical providers did not properly monitor you.  We know excellent bedsore attorneys in Illinois and would be happy to refer you to one in your area.
  2. If this happened after a work injury, it’s likely part of your work comp case.  That means all of the bills related to this problem should be covered.
  3. The sad reality is that bedsores are more common at poorly run facilities.  It happens often due to them not checking the skin of their patients.  The good news if you are injured on the job in IL is that you get to choose your own medical providers.  That means you don’t have to go to a crummy facility because the insurance company wants to send you there to save a few bucks. You can and should choose the best place possible for your treatment to prevent problems like this from happening.

These are unusual and probably happen in less than 20 work comp cases a year.  As a result it’s important to hire an attorney who understands how serious these issues are.  The attorneys in our network have handled these cases for many years and we’d be happy to talk to you any time.  All calls are free and confidential.

Work Comp Case Worker – 10 Things You Should Know

One of the advantages of having an attorney on an Illinois workers’ compensation case is that they will talk to the insurance adjuster case worker for you. That means someone who knows the law will be having conversations with them and you won’t get taken advantage of.

That said, most people will at some point talk to a case worker from the insurance company. In no particular order, here are ten tips for dealing with them that will help your case.

1. You don’t have to give them a recorded statement. This is a common request soon after you are injured as part of their “investigation.”  Anything you say can be used against you and often they will try to trick you in to saying things that hurt your case.

2. The case worker is not only not on your side, they are against you. They may seem nice or even be nice, but at the end of day, their job is to limit or deny your benefits.

3. Investigating a case doesn’t take months. So when they delay, that is to frustrate you, nothing else.  Honestly, most cases shouldn’t take even weeks.  They get your story and see what you told your doctor and that should be enough.

4. They can assign a nurse case manager to your case. That said, that person doesn’t have a right to talk to your doctor, schedule your appointments, be in your appointments, etc.  They can ask for copies of medical records and bills.

5. Don’t be surprised when you don’t get a returned phone call. Again, their goal is to frustrate you and one way they do it is by ignoring you.

6. They can’t give you legal advice. I’m stunned at the number of work comp case workers who tell injured workers what the law is. They are not allowed to do that and since they aren’t on your side, they shouldn’t.

7. They can send you to an IME, but can’t make you treat with their doctor. I’ve seen some insurance adjusters who say that they will pay your medical bills, but only if you go to a certain clinic.  That is not how Illinois work comp law works.  Whether they are seeking a discount or a doctor they know will be in their pocket, you shouldn’t go with the medical provider they want you to see

8. It’s not unusual for the person you deal with to change. They work in a high turnover industry with pay that isn’t great.

9. Usually when your TTD check is late, their reasons for it are a lie. If you are owed TTD benefits, all it takes is for someone to enter that information in a computer to get a check processed.  It’s not rocket science.  If you’ve provided the adjuster with an off work slip they should have no excuse for your check not arriving. It’s one more of the games they play to try and discourage you.

10. They don’t have a right to your whole medical history. One of the first things they will send you is a form asking for permission to get your medical records.  You should give them permission as relates to the body part you hurt on the job. However, if you hurt your back they don’t have a right to know about your pregnancy or psychological care or the time you removed your appendix, etc.

I hope this helps.  This list could be a lot longer. As always, if you have any questions please get in touch.

IL Work Comp – What Happens If You Get Hurt While On Probation?

A caller to our office from the Rockford area had a question about his recent work injury.

He strained his back two days after starting a job and the pain hasn’t gotten better.  He reported the accident, but hasn’t done anything with it.  The reason for that is he was on a trial period at this job so he didn’t really think he was an employee.

While an employer can say you are trial or probation or some other legal term, they can’t take away your rights under Illinois law.  This means that no matter what they call you, the first second you start working you are covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

You still have to prove that your injuries are work related.  You can bet that an insurance company will strongly look in to someone who says they were hurt soon after starting a job. But it doesn’t change the fact that if you can show you were hurt while in the course of your job duties, you are covered.

It really makes sense if you think about it. Let’s say you are a welder and working on a “trial period.”  Your first day on the job you are on a scaffold that collapses and you shatter your leg.

Should you not be able to get medical care for that injury because you were new?  That would be ridiculous.

Don’t doubt for one second that a first day worker has the same rights as someone who has been on the job for 30 years, at least when it comes to job injuries.  Now a long term worker will have a much easier time proving a repetitive trauma injury, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t bring a case at all.

My advice in these situations is the same I’d give in most other cases.  Don’t listen to non-lawyers.  Don’t listen to someone who might have a competing interest with you like your boss.  It’s free to call any work comp attorney (even the bad ones) to ask a question about whether or not you have a case.

In general, Illinois work comp laws follow common sense.  So if something doesn’t seem right, ask around before you give up.

Legionnaires Disease and Illinois Work Comp Laws

Injuries at work are unavoidable. Workers in Illinois and elsewhere get hurt on average every seven seconds.  You can do things to try and prevent yourself from getting hurt while lifting.  You can use special care while walking on a slippery floor. What workers can’t prepare for are airborne disease and bacteria that they can’t see and don’t know is there. Unfortunately, occupational related illnesses cause untold amounts of damage.

An occupational illness is any illness whose cause can be attributed to an employee’s workplace environment or conditions. There are quite a few different types of occupational diseases: however, some are far more common than others.

Let me introduce Legionnaires Disease: It is a type of pneumonia caused by a bacterium known as legionella pneumonphila. Although the disease primarily affects the lungs, it occasionally can cause infections in wounds and other body parts, including the heart. It is less common than other types of occupational illnesses, however, it can quickly spread among other workers. According to CDC close to 5,000 people contract this illness annually, and approx. one in ten people who suffer from this disease will die.

