The “But For” Test When Hurt At Home, Illinois Work Comp Law

If you’ve ever been hurt, whether on the job in Illinois or not, you know that a serious injury can lead to other issues. For example, if you break your leg and are using crutches, you might develop an elbow injury. If you have trouble lifting with your right arm and overuse the left, it’s possible that you will then develop a left arm injury.

When the first injury happens due to a work accident in Illinois, the second injury can get covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  And it can be covered even if you get hurt at home. The test we use to determine if it should is called the “but for” test.

In plain English, this means we need to be able to say that if it wasn’t for the work-related injury, you wouldn’t have had the second injury.  A recent case shows how this gets applied in real life.

In that one, a worker at a cement contracting company had an undisputed work-related accident that resulted in two ankle surgeries.  While recovering at home from the second surgery he was walking up the stairs when he felt a sharp pain in his left ankle. Per his testimony at trial, this caused him to fall forward and injure his low back. At the time of the fall, he was wearing a CAM boot due to the second surgery.

He received treatment for his back, but the insurance company disputed the case. The Illinois Workers Compensation Commission found in his favor noting “but for” the original injury which led to ankle surgery, he wouldn’t have been wearing the boot, wouldn’t have had ankle pain, and wouldn’t have fallen.  So they ordered that the employer through their insurance company pay for the back surgery that he now needed.

These types of second injuries happen all of the time, but sadly many of them don’t get handled by workers comp. Sometimes that is because the injured workers don’t know they have that right. Other times attorneys aren’t experienced enough to know that it can be a part of the case. And worst of all, some lawyers know it should be part of the case, but don’t want to make an otherwise clean case messy.

In this case, the injured worker is going to end up with tens of thousands more in their pocket and a fixed back because their lawyer fought for them.  It’s a really big deal.

Bottom line is that even if you are hurt at home, if it wouldn’t have happened “but for” the original work accident, you can add that to your case. And you should.

And of course, if you have any questions about this, you can call us for free at any time at 312-346-5320 to speak with a lawyer.

Home Care Aides And Illinois Workers Compensation Law

In Illinois, there are more than 81,000 people working as home care aides.  This is double the amount of workers we had a decade ago, and it’s expected that number will grow as people are living longer and the elderly population in Illinois is increasing.

These workers are saints. The job duties vary, but are pretty much hard everywhere. And it’s not just elderly people who are being cared for. Many home health aides help the disabled with acts of daily living. Here are some of the job duties per the Illinois Department of Human Services:

  • Personal Assistant (PA): Provides assistance with household tasks, personal care and, with permission of a doctor, certain health care procedures. PAs are selected, employed, and supervised by individual customers.
  • Homemaker Services: Personal care provided by trained and professionally supervised personnel for customers who are unable to direct the services of a PA. Instruction and assistance in household management and self-care are also available.
  • Maintenance Home Health: Services provided through a treatment plan prescribed by a physician or other health care professional. Other services include nursing care and physical, occupational, and speech therapy.
  • Electronic Home Response: Emergency response system offered by hospitals and community service organizations. This rented signaling device provides 24-hour emergency coverage, permitting the individual to alert trained professionals at hospitals, fire departments, or police departments.
  • Home Delivered Meals: Provided to individuals who can feed themselves but are unable to prepare food.
  • Adult Day Care: The direct care and supervision of customers in a community-based setting to promote their social, physical, and emotional well-being.
  • Assistive Equipment: Devices or equipment either purchased or rented to increase an individual’s independence and capability to perform household and personal care tasks at home.
  • Environmental Modification: Modifications in the home that help compensate for loss of ability, strength, mobility or sensation; increase safety in the home, and decrease dependence on direct assistance from others.
  • Respite Services: Temporary care for adults and children with disabilities aimed at relieving stress to families. Respite services may be provided for vacation, rest, errands, family crisis or emergency. Services may include personal assistant, homemaker or home health.

