Am I Entitled To A Settlement For My Illinois Work Injury?

While the number one question we get from people is, “What is my case worth?”, we’ve been getting a lot of calls and e-mails lately from people who are asking if they are entitled to a settlement all.

While we can be selective in the cases we take on, the reality is that almost every Illinois workers’ compensation case has some value.  While a settlement is designed to compensate you for the “permanent” nature of your injury (that is why it is called permanent partial disability), the truth is that many people get hurt and feel as good as new after they get medical care and in some cases they feel better.

For serious injury cases it’s hopefully obvious that you are entitled to something. How much will be based on your wages, your medical care, your job restrictions and how the injury still impacts you among other things.  Every case is different, but if you have a surgery and make above minimum wage you are likely entitled to something at the end of the case in the five or six figures.

Even for something small like a back strain where you went to physical therapy for a week, most insurance companies will give you $500-$1,000 to just wrap the case up.

To be clear, while an insurance company has to pay your medical bills and time off work, the don’t have to give you a settlement.  But if they don’t you can get one by filing for Arbitration.  If for some reason they won’t make a voluntary settlement offer (I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a case where that doesn’t happen) then the Arbitrator would award you a certain amount.

The bottom line is that pretty much every case has some sort of value.  The bigger worry is that when you do get an offer making sure that it’s for a fair amount.  Insurance companies don’t like to give money away.  If your case is worth $40,000 and they can get away with paying you $15,000 they will have a party to celebrate their success.

If you have questions about what you may be entitled to, call or e-mail us any time for a free consultation.  We cover all of Illinois.

When Your Co-Worker Attacks

I work with some great, friendly people.  While in my 20+ year career I’ve seen some people that acted crazy, I’ve been fortunate to never work with a psychopath.  Hopefully you are in that situation too.

Some people unfortunately have to work with nut jobs.  I’ve seen more and more examples lately of people with real anger control problems.

In general if you and your co-worker get in a fight there are two things that matter when it comes to determining if you have a case or not:

1. Were you the aggressor? In other words, did you start it?

2. Were you fighting about work or something personal?

If you start a fight and get hurt, you lose. If you are fighting over a girl or about whether the Cubs or Sox are better (it’s the Cubs by the way) or about where to go for happy hour, it wouldn’t be a case. If the fight has to do with work productivity or your schedule, etc., you would have a case.

Now you can’t win Illinois work comp benefits for a fight if you start it.  Sometimes though, when you work with a psychopath, you can win your work comp case when they attack you even if the fight had nothing to do with your job.

In a recent case, a plant manager was taking pictures of a worker with his cell phone.  The worker asked him why and the manager didn’t respond.  The worker went about his business and then out of the blue, without warning, the manager shoved him in to a forklift.  He then pulled the worker to the ground and began choking him.

Apparently this manager has major anger control problems and had been in several fights at work in the past.

In ruling for the worker, the Court noted the manager was combative and emotionally unstable.  Therefore all of the workers were at risk of injury from him due to being employed there.

So hopefully you don’t get in a fight at work, but if you do and you are attacked for no reason, you might win.  And if you are attacked over your job duties you should especially win.

IL Work Comp – Can Your Employer Predict The Future?

Here’s a good one to know.  When you are a traveling employee in Illinois, if your employer can “reasonably forsee” that you might do an activity, if you get hurt while doing that you have a case.

What does “reasonably forsee” mean?  It’s been pretty broadly interpreted to mean that most injuries you have while traveling for work, even when off the clock, are covered unless you are acting recklessly.

In a recent case, an over the road truck driver was usually gone from home 5-6 nights at a time.  When he returned he would park the truck at a location a few miles from his home and his wife would pick him up.  One night he got home, did an inspection on the truck and went to dinner with his wife.  After eating they came back to the truck so he could retrieve some personal belongings.  While exiting the truck he slipped and fell to the ground, hurting his elbow and shoulder.

The Court ruled in his favor because he was a traveling employee and it was reasonably forseeable that he would return to his truck to gather some personal belongings for the weekend.

In other cases workers have been injured at the hotel gym after a long day and won benefits even though working out had nothing to do with their job activities.  In the most famous case of all, a worker was in Hawaii on business and after a meeting went on a bike ride tour that went in to a volcano.  He was hurt while biking and the Court ruled that the employer could anticipate that while he was away for work he’d take some time to do some touristy activities.

The cases that lose are usually when someone is highly intoxicated or does something like drive 100 mph.

For all other workers, if you are hurt while traveling to a meeting or on a business trip or anywhere that is not your usual office, you likely have a case.  Call us at 312-346-5578 if you want to discuss the facts of what happened to you.

Illinois UPS Worker Violates Safety Rule, But Still Wins Her Case

Of all the things true about Illinois work injury law, the truest is that no matter how nice the insurance company is acting or how obvious your case is, if the insurance company can come up with any reason to deny your benefits, they will.

