How Often Should I Hear From My Workers Comp Attorney?

A very frustrated, injured worker in Chicago called us wanting to know if he should stay with his current attorney or not. But before he expressed that, his first statement was:

How often should I hear from my workers comp attorney?

He has a pretty serious shoulder injury that was denied because five years ago he also had a work comp case for an injury to the same shoulder. It’s a bogus denial, but certainly one that requires lawyer action.  He’s been without pay for two months now and can’t get his much needed surgery approved.

He last heard from his attorney when his benefits got cut off and his attorney said then that he’ll work on it. Follow up calls and emails haven’t been responded to. I did some investigating and discovered that his current lawyer started his own practice in the last six months. His website is only partially complete and he doesn’t appear to work with any other attorneys.

A lot of lawyers who are good at the court stuff are terrible at the business side of things. In other words, they don’t know how to run a business in terms of staffing, delivering customer service and being efficient. It’s sadly not a required class in law school even though it should be. So while this attorney has been in practice for over 20 years and no doubt knows what motions need to be filed to win the case, he doesn’t appear to even have a staff member to do the paperwork for him and clearly is so overwhelmed that he can’t even respond to a call or email. Unfortunately his client who has a great case is suffering as a result.

In general, you should hear from your attorney as much as required. If you contact them, they should contact you back. I don’t recommend that you call/email five times a day, but if you tell them you received a bill or your check is late or you are having surgery, they should respond. They should also be in touch with you when something relevant happens on your case.  Here is an incomplete list of times they should communicate with you in some manner:

1. When they file the case. They should send you a copy of the paperwork that was filed.

2. When a status call happens. Once every 90 days or so, your case is before an Arbitrator. Usually nothing happens unless a trial motion is filed other than getting a new status date. You should be told the new status date.

3. When they file a trial motion for you.

4. When they talk to the adjuster or defense attorney and it’s beyond a superficial conversation.

5. When they go to court for you for a pre-trial.

6. Before you go to trial to prepare you.

7. When a settlement offer is made.

8. When they have any update for you.

9. After your settlement check is received.

10. If they learn something important about your case.

11. If they haven’t heard from you in a while.

12. Before an IME.

Those are 12 times just off the top of my head. Not every communication has to be long and it can be by email or text.  The bottom line is that this worker was getting terrible service from his lawyer and a new one can come in and fix the problem really quickly.  The bottom line for you is that if you have a lawyer and aren’t hearing from them and they don’t get back to you, you probably hired the wrong firm and should switch before it’s too late.

Long Haul Covid Is The New Illinois Work Injury To Be Aware Of

Covid is sadly not over.  Earlier this summer it felt like everyone I knew either had it or was getting over it or had a family member dealing with it.

Most people think of Covid in terms of death numbers. And while those cases are staggering, Covid isn’t like the flu in that you always get better after feeling like garbage. Long haul Covid is a real issue and estimates are that it’s affecting 23 million Americans right now. Many of those people are of course in Illinois and a lot of them got sick from the job.

This is creating a new world for them and their employers.  Just like an employer has to accommodate your restrictions if you have a back injury from work, they have to do the same if your long haul problems are work related. Sometimes that means flex time.  Other times that means giving frequent breaks or working from home. For some they need assistance to get their job done.

For Long COVID, there are more than 200 symptoms that people have been dealing with.  The most common are fatigue, loss of taste/smell, brain fog, erectile dysfunction, memory issues and a severe cough.  The issue is that unlike a back or leg injury where you can see an injury via diagnostic tests like a MRI, long haul symptoms are for the most part subjective.  That means that insurance companies in Illinois work comp claims are likely not to believe you or will try to fight your case.  They will assume that everyone who says they have this is a faker.  That’s just how insurance companies tend to operate.

The good news is that insurance companies aren’t Judges and don’t get to make unilateral decisions. If your doctor believes that it’s more likely than not that you got Covid from work and you’ve documented your ongoing problems with them, you should receive workers’ compensation benefits in Illinois. This means that if your doctor feels you need to work at home, your employer will either have to allow that or pay you benefits to not work while you recover.  It also means that they will have to pay for 100% of your ongoing care.