Basically every one of these tasks puts workers at risk of injury. The top one we see is a back injury from lifting a patient who loses their balance or isn’t cooperative. But literally in the last 25 years, I’ve seen just about any injury possible. This includes slip and falls on floors wet from bodily fluids, injuries from being attacked by a patient, burns from kitchen accidents and car accidents while running errands. All of these events (and more) are covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

Unlike workers in a factory or office setting, most home health care aides have accidents with no witnesses.  As a result, two things are really important:

  1. You need to notify your employer/agency ASAP about what happened. We highly recommend that you do so in writing so you can prove that you gave notice. Some of these organizations are sketchy and don’t treat their employees like people. They will certainly lie if they think it will save them some money.
  2. Get medical treatment right away and be very clear in telling the doctor how you were injured.

Because these are work injuries, it doesn’t matter if you have health insurance or not. All of your treatment should be covered by the work comp insurance of your employer. This means no co-pays and no out of pocket expenses.  In addition, if the doctor takes you off of work, you will be compensated for your time off until you are better. Many home care workers have two jobs.  As long as your employer knew about both jobs and approved of it, you should be paid based on your wage loss from both jobs.

Risk wise, the biggest issue we commonly see is aides who return to work before they are ready. If you have a torn muscle in your shoulder or a herniated disc in your back, doing this work will likely just make it worse.  And of course as mentioned, some of the employers are shady and will fight cases when they shouldn’t.

This showed up in a recent Illinois Workers Compensation Commission trial.  The worker was assigned to a client and was given specific duties which included bathing, dressing, preparing meals, housework and undefined “outside of the home” tasks.  One day she drove the client and her son to get food and there was a car accident.  Somehow the insurance company fought the case even though outside of the home tasks were part of the job. This client had mobility problems and going with her on this trip was providing help.  There was no company policy against it and it was of course reasonable for her to do so.

So in the end she won her case, but had to deal with a bogus denial before it happened. Fortunately, she had an experienced attorney in her corner who knew how to properly represent home health care aides.

We have helped hundreds of injured home workers throughout the years and would be happy to help you. If you would like to speak with a lawyer for free, you can contact us any time at 312-346-5578. We help workers everywhere in Illinois.

30 Things You Wish You Knew About Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law

I started my law firm over 21 years ago and have been a licensed Illinois attorney since 1997.  One thing I’ve heard a lot from people about Illinois work comp cases is, “I really wish I knew that earlier.”  In fact, I’ve heard it so much that I thought I would make a list with the hopes that some future injured workers will see it and it will make their case go smoother or help them to avoid any mistakes.

1. You don’t have to give a recorded statement to the adjuster and shouldn’t.

2. Illinois work comp law is a no-fault law. That means you don’t have to prove negligence.

3. Failing a drug test doesn’t mean that your case is over.

4. Insurance companies will often say your case is closed. That can only happen in reality if you settle the case or wait too long to file it.

5. Almost every case has some settlement value.

6. It costs nothing to switch attorneys.

7. The insurance company can conduct surveillance on you which includes filming you in public places.

8. Unless your company has set up a preferred provider program (PPP, Jewel is one company that has done it), you get to choose your own doctor.

9. Payment for time missed from work is based on calendar days missed, not work days missed.

10. Once you have a lawyer, the insurance company isn’t allowed to talk to you.

11. The nurse case manager has no right to talk directly to your doctor, nor can they attend your appointments.

12. There is a maximum amount for weekly off-work checks depending on your accident date.

13. While AMA ratings are a consideration in settlements, they are not binding or even a main factor in my opinion.

14. Most work comp trials take less than a day.

15. Doctors typically testify via deposition before you testify.

16. While you can’t sue the insurance company, you can file for penalties and fees against them.

17. You have to notify your employer of an accident within 45 days of getting hurt.  The sooner the better.

18. While it’s advisable to formally file a case with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission as soon as possible, you have three years from the accident date or two years from the last payment of compensation to do so.

19. It’s not unusual for multiple insurance adjusters to be on your case if it lasts a while. Those are high turnover jobs.