And when I say any reason, it’s often a ridiculous reason that they know they will likely lose at trial, but they do so in order to frustrate you or hope you’ll drop the case.

In a recent claim, a UPS worker fractured her leg when while driving a work vehicle, the vehicle tipped over.  This was a part of her job duties and her supervisor approved of her driving.  She wasn’t driving in a reckless manner, the accident happened when the steering wheel locked up on her. She wasn’t driving with the proper certification to operate this vehicle, but had received training in how to operate it and had been previously certified.  He license expired the year before the accident and she didn’t renew it.

So as you can guess, the insurance company denied the case because she violated a safety rule.  Specifically she was driving with an expired certificate.

This is a nonsense denial and the Arbitrator of course found in her favor.  Was she violating a safety rule? Technically yes, but her supervisor was aware of it and it was common practice at their facility.  It’s not as if she was told not to drive or had been disciplined for operating the vehicle without a current certificate to do so.

It would be different if she was joy riding or purposely acting reckless.  That clearly did not happen. What did happen is that this worker got a serious injury and it was made worse due to the stress of having her claim unreasonably denied.

If your case is denied for violating a safety rule, ask yourself the following:

1. Was the work you were doing when hurt for the benefit of your employer?

2. Were they aware of what you were doing?

If you answer yes to one of these and certainly to both then you likely have a good case. Don’t get frustrated by the form letter you get in the mail that says your case is denied.

Bonus tip, cases often get denied because the worker does something that isn’t what they normally do.  In other words, if your job is to answer the phones, but you hop in a golf cart to deliver some mail because you are trying to help out, if you crash you should have a case.  The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission typically doesn’t punish people who get hurt while trying to help out.

Hurting Yourself When You Stand Up

There’s a long held standard in Illinois workers’ compensation cases that to win your case you have to show your job put you at an increased risk of injury as compared to the general public.  In other words, if you were hurt doing something that you could have been doing anywhere then you don’t have a case.  For example, if you sneeze at your desk and your back goes out on you, that’s not an increased risk of injury situation. On the other hand, if you work in extreme cold and that caused you to sneeze, you likely have a case.

This rule comes up a lot when became get hurt while getting up from chairs or after they bend down to pick something up.  Like in the example above, you have to look at what their job duties are to see if there’s a case.

In general, the act of standing up is one that you do every day in life.  So insurance companies fight those cases since there is no increased risk.  A recent case where a nurse got injured while standing up and won her trial shows why you have to look at the unique facts and how details matter.

In that case, a registered nurse squatted down to empty a Foley catheter bag for a patient.  She had to squat to reach the bag and drain it in to a cylinder.  While standing up, she felt a pop in her back and immediate pain that was eventually diagnosed as a herniated disc.

In this case the Arbitrator ruled in her favor because she had to do more than the average squat down.  She had to empty the catheter while holding on to the cylinder and stand up while being careful not to spill the contents.  In other words, the job activities she had to do while squatting made the case a winner.

We see more injuries to knees than backs when standing up.  In those cases we look at what you are doing as well as how often you are doing it.  If you drop a pencil on the floor and your knee pops while standing up it’s probably not a case.  On the other hand, if you are a carpenter who squats 50 times a day and your knee pops one time when standing up then I’d be shocked if we didn’t win that for you.

Bottom line is that facts matter.  If you want to discuss what happened to you or just ask a question, please get in touch for a free consultation.

Why Did The IME Exam Last Only Two Minutes?

Imagine you hurt your back at work lifting a box.  You feel a pop and immediate pain which eventually starts shooting down your leg.  You do everything the right way.  You report the injury to your supervisor.  It’s the first accident you’ve ever reported even though you’ve been hurt many times before.  You are a great employee.  You seek immediate medical attention.  You pass the drug screen.  You get referred to a top orthopedic doctor who orders an MRI that shows you have a herniated disc.  You try physical therapy and an epidural steroid injection, but your pain is still there and your doctor says you can’t work.  After a couple of months he recommends surgery.

Before surgery gets approved, the workers’ compensation insurance adjuster wants you to see one of their doctors.  You attend because it’s the law and you have nothing to hide.  Besides, your medical records are crystal clear, the MRI doesn’t lie and your treating doctor has a great reputation.

You show up to the IME and are rushed in to an exam room.  You sit for a while and then in comes a doctor.  You don’t have a timer on you, but he’s in and out of the room in barely two minutes and he hardly asked you any questions or even examined you.

A week later you get a letter from the insurance company saying that they won’t authorize any more treatment and you should return to work because this doctor said you are fine.

Sounds nuts, right?  Well, we get this type of call all the time.