Legionnaires’ Disease is no stranger to Illinois. The state of IL reported 510 cases last year and confirmed 242 so far in 2019. The most commonly known case happened in 2015, when a state-run veteran’s home in Quincy, IL had an outbreak resulting in 66 residents and 8 employees/volunteers of the facility having tested positive for legionella in addition to 13 related deaths.  When it hits, it usually hits hard.

Workers can contract this disease when they inhale these bacteria in tiny droplets of water, such as vapor or mist, which can be present in the air. The disease does not spread from one person to another, but it can quickly infect many workers since the bacteria is in the air that all people in the same building are breathing.

When favorable conditions exist for the growth of the Legionella bacteria, man-made water systems seem to be the most likely source of the disease. Workers most risk is those who work in sealed buildings, particularly those who maintain air conditioning systems or water-cooling towers. If the germs become airborne, anyone within the building can become infected. Claims are typically made by individuals who develop flu like symptoms or pneumonia working in a hospital, nursing homes, grocery stores, or office buildings.  You might also get it as a traveling employee staying in a hotel.

A serious illness such as Legionnaires’ Disease can prevent you from returning to work, and without pay, you may struggle to support yourself and your family. If your illness has a direct link between the work environment and the disease it’s important to have an attorney in your corner that not only understands Illinois work comp laws, but also understands this illness. It can literally be the difference between winning and losing your case.

If you’d like a free consultation with an attorney, fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578.  We help with work injury cases everywhere in Illinois.

A Contender For The Biggest Lie Of 2019

I’ve written a lot about Illinois work comp lies. I haven’t done it in a while because I haven’t heard a new one.  Most are the same ones over and over.  Stuff like: lying what the case is worth; saying that these cases always take years; telling you that you will get nothing at trial.

I hear those lies and others all the time.  The one that left my jaw on the floor was a new one, from a big Chicago workers’ compensation firm.

The client has a major back injury and needs pain management treatment that her doctor has ordered.  It’s been delayed for months and the client is dealing with a lot of pain that she shouldn’t be going through.

She went through weeks of not having her calls returned.  Finally the lawyer called back and told her a whopper. She said that the insurance company has spent all of the money they are required to by law on her case. If she wanted more medical treatment she’d have to get it on her own.

Wow!

There is no cap on benefits for medical care in Illinois.  In the most serious of cases, it could cost millions.  You are entitled to whatever is reasonable and necessary.

This caller was savvy enough to know that this is a lie. A ridiculous lie at that.  It’s really sad and pathetic though.  Your job as an attorney is to look out for your client.  Sometimes you don’t file a trial motion because you need more evidence. Other times it’s because you think you will lose or are waiting on a deposition.  But to blow off your client with a terrible lie, especially when they are in so much pain, is disgusting.

The caller believed that this attorney is just overwhelmed with cases and I believe that’s likely true. Some bigger firms limit their lawyers to save money and it ends up hurting the clients, especially when they take every case that walks through the door.  When that happens, the more difficult cases which will take some time or effort often get pushed to the side.

It’s a solvable problem by switching attorneys, but it never should have gone this far.  In the meantime she’s suffered for months without medical treatment that she needs.  Medical care that can really help her.

As with all lawyer lies, you can’t be expected to know that you hired a scum bag.  However, if you suspect something is off, we strongly recommend you ask around with a different law firm.  It could be that something is true and you just didn’t know that’s how Illinois work comp law works.  Or in this case, it could be that the attorney is making stuff up even though you are suffering as a result.

You are always welcome to reach out to us for free to discuss anything that concerns you.

Kelechi Osemele Wouldn’t Have This Problem If He Was On The Bears

Ok, I’ll be honest. I never heard of Kelechi Osemele  until the other day.  It was when I saw this article about how he plays for the New York Jets and needs shoulder surgery, but the team doesn’t want him to have it.

Apparently he had a shoulder injury before the season started.  He was able to play with the torn labrum when the season started, but being a human battering ram for 70 plays a game has caused the injury to get worse.  Osemele wants to have surgery based on his orthopedic doctor’s recommendation.  Per the article, his position is that he aggravated the pre-existing condition in August and then again in their third game.

The Jets say he can play through the pain.  Unfortunately for them, the second and third opinion doctor say different.

Now the NFL does have a collective bargaining agreement with their players, but it doesn’t trump state law.  So if Osemele played for the Bears, you’d likely only hear that he had shoulder surgery and was placed on injured reserve.

That’s because under Illinois workers’ compensation law, the employer can’t dictate your medical care.  If you can prove your job aggravated a pre-existing condition (pretty easy in this case) and that your doctor thinks you need surgery from that, if you want it, you get to have it.

A lot of this reeks of the NFL shadiness when they tried to get players to shake off concussions.  They don’t care about the health of their workers and will abuse them when they can.

For Bears players though, they have the same protections as any other Illinois worker.  You could be a very important plumber on a construction job. If you tear your labrum and need surgery, your employer can’t tell you to wait until the job is finished.  Illinois work comp laws look out for your health.

Because they are entertainers, it’s weird to think of athletes as employees. This is no different than if an actor on Hamilton tore his ACL and needed off the production to have surgery.  Even if the show wouldn’t go on without them, they can choose to take care of their bodies above all else.

Hopefully the nonsense with this player goes away, he gets better and is able to return to a productive career.  Bottom line though is that Illinois has great laws that protect you if you are hurt on the job. You are allowed to think about your long term health and get the treatment your doctor thinks you need.

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