20. If you are on social security or soon will be, there is language your attorney can add to a settlement contract which will limit the amount your SS benefits get reduced by you receiving a big, lump-sum payment.

21. It doesn’t take years to get to trial. Some Illinois work comp attorneys lie to their clients about that.

22. If you were hired in Illinois, you can file your case in Illinois even if you mainly work out of state.

23. You are eligible for work comp benefits the minute that you start working. There is no probation period.

24. If your boss says they will pay for your bills and time off work out of pocket they are likely lying and it’s a terrible idea for you to lie to your doctors thinking that your boss will be honorable.

25. Work comp settlements are tax-free.

26. While any attorney licensed in IL can take your case, you are best served by working with someone who primarily does nothing but work comp cases all day, every day.

27. While the thought of going to trial sounds intimidating, everyone I’ve worked with has told me after that it wasn’t nearly as bad as they thought it would be and most feel like they can’t believe they were worried about it.

28. There are certain times of the year when an insurance company is more interested in settling because insurance adjusters get bonuses based on how many cases they close. So usually toward the end of the year, you’ll get their best offer.

29. There are some attorneys who advertise a lot in the Chicago area who aren’t themselves licensed to practice law in Illinois.

30. Just because the insurance company pays your benefits or medical bills doesn’t mean they can’t fight your case later on.

 

Hopefully, none of these items are making you more confused. If you have any questions please call us at 312-346-5578 to talk with an attorney for free. We cover all of Illinois.

How Does Workers’ Compensation Work In Illinois?

We have been helping injured Illinois workers since 1997.  Call 312-346-5578 to speak with an attorney for free.

A rather flustered and recently injured Illinois worker called me with a very direct question. “How does workers’ compensation work in Illinois?” they asked.

They were flustered because they had been recently hurt on the job, and nobody is giving them answers. It’s a straightforward situation (they were hit by a forklift), but in the one call with the insurance company, they were told that the case was under investigation. That’s insurance company speak for, “We are going to jerk you around.”

So how does workers’ compensation work? It’s a very good question if you’ve never experienced the system before.

The first thing that happens is that a worker gets hurt while working or realizes that an injury they have is due to the repetitive nature of their job.

Step two is to get medical treatment. In almost every case you can choose your own doctor and you certainly can go to any ER you want.  That treatment should be 100% paid for by the work comp insurance for your company. Be honest. Tell them what happened. And get a diagnosis.

Step three is to make sure your employer is notified of your accident/injury. If your boss sees you get hit by a forklift, that’s them having notice. If you are alleging carpal tunnel from typing all day or they didn’t see you get hurt, you have to report the claim to them, in writing or verbally. We recommend that you do both and document it.

After that, it really comes down to what your doctor says. If they say you need to be completely authorized off work due to your injury, you are entitled to 2/3 of your pay, tax-free. The same is true if your doctor gives you restrictions that your employer can’t accommodate such as no typing or no lifting more than 10 pounds.  This payment for being off work can last as long as it takes for you to get better.

You can continue to treat, at no expense to yourself, for any medical condition that is related to your claim as long as the care is reasonable. For us, we highly recommend that our clients get referred to reputable specialists such as orthopedic doctors and trust their guidance. If you want a second medical opinion, you are usually entitled to that too.

When you are all better or as good as you are going to get, you may be entitled to a settlement. The value of that depends on your injury, treatment, recovery, wages, age, job history, any potential defenses to your case, and other things.