Independent medical examinations (IME) are a cash cow for some physicians.  They get business often because they tend to favor the insurance companies and in some cases are hired guns.  There is a very famous, well respected doctor in Chicago who makes extra money through IME’s. I’ve been told by multiple people that not only do his exams last less than two minutes, that his physician’s assistant writes all of his reports for him. That of course greatly impacts his credibility.

The bottom line is that these doctors are very busy with their own practices and many of them don’t care about the IME, the lives they are impacting with their paid opinions or providing an honest exam.  So if you go to an IME and the exam only takes a minute or two, you can expect that the doctor will find against you.  Part of his exam is also reviewing your records, but when he doesn’t take a history from you or do a thorough physical exam it can be a sign that the fix is in.

Don’t panic though.  The good news is that if you have a credible doctor in your corner, this will be just a delay, not the end of your case.  By having a case on file before the IME takes place, we can get you in to court quickly and often get you the benefits you need without a trial.  And most Arbitrators know who the hired guns are.  When you see the same doctor on case after case after case and every report reads the same it kills your credibility.

This of course is still frustrating and kind of pathetic, but it’s the system we have to deal with.  The key is having someone in your corner who is aggressive and has a track record of going to trial and winning.

Southwest Airline Workers’ Comp Claims In Illinois

I LUV to fly Southwest Airlines. Their fares are the best, their staff is the friendliest, they have a ton of options for flights and won’t penalize you if you have to cancel or change.  It’s really a great company.

We’ve also been involved in many work comp cases against Southwest over the years through our network of attorneys.  Most of the claims involve people working at Midway as ramp agents  on the tarmac or baggage handlers, but we’ve helped many mechanics, flight attendants, reservation specialists and pilots as well.

The most common injury we see with Southwest Airline employees (and other airlines too) are back and shoulder injuries from lifting luggage.  This is of course not a shocker to anyone.  But literally any work injury can and has happened to Southwest workers including falls from turbulence, getting hit on the head by luggage from an overhead compartment, being hurt when a passenger pulled a flight attendant, carpal tunnel from typing to much, slipping on oil, etc.

Texas where Southwest is based is a terrible place for injured workers.  Illinois on the other hand is great for Southwest employees.  You can file your case here if you were hurt here, were in Illinois when hired or primarily work out of Illinois.  As a result we have helped a lot of flight attendants and pilots from across the country who were hurt on a layover in Chicago.

In fact, due to Illinois traveling employee laws, you can be staying at a hotel as part of your job duties and get hurt there off the clock and still receive benefits as long as you weren’t intoxicated or otherwise goofing off.

Southwest is a “self insured” company which means they pay for their claims out their bottom line, but they hire an outside insurance company, Sedgwick, to process and handle their claims.  As you can probably guess, Sedgwick gets evaluated in part on how much money they are saving their client so they are looking for any reason to deny your case.  As a result it’s important to not just get an attorney who knows Illinois work comp law, but also who has experience in dealing with Sedgwick and their attorneys.  It’s not rocket science, but this experience can be the difference between winning and losing.

If you work for Southwest and were hurt on the job or just have questions, call us any time for a free consultation or fill out our contact form and we will contact you.  We will give you honest, direct advice and if we represent you, you will have a true advocate in your corner.

Illinois Job Accident – When You Can Only Return To Work Part Time

A caller to my office slipped while making a delivery and badly broke his leg requiring surgery.  As you can imagine, he was not able to walk for a while and when he was able to return to work, he was told to do no more than four hours a day.

He used to work around 50 hours a week so while he was happy to be back on the job, he was not so psyched to be getting such a small paycheck.  He hadn’t heard anything from the work comp insurance company and wanted to know if there was anything he could do until he was back to full duty.

This is another situation where the insurance company does the wrong thing and it results in a worker calling and hiring a lawyer.  The good news is that under Illinois workers compensation law, when you are able to return to work, but part time you are able to collect something called temporary partial disability benefits or TPD.

TPD benefits work like TTD benefits (the pay you get when you are completely off work).  You get 2/3 the difference of your average weekly wage and what you are getting now.  So if this worker used to work 50 hours a week at $20 an hour ($1,000 average weekly wage) and now works 20 hours a week ($400) he has a loss of $600. Two thirds the difference is $400 and he should receive that, tax free, on top of his regular pay check until he is released to return to work without restrictions.

Why wouldn’t the insurance company just pay him?  They were rolling the dice that he wouldn’t find out what the law is and what his rights are.  That’s simply what insurance companies do.  They might seem like they are playing nice when you don’t really know what benefits they are screwing you out of.

Bottom line is that when you can only return to work part time, the insurance company has to make up the difference until you are better.