These long term problems are very common in people who have been hospitalized after getting Coronavirus, but it also happens frequently to people who were dealing with a really bad case for a couple of weeks. It’s possible that these problems will go away and it’s possible you will have to deal with it forever. It’s affecting around 7% of our population which is a staggering number. That brings me hope that there will be research in to dealing with this and hopefully strong treatments.

These aren’t easy cases, but they are certainly worth investigating. If you’d like to talk to a lawyer for free about your possible claim, you can call us for free any time at 312-346-5578.

 

The Most Unique Illinois Work Accident I’ve Heard In 2022

While every Illinois workers compensation case is different, a lot of them are similar. Someone types all day and gets carpal tunnel. A truck driver slips exiting their cab and hurts their shoulder when they try to catch themselves.  A factory worker feels a pop in their back when lifting a box. Their individual experiences such as their prior health or when they reported the claim will shape their case, but I get a call with one of those three versions of events usually multiple times a week.

I like those cases, but I also enjoy hearing new stories. I heard one recently which was kind of a doozy.  A home health aide was at a client’s apartment as she had been doing for a while.  The client had a cat that is very affectionate.  Meanwhile, down the hall lived another family who also had a cat.  That family was out of town so they hired a pet sitter.  The pet sitter left the door open and scurried down the hall.

The home health aide heard scratching at the door and the patient asked her to open it up because she didn’t see her own cat and was worried it had gotten outside. When the door opened, the neighbor’s cat freaked out and clawed the aide.  She was bleeding a bit, but it seemed mostly like a bad scratch and it was treated at urgent care.  Fast forward a couple of days and the scratch is now badly infected which requires a hospital stay and is causing damage to other parts of her body. She’ll be out of work for a while.

It’s clearly a workers’ compensation case. The client asked her to open the door and the client benefited from her doing so.  So the good news is that all of her bills will be covered and she should be paid for her time off of work. She might also have a lawsuit against the pet sitter because it was from a company that does this type of work and surely they have insurance.

Now nobody shows up to work expecting to get her, but plenty of workers know that certain activities put them at risk, some more so than others. But certainly this very nice woman didn’t think that the act of opening a door would lead to a cat attack and serious infection that would have her hospitalized.  I’ve heard plenty of other unique stories this year, but so far that is by far the most unlikely one and probably one of the most unusual ones I’ve heard of in 25 plus years of doing this.

 

Car Accidents At Work In Illinois Change The Lawyer You Need

When it comes to hiring a lawyer, everyone wants “the best” and they should. But as I’ve discussed many times before on this blog, there’s no such thing as the best, but rather you need to find who is the best Illinois work comp attorney for you. That is always fact specific to your unique case and injury. And nowhere is that more true than if you are on a car accident while on the job. It completely changes who the right law firm is for you.

Generally speaking, car accidents while driving to and from work in Illinois are not part of work comp. But that can change if you are driving a company vehicle in a way that benefits them which could be as simple as having advertisement for the company on the car. It also changes when you are traveling for work instead of just going to and from a stand alone office every day.  And of course if you are out of town for work and hurt while driving, that would be a work comp case to under Illinois law.  These examples are on top of the countless workers for whom driving is an essential part of the job such as delivery workers, traveling nurses, truck drivers, etc.

In determining which attorney is right for you if you have been in a car accident while working, the first and biggest question is who was at fault. That won’t change whether or not you are entitled to work comp benefits because Illinois is a no fault law. But if the other driver was at fault, it’s likely that you will need a law firm that can not only handle work comp, but also a personal injury lawsuit.

You could get two different firms and that can work sometimes. But the reality is that the cases are related and because the work comp insurance is entitled to a partial reimbursement from your personal injury case, it’s often in your best interests to have one firm handling both cases as that increases the likelihood of more money going in to your pocket in the end.