In between getting hurt and the case getting settled, you must be on the lookout for insurance company games. Our caller had experienced one already when they were told the case was under investigation.  Here are some other things to look out for:

  1. Drug tests. They have a right to make you take one and if you refuse it could end your case. But just because you fail a test doesn’t mean that you lose your case. It means you have to prove that you weren’t inebriated when you got hurt which can be done by your testimony.
  2. Recorded statements. It’s not uncommon for the “investigation” to mean that the adjuster wants to ask you questions in a way that could cause you to lose your benefits. You don’t have to take part in telling them anything, certainly not in a recording. We highly recommend that you refuse to participate if asked and once you have a lawyer the insurance company can’t talk to you directly.
  3. Independent Medical Examination (IME). This is a one-time medical exam at the request of the work comp insurance company. They pay for it. The doctor is usually working for them, not looking out for you.  It can be used to get an opinion, even if it’s absurd, that can be used to deny your case.  Often these exams last less than five minutes.
  4. Surveillance.  If your injury lingers, the insurance company at any time can pay a private investigator to follow you around and film you. Their goal is to catch you doing something that your doctor says you shouldn’t do. If you are honest and follow your doctor’s restrictions you’d think nothing could go wrong. But stuff happens like you are feeling good one day and decide to pick up your kid and carry them. Next thing you know your benefits are cut off because you lifted more than you should.

When benefits are wrongfully denied, that gets resolved by either having your lawyer convince the insurance company they are wrong or by filing for arbitration. And if a settlement offer isn’t made or isn’t fair, arbitration is the process too to make that happen.

While you may think I’m biased, it’s a really good idea to get an attorney. A good one will protect you along the way and in the end, not only make sure you get a settlement, but also get the most possible for your case. It costs nothing upfront to hire an attorney or file a case. Typically attorney fees are 20% of any settlement they get for you or any award at arbitration if your case goes to trial. If you’d like to speak with an attorney for free, please contact us any time.

If You Hate Lawyers, Wait Until You Find Out About Insurance Companies

One thing I pride myself in is that I’ll tell you if you don’t need a lawyer and I’ll tell you if you do need one. Not everybody does, but others certainly do. If you do need one, I’ll tell you why and it won’t be so I can make a fee off of your case. It will be because it’s in your best interests and your case and pocketbook will be better in the end.

Ultimately of course it’s up to you as to whether or not to hire a lawyer that I think is good for you, someone else you found on your own, or nobody.  For some people, if they don’t hire anyone, it will likely mean less money in their pocket, but maybe somewhere around 10-20k.  That’s a lot of money, but maybe not life-altering. For others though, the failure to hire an attorney will not only result in a settlement that is more than $100,000.00 less than they would have ended up had they hired a lawyer, but also their health will be at risk due to interference from the insurance company.

There are people who just don’t like lawyers. For some maybe they had a bad divorce experience or got screwed over by a terrible attorney in another case. For others, including one I recently talked to, they’ve never actually worked with a lawyer, but have a perception in their mind about how terrible attorneys are.

In this case, a guy who has had two back surgeries, including a debilitating fusion, has been dealing with a work comp case for over eight years.  I didn’t even get to talk to him. I just heard him yelling in the background while his wife called to try and find out what the case is worth. In the process, I learned that he hadn’t returned to work, needs another surgery, and has had multiple issues over the years with delayed TTD checks and medical procedures that were not approved in a timely manner. In other words, he has let the insurance company walk all over him.

The reason he let this happen is “I hate lawyers and will never work with one.” Ok.  I don’t know what bad experience he had, but this is a cutting off your nose to spite your face situation. I tried to make clear that no matter what bad experience he’s had, we are different. It didn’t work.

I couldn’t answer their main question about what the case is worth because the reality is he’s not better. I can tell you that the insurance company is talking about offering around $90,000.00 and it wouldn’t surprise me if the case is worth at least five times that amount ultimately.  So sadly what I see happening is that he will settle for a woefully low amount, have no job, no income, and still be in terrible pain. This will of course make him angrier at the system and probably attorneys too.

It’s frustrating for me because this person needs help and we really can help him. And that’s really what we enjoy doing.

I get that there are a lot of bad lawyers out there and there’s a perception that attorneys are terrible. Sometimes it’s deserved, sometimes it’s not.  But I can assure you whether it’s us or someone else, there really are a lot of great Illinois work comp firms out there who can help you and who you will enjoy working with.