Bonus tip, beware the employer that doesn’t accommodate your restrictions.  If your doctor says no lifting more than 20 pounds then don’t ignore that no matter what pressure you are being put under.  Not only is your health at risk, but ignoring your doctor’s restrictions could cause your case to get denied.  It’s illegal for your employer to retaliate for you listening to your doctor.

“Settle, Or You Could End Up With Nothing”

If you read our blog, you know that we love to point out lawyer lies.  I have a good one for you.

A woman called me, wanting to know if she should settle her case.  She was in a car accident as a passenger at work and sustained a big leg injury. All of her time off work was paid.  All of her medical bills were paid.  There is no defense to the claim she got hurt at work.  She had never hurt her leg before this.  The IME doctor agreed that her injury was work related and that her treatment was reasonable and necessary.  Literally the only issue remaining in this case is what is it worth.

Her Chicago work comp attorney had seemed to have done a good job up until this point, so her next statement stunned me.  She told me that her lawyer said the following: “I went before the Arbitrator for a pre-trial. He recommended that we settle your case and said that you should take it because if you don’t, you could end up with nothing.”

There are a few certainties in life.  Death, taxes and that there’s no way the Arbitrator said that.

Going to trial has it’s risks of course.  But in this case, the only way the injured worker would get nothing at trial is if she got on the witness stand and said she made the whole thing up. What is really going on here is that she hired a lawyer who is either lazy and doesn’t want to get ready for trial or a coward who instead of explaining why the offer is good but also telling the client it’s her call and he’ll go to trial if she wants, instead chooses to lie in order to pressure her.

It’s really pathetic.  Since most cases aren’t worth a ton, many Illinois work comp law firms take on a lot of cases, more than some can handle.  They think that if they have the huge volume it will all add up in the end for them.  What ends up happening to some is that they are too busy or too disorganized to give good service so most of the clients suffer.  And when it comes down to doing the right thing or taking the easy way out, they lie and assume the client won’t know any better.

I have no idea what this case is really worth as I haven’t seen the medical records. I do know though, especially when it comes to a bigger injury, that if you, the client, doesn’t want to settle you can always go to trial.  An attorney’s job is to help you make an educated decision and then be an advocate for that.

Questions?  Nightmare stories of your own?  Just a question?  Whatever you need, feel free to call us at 312-346-5578 for a free and confidential consultation.

Concussions, TBI’s And Illinois Work Accidents

We are Chicago based work injury attorneys who help with claims throughout Illinois.  Please fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578 to speak with a lawyer for free about your case.

Most of us have heard the term traumatic brain injury, or its abbreviation TBI, but what exactly is it?

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines a TBI as “a disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head, or penetrating head injury.” In other words, a TBI is an injury at a point in time by an external physical force. It is not a brain condition one is born with or a brain disease that develops over time.

Brain injuries have been in the news over the last few years with the rise in our understanding that concussions are really TBI’s. When I was growing up, if you got your “bell rung” you were told to shake it off.  If you were really out of it they’d “cure” you with smelling salts.  Even when it comes to Illinois job injuries, it’s only recently that Arbitrators have begun to value concussions as something more than a nuisance claim.

Every brain injury is different of course.  I’ve represented people who suffered a blow to the head and while they seem normal, they’ve lost all long term memory and have trouble functioning on a daily basis.  Others are able to return to work, but even if they seem to have made a complete recovery, they are at risk of additional problems in the future.

Some additional problems you see are attention span difficulties, problems reasoning, trouble with hearing, sight, balance and other sensations. A TBI can also affect a person’s emotion as well, leading to an inability to work or keep a job, do household tasks, or maintain relationships with family and friends.

When it comes to job related work accidents, we see them a lot with construction workers and other laborers who have objects fall on their heads as well as clients who drive for work and get in to an accident.  But the reality is that they can happen to anyone on any job.  We’ve seen teachers have doors shut on their head, nurses that fell while trying to catch a patient and mechanics under a car all have concussions.

If you or a loved one has experienced a TBI, the first step is to seek medical attention. Even if the TBI does not seem severe, and the symptoms seem subtle, only a trained medical professional can assess the impact and the necessary course of treatment.  Delaying treatment can make the problem way worse and if you are given restrictions not to return to work you should absolutely follow them.  Think about a football player going back in to a game too soon.  It’s no different for a worker who could be at risk for another injury.  Treatment wise, we highly recommend that you get referred to a neurologist if the symptoms are severe or last more than two weeks.

Every case is different from the treatment to the expected outcome.  Bottom line when it comes to getting a lawyer though is that if you don’t have an experienced attorney in your corner you are setting yourself up for failure. Insurance companies love to fight these cases because the severity of a concussion or other TBI is mostly diagnosed by subjective statements from the injured worker.  Plenty of IME doctors will say you are fine even when you tell them otherwise.

It’s not a fun injury to talk or think about, but we are here to help if you need it. Please get in touch any time if you’d like a consultation.