The seriousness of your injury and who the defendant is will also be a big factor. If you are hit by an individual who doesn’t have much insurance, the personal injury lawsuit won’t be as big as the work comp case. On the other hand, if it’s a big injury and/or the defendant is from a trucking company or some other business, you could need a law firm that handles those cases on a regular basis and has a track record of success that proves they are right for you.  If your case has seven figure potential, it’s likely that you’d want an outside firm to work with your work comp attorney. The work comp case is important because you want to get all of the medical care you need and have it paid for. But in the end it’s possible that the case with more value would be suing the trucking company, business or whoever injured you.

This can be confusing, but we are here to help. I don’t handle car accident cases, but can tell you who the best firm is for your case whether that means having one firm handle both cases or two separate firms. If you’d like a free consultation you can call us any time at 312-346-5578.  We help everywhere in Illinois.

2022 Illinois Workers Comp Info You Should Know

We are experienced Illinois work injury lawyers who will talk with you for free. Fill out our contact form or call us any time at 312-346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois.

We get a lot of great questions from clients and readers of our blog. There is a lot of information that we feel people should know about Illinois workers’ compensation cases. Here is a selection of some questions we’ve received in 2022.

I’m currently on workman comp. If you do not show up for work because of the injury do they have to pay you?

The insurance company only has to pay you if you are authorized off work by a doctor and the company doesn’t have work within your restrictions. You might know that you are so injured that you can’t do the work, but you still need a doctor’s note in order to get TTD benefits.
If my employer pays me weekly, shouldn’t the insurance company pay me weekly as well?
What this worker meant is that they got weekly pay checks when working, but they only get paid twice a month for their off work benefits (TTD). Unfortunately there is no way to make the insurance company pay you more frequently than that as twice a month or every other week is the standard.
My case went to trial and we won. The other side is appealing. Should I get a different lawyer for that?
This is a really savvy question, but the answer is no.  Handling the appeal is part of what you hired the lawyer for in the first place and is rather common in Illinois work comp cases that go to trial. Your lawyer knows your case very well and while keeping them doesn’t guarantee a result, it’s likely smarter to do that than to pay some other firm to handle the appellate process.
I’ve been on work comp for three years now. Is there a cost of living adjustment with all the inflation going on or an increase to the current rate of pay in my profession?
Unfortunately there isn’t while the case is going on. That said, if you can’t return to work and you get a wage differential settlement, it would be based on what you currently would be making in your profession. And if you are declared to be permanently disabled at trial, there would be a cost of living increase provided by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
How long does it take to get a pre-trial and how long does that last?
A pre-trial is a conference between the lawyers and the Arbitrator. Each side tells the Arbitrator their version of what’s going on and what they think the evidence will show if the case goes to trial. The Arbitrator then makes a non-binding recommendation. You can usually get a pre-trial whenever you want as long as the other attorney is cooperative and it’s the right time to do it. In other words, you wouldn’t have a pre-trial at a time when there aren’t disputes in the case such as a surgery not being approved. Every pre-trial is different, but most don’t last longer than 15-2o minutes because it’s an informal process and the Arbitrator wants to get through their day.
Is there a time frame or requirement for when vocational rehabilitation begins after your doctor says you are MMI?
Another savvy question by an injured worker. What they are asking is after a doctor says there’s nothing else they can do for you and the company doesn’t have a job for you, how long does it take for the insurance to provide assistance in finding you a job within your restrictions. The answer is that there is no set time limit. Vocational rehabilitation is part of medical care and it’s up to you to initiate the process.  If your injury is this serious, the smartest thing to do is have a lawyer recommend a good counselor to guide you through the process or you can start the process by looking for work yourself.  The sooner you start, the better.
Can a physical therapist excuse you from work?
As stated above, to get paid for being off work you need a doctor’s note. Theoretically a physical therapist can say you are unable to perform work, but if you want to get paid work comp benefits, the smart thing to do would be to take the note to whichever doctor referred you to the PT and have them put in writing that you can’twork.
We really do love helping people even if we aren’t going to be your lawyer. If you have any questions or want to discuss representation, please contact us at any time.