No, Your Lawyer Didn’t Write The Illinois Workers Compensation Laws

I got a call from an injured firefighter downstate who had talked to five other law firms about his back injury.  He said two things that were interesting to me.  First was that of the five firms he talked to, two were from Chicago.  I let him know that being downstate he should get a downstate lawyer who focuses their practice on work comp. He then said, “Aren’t you from Chicago?” and seemed surprised by my honesty. I connected him with a lawyer in our state-wide network who hopefully can help him. It’s my opinion that for most cases, Chicago attorneys shouldn’t be your choice if the hearing location will be southern IL.

The second interesting thing he said was that one of the lawyers he was considering bragged to him that not only was he the best lawyer around but that he had also written the Illinois workers compensation laws.

This is the type of misleading thing that a lot of attorneys say and it makes my skin crawl. First off, Illinois workers compensation laws were written over 100 years ago in 1911.  Now unless this attorney is a zombie or vampire, he certainly didn’t write those laws.

What this attorney was referring to most likely is that in 2006 and then again in 2011 there were some changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. They covered things like case value, a medical fee schedule, carpal tunnel claims, a cap on wage differential benefits, the creation of a preferred provider program (allows some employers to choose your doctor), and added AMA ratings to be a factor to consider in settlements.

This all came to pass due to pressure from the insurance industry and some business groups for work comp “reform.”  It became a hot button issue and Democrats wanted to look like they were doing something so it didn’t become a campaign issue that could drag them down. So legislators got together and received input from various groups including the Chamber of Commerce, Insurance companies, workers comp defense lawyers, and workers comp lawyers for the petitioners (injured workers).

I was not on a committee but was asked my thoughts by a lawyer who was talking to a state rep who was heavily involved. So were hundreds of other people.  No one person or lawyer wrote these laws.  Many people, including lawyers, were involved in the discussions on them.

My personal opinion at the time and now is that while some ideas like a medical fee schedule were good, most of these “reforms” were just giveaways to insurance companies who are already making a killing off what I see as over-priced premiums. If there is any lawyer who represents injured workers who is bragging because they helped pass a law that significantly lowered many benefits for injured Illinois workers, it makes me wonder whose side they are on.

So not only would I not want to attach my name to these changes, in my opinion, anyone who says they wrote the law is lying and is just trying to market themselves in what I see as kind of a slimy or misleading way.  Maybe they are a great lawyer, maybe not, but to me promoting themselves this way is a huge red flag.

How My Illinois Work Comp Advice Has Changed In 14 Years

I recently looked back at my first Illinois workers compensation blog posts. Although I’ve been an attorney since 1997, I started blogging toward the end of 2008.  A couple of thousand posts later and I still haven’t ran out of things to write about which makes me feel very lucky.

Seeing these old posts was a bit cringey. My first one was on carpal tunnel.  My second one was general advice. Here’s what I wrote:

In these tough economic times, many workers are worried that if they report a work-related injury they will lose their job. We understand that concern but think that you have a bigger concern. What happens if you are hurt on the job, don’t report it, and then can’t work because of your injury. By the time you report it, it’s too late and you lose your job. Now you have no job, an injury, no pay, and bills for medical treatment.

In Illinois you are supposed to report a work-related accident within 45 days from when you knew or reasonably should have known that it might be work-related. Whether it’s talking to your doctor, your lawyer or your boss, honesty is always the best policy. If you are fired because you have filed a workers’ compensation claim in Illinois it is illegal and there are laws to protect you.

Our best advice is to look out for yourself and don’t just think short-term, but long-term. How will this injury affect you five or ten years from now, both physically and financially?

I hope that I’m a much better writer now. That said, there is a lot that is still true about what I wrote in a short amount.

1. While economic times aren’t as tough as the financial crash of 2008, people still get worried about losing their job.

2. Nothing has changed when it comes to the financial and health risk of not reporting an injury.

3. The 45-day time limit for reporting an injury is still there. More reporting is done electronically these days, but it can be done verbally or in writing.

4. It’s still very illegal to fire someone for filing a work comp case.  We’ve seen numerous seven-figure cases for injured workers who were illegally fired.

5. Thinking long-term is still the way to go as well as always being honest.  Too many injured Illinois workers have been burned because they lied about how they got hurt or didn’t take care to get the treatment they need. You don’t want to end up without a job, a serious injury, and nobody to pay for it.

So even with a big overhaul to Illinois work comp laws in 2011 and a few big changes since then, the basics of Illinois work injury law haven’t changed.

Does Your Lawyer Have A File On You?

One rather vague thing I say to injured Illinois workers is that if you discover that your attorney isn’t doing a good job, you should switch law firms before it’s too late.  The response I get to that is usually something like, “How will I know they are doing a bad job?”

That’s a great question to my vague advice. Sometimes it feels obvious like if they aren’t returning your phone calls or don’t answer your questions. Other times you catch them in lies like if they say it takes years to get in to court.

Another way to tell is if you meet with them in person. Even with most correspondence now being by email, your lawyer should have a file on you and your case.  At first that file would just have notes on how you got hurt, what they’ve discussed with you and copies of paperwork filed at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission such as an application for adjustment of claim.

As time goes on, that file should get bigger and bigger and medical records and bills are provided, correspondence is received from the insurance company or their lawyer, trial motions and other items related to your case come in to play.  Many times a lawyer will make summary reports of your case if it’s dragged on for a while. They do this for a couple of reasons. First, it’s a great way to organize your case. Second, it will memorialize things that have happened and plans of action. Third, it allows someone else in their office to pick the file up in an emergency and grasp what the case is about.

If a case is around for over a year, you’d expect the file folder to be filled. So if you meet with your lawyer at their office or in court and the folder doesn’t exist or is empty, that could be a bad sign. While some lawyers scan all documents and try to keep everything on a computer, if you go to court, copies will be needed for the other attorney and potentially for witnesses. Most experienced attorneys don’t have everything on a hard drive.

I thought of this after our firm was involved in taking over a case from another lawyer. When this happens, the old lawyer is required to turn their file on the client over to the new lawyer. This is so the new lawyer can pick up the case and start running with it. In this recent case which another lawyer had for almost a year, there was practically nothing in the file. No medical records. No accident reports. No bills. So essentially we had to start a case from scratch which delayed our ability to help the client.  The attorney who handled this case was very bothered by the delay because he wanted to give great service from the get go. That’s impossible to do without information.

So I can’t tell you how thick exactly a file should be on your case, but if you’ve sent off work slips and other medical records to your attorney and you know there has been a lot of correspondence on a case, if there’s hardly anything in your file, that’s a bad sign. If most of what they know about your case is in their head, that’s an even worse sign. Don’t be afraid to ask your lawyer where all the information is related to your case. And if they don’t have a good answer, run.

No, Fault Doesn’t Matter In Illinois Workers Compensation Cases

We are experienced work injury attorneys who will fight for you. If you’d like to talk to an attorney for free you can call us any time at 888-705-1766. 

Illinois work injury cases are not lawsuits. When you are in a car accident and you file a lawsuit, you have to sue for negligence.  In those cases, fault matters.

Since work comp claims aren’t lawsuits, but instead claims for benefits, fault isn’t relevant. By that I mean you don’t have to prove anyone was negligent and in fact, in most cases, nobody is negligent. If you are lifting a box and your back goes out on you, it’s most likely nobody’s fault that happened.

But even if you are at fault, that doesn’t prevent you from having a case.  That doesn’t mean an insurance company won’t make you think that it matters.  Take this note I received recently from the spouse of an injured worker.

My husband got hurt at work last year. He fell going up the stairs. It was his fault he fell. He injured his shoulder and ended up tearing his bicep and had a torn rotator cuff. He had surgery and was off of work for a few months. There was a nurse case manager for work comp assigned to his case and attended dr appts. She told us he would receive a settlement when all was said and done. He was released back to full duty. He had not heard anything so he reached out to the work comp case manager asking about a settlement. She came back after consulting his corporate office and she is saying “no settlement offer will be extended”. I guessing it’s because they technically weren’t at fault. I just want to know if we have a case to go after them for a settlement?