Why Is It Taking So Long To Get The IME Report?

When you are hurt on the job in Illinois, you generally speaking have the right to choose your own doctor.  The insurance company can’t dictate who you treat with, but does have a right to send you to a one time exam called an independent medical examination or IME.  It’s not so “independent” in many cases, as a lot of those doctors are hired guns or certainly skew toward saying what the insurance company wants them to say.

These exams can be very important to your case and it’s strongly advised that you talk to a lawyer before you go to one. What’s crazy about them is that even with a major injury, it’s not uncommon for the “exam” to last less than five minutes. A lot of the IME has to do with the doctor reviewing your medical records. The reality though is that they aren’t going to comb through thousands of pages of records. When the insurance company sets up the exam, they or their lawyer will write the doctor a letter and highlight certain records they want reviewed and often try to get the doctor to agree with their theory that the injury isn’t work related or no more treatment is needed.

With many of these doctors, they have assistants who write up a lot of their report. In most cases, they can complete a report within less than a week because a lot of it is just filling in info that isn’t unique.  It would be very unusual for it to take longer than two weeks for a report to be ready. These doctors often perform hundreds of IME’s a year and have their system down.

So why did one caller to my office tell me that it was 11 weeks since the IME and they still don’t have the report? And why wasn’t I surprised to hear that?

While most IME’s go against the injured worker, it some cases it would be impossible to do that or the doctor is just honest and tells the truth. When that happens, that report is a huge helper to the injured worker’s case and almost always kills any planned attempt to fight your case. Insurance companies are ruthless though and don’t always give up that easily. So they’ll do one of two things. First they’ll have the report and lie to you and say it’s not available. Technically they don’t have to share it with you, although we can get it usually be filing a subpoena for it. Their hope is that if they delay long enough you’ll pursue medical care through other means or return to work because you have to even though your doctor says you shouldn’t.

The second thing an insurance company might do is to tell the doctor to call them before preparing the report. If the doctor says that they are going to find against the insurance company, the insurance adjuster might say to them to not prepare a report at all.  In their minds, it cant’ be used against them if it doesn’t exist. The reality is that if the case were to go to trial and no IME report was presented, it would be inferred by the Arbitrator that it wasn’t favorable and can have the same effect as if it had been prepared.  We also could force the IME doctor to testify if we wanted to.

I’m never surprised to get this type of question because sadly it happens all of the time. The best strategy is to file a 19(b) petition for immediate hearing.  This will force the insurance company attorney to go before an Arbitrator and explain why there isn’t a report or more likely, get the insurance company to roll over since they don’t have a defense. As long as your attorney is aggressive the problem is usually solved.

If it seems to you like this is really shady, you aren’t wrong. It’s part of the game the insurance company plays.  The good news is that when the IME isn’t sent it almost always means it’s in your favor and that an experienced attorney can get the games to stop.

Illinois Work Comp – Can You Open A Closed Case?

A caller to our office wanted to know if they could open up a case that was closed. In their case, they had injured their back three years ago and unfortunately for them, hired a terrible law firm to represent them on their case. The case was settled over a year ago and now this factory worker needs back surgery and can’t work.

It is almost certain that they can’t “re-open” this case.  When you a settlement a work injury claim through the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the settlement contract will almost always say that you give up your rights to future compensation as relates to this claim. In plain English that means you can’t get any more medical care or payment for time off work on the insurance company’s dime.  Their motivation for offering a settlement is to close out your case for good in case something like this happens.

I do think the lawyer who handled this case screwed up and possibly there is a legal malpractice case there. For some workers, you settle your case, but then going back to the job aggravates the old injury and it allows you to file a brand new case for a new accident date.  Unfortunately that won’t happen here as this worker never went back to the job. In general though, once you settle, there’s nothing you can do against work comp for that accident date.

So does this mean that every closed case can’t be opened?  No!

I’ve been a lawyer since 1997 and what I’ve seen more and more in the last five years or so is that insurance companies are just randomly telling injured workers that their cases are closed.  They will say something like, “Our doctors believe you should be better by now, so your case has been closed.” It’s a complete fabrication that is found nowhere in Illinois work comp law. But they do it because some workers don’t know any better and will believe them.  If they delay you long enough you will lose your right to benefits.

So how does an injured Illinois worker open up a case that the insurance company says is closed even though there was no settlement contract? It’s rather simple assuming you didn’t wait too long. All we have to do is officially file the case with the State of Illinois by completing what is called an application for adjustment of claim. This is the paperwork that is filed in every work injury case and that has to be completed before the statute of limitations for filing has passed. Doing so assigns your claim to an Arbitrator and prevents the insurance company from ignoring you with a lie that your case is closed.

The other way an insurance company wrongly says a case is closed is when they’ve paid for all your time off work and all of your medical bills, but then say that they won’t offer a settlement because your case is closed.  That just means it’s closed in their internal system, but it’s really just a lame strategy to make you think a settlement isn’t possible. While they aren’t required to offer a settlement by law, we can make it happen by just filing the case with the State. That usually makes them want to settle because it’s cheaper in the end to do so and if they don’t, we just present your case to an Arbitrator who will award you a settlement.

The bottom line is that you should never settle a case before you are 100% sure you won’t need more medical care and you should never take the insurance company’s word as gospel. They aren’t looking out for you at all.  And if you want to discuss anything with an experienced work comp attorney for free, call us any time at 888-705-1766.

Amazon Workers Get Hurt Twice As Much As Other Warehouse Workers

Recently it was Amazon Prime day. It’s the big Amazon day for specials, sales and membership drives. It’s a huge money maker for them. And it’s also a really dangerous time for Amazon warehouse workers in Illinois.

These great employees work in a fast paced, intense environment year round. It only gets worse around Prime day. What do you expect from a company that is known to deny bathroom breaks to their workers?

We get a call from an injured Amazon employee at least once a week.  So I’m never surprised to learn that they have a high rate of injury, but it wasn’t until Prime Day when AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler tweeted about it that I learned a stunning fact.  Amazon warehouse workers are injured at approximately twice the rate of rival companies. That includes terrible employers like Walmart.

You’d think that a company that made over $34 billion would spend a bit more on employee safety.  It’s kind of nuts to me that it’s not a focus for them as doing so would make their company more efficient and save them money in the long run.  They certainly didn’t have a problem spending millions on anti-union efforts.  Fortunately that was money not well spent as the first Amazon unions are popping up and more are sure to come.

And it will take unions to get actual safety measures in place, at least ones that work. It’s how unions started in this country and sadly they are needed now more than ever. When a big corporation won’t act responsibly, there is no other choice. You’d think the terrible injury rates would cause some higher ups to lose their jobs and/or come up with a good plan.

I’ve read stories of Amazon workers in other states struggling to get pay and care after being hurt on the job. Fortunately that’s not usually the case in Illinois. We have probably the strongest work comp laws for workers in the country. And these laws are also sensible and fair to employers.

The end result, for now, is that Amazon workers hurt their backs, legs, arms, etc. in record numbers. They are on-boarding so many people to work who don’t seem to be properly trained. That leads to a lot of careless, reckless and naive accidents and many serious injuries.

We love helping people get an attorney for cases against Amazon and have had a lot of success in the cases we’ve been involved against them. It just feels a little bit better to win against a company that in my opinion treats their workers like garbage. If you’d like to speak with an attorney for free to see if we can help you with your case, please call us any time at 312-346-5578.  We help all over Illinois.

No Work Comp Insurance? You Might Be Able To Sue Your Employer

Generally speaking, under Illinois workers compensation law, you can not sue your employer for negligence. In exchange for that, you don’t have to prove negligence if you were hurt on the job. This benefits almost every injured worker out there.