The “fault” in this case was because the worker was running up the stairs since he was late for a meeting and carrying some items. This was all for the benefit of the employer and increased his risk of getting hurt.  So him being the reason that he was late doesn’t matter.  This is a great case and there is no defense to it as evidenced by the fact that they paid for all of his medical care.  Them not offering a settlement doesn’t mean he’s not entitled to one.

The insurance company appears to be shady from the get-go on this one. The nurse case manager should not have been attending his appointments.  A lawyer would have stopped that nonsense from happening. It’s too late to change the past, but the good news is it’s not too late to get a settlement and the case isn’t closed even though they said it was.  He is well within the time limits to file a case and once he does we can certainly get him a more than fair settlement. And if they don’t offer one the case can go to arbitration and he’ll be awarded the appropriate compensation there.

The good news here is that the wife was curious and didn’t take the insurance company’s word for it.  Had they done so, they likely would have missed out on a high five-figure or low six-figure payment.

As far as fault goes, the only time it really matters is when you are drunk, high, violating known rules, or being reckless when you get hurt. Beyond that, it’s mostly irrelevant when it comes to whether you have a case or not and if you are entitled to a settlement.

How Hitting A Pothole Turned In To A $475,000.00 Wrist Injury Settlement

I will talk to anyone with Illinois workers compensation questions for free.  For one, I like to help people and I get to speak with a lot of interesting workers and hopefully make them feel a little better about their situation. Second, you never know when a case that sounds like nothing will turn into an actual great case.

For example, in early 2021 I was contacted by a nice woman who drove for a trucking company.  At first, she was very casual in describing her injury that had happened in 2019.  She said something like, “I ran over a pothole and hurt my wrist,”  Now if you’ve not worked with a lot of truck drivers in the past you’d think that this isn’t a thing.  But in reality, a semi-truck steering wheel isn’t like a normal car steering wheel.  It requires a lot of force and you can’t really be hands-free or loosely hold the wheel.

So when she hit the pothole, the steering wheel jerked and so did her wrist. I’ve probably hit 100 potholes in my life and have never had a worry other than I hope I didn’t blow out a tire. This client wasn’t as lucky, as she ended up with a severe DeQuervain injury that required a significant surgery along with a radial styloid decompression.  She hasn’t made a great recovery from her accident and will need a future surgery. She has a permanent 20-pound lifting restriction and can’t drive a truck anymore.

So what at first seemed like a minor situation is actually a huge injury and case.  She was a high-wage earner and is only in her 30’s and facing a career change. Her case is in Rockford so I connected her with a partner who has a great track record of good results there.  In this case, he got her an amazing result as the case was settled and paid earlier this year for $475,000.00.

The reason the settlement was so high was due to a variety of reasons:

1. Her injury was very serious.

2. She needs more medical care.

3. She can’t return to her old job.

4. She’s a high-wage earner.

5. Her earning capacity has been reduced greatly.  Meaning the jobs she’s qualified for within her restrictions don’t pay well.

6. She missed two years from work (all of which was paid before the settlement).

7. She’s young.

All of those things helped increase the value of this case and resulted in what will likely be one of the top 20 settlement amounts in Illinois this year.  It’s a great result to have more than $400,000.00 in her pocket tax-free.

An interesting (to me at least) aspect of this case is that the total expenses on this case were $100.  Unlike personal injury lawsuits that require court filing fees and often have expenses in the five figures, the only expense, in this case, was securing her medical records.

Now not every case is going to be like this, but it’s important to understand how settlements work and to realize that just because an injury seems minor doesn’t mean it might not turn into something else. I come across a lot of lawyers who won’t talk to workers unless they have a clearly major injury. That is absurd to me.  It doesn’t provide actual service and like in this case, those lawyers miss out on great people and great cases.

If you’d like to talk to an experienced Illinois workers compensation lawyer for free, contact us any time at 312-346-5578.

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