Also under Illinois law is that it’s a felony for an employer not to carry workers compensation insurance. That doesn’t mean that some don’t break the law. They do. But if they get caught it could mean serious consequences. And of those consequences could be that the injured worker has a right to sue them.

To do so, you’d still file a workers’ compensation case and then file what is called a Section 4(d) petition. In plain English, if you can prove that the employer knowingly failed to provide work comp coverage, the employer can lose the protections of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and be sued in civil court.

In a recent case, a truck driver hurt his leg when it was struck by a pallet weighing over 400 pounds.  He filed for work comp benefits with the State even though he became aware that his employer had no work comp insurance. He also filed a 4(d) petition contending that they knowingly failed to provide insurance that would have covered his injuries.  This was a third-party company making deliveries for Amazon and it’s a bit shocking that Amazon doesn’t require proof of work comp for their vendors.

He won his petition because there was no evidence that the employer just made an accident in not having coverage. If someone from the employer was negligent, he can now bring a regular personal injury lawsuit. The bad news with that is that it won’t immediately pay for his medical care or time off work. The good news is that in the end, that case could be worth much more money to him.

It’s still better to have workers comp in most cases. The main reason is the immediacy of getting help. On top of that, many companies that don’t have insurance are a bit fly by night and often just shut down and open up under another name or leave town. The bottom line is that it’s definitely something you should investigate if your employer doesn’t carry work comp insurance, but it’s not always an option or a good one for a variety of reasons. But no matter what, you can call us for free any time at 312-346-5578 to discuss if you have a case.

Illinois Work Comp Death Benefits – When You Die Years Later

We are experienced Illinois workers compensation attorneys who will talk to you for free about any case. Contact us any time for a free, confidential consultation with an attorney.

One interesting aspect of Illinois work comp law is that if a problem can be traced back to the original accident, you can get compensated for a second injury as well as the first. So if you hurt your back and that causes depression, you can get treatment and an enhanced settlement for your psychological problems. If you have a knee injury at work and your leg later gives out at home, if you fall and break your arm, you’ll receive compensation for both injuries.

For some people, a work-related accident can cause serious problems that could ultimately result in death. If you can show that your loved one wouldn’t have died if it wasn’t for the work injury, you could receive Illinois work comp death benefits which could be up to $500,000.00 plus burial and medical costs.

For example, if you were on blood thinners following surgery from a work-related injury and you hit your head and end up dying from a brain bleed, that could be a workers compensation death case. That’s because the blood thinners made a brain bleed much more likely.

These aren’t easy cases to prove or win, but I do think anyone who dies with an active workers compensation case, their family members should have a conversation with an attorney to see if a case for death benefits can be pursued.

More than any other type of claim, these cases come down to evidence and what you can prove versus what you suspect.  For example, in a recent Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission decision, a widow filed for death benefits after her husband fell down the stairs at home and died. He previously had multiple neck surgeries including three cervical fusions. His widow testified that he had a restricted range of motion in his neck which made going up and down the stairs difficult. She felt he fell down the stairs because the surgeries left him in a weakened state, unable to look down, which contributed to him falling.

She lost her case unfortunately because the fall was not witnessed so everything she thought was just speculation, not actual proof. And you need actual proof to win. Further, the EMT report indicated he was having a heart attack when they arrived and didn’t have a pulse.  It’s a terrible result for his widow who is probably correct in her belief. Knowing something is true in your heart is not enough to win. You have to objectively prove it too. Perhaps if there was testimony that he regularly fell she would have won or if there were cameras in the house that showed the fall it could have helped.

Because the payouts in these cases are so large if the survivors win, insurance companies fight these claims very hard and I’ve never seen one where they voluntarily paid without a little fight. But they are winnable if the facts are on your side which involves having an attorney in your corner who knows what to look for. We would be happy to review any case for you and can help with our state-wide network of attorneys which allows us to cover all of Illinois.

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