Does Your Work Comp Lawyer Not Know What They Are Doing?

The New Year brings resolutions to do things better.  In the past month I’ve been called by two different Illinois injured workers whose attorneys told them the same thing.  It’s something I’ve never heard before.

In both cases the attorney, one in Chicago and one in southern Illinois told the clients that, “I don’t know what I’m doing.”

In one case it involved a back surgery that wasn’t being approved and in the other it involved how to avoid going to a 2nd IME when the first one found in your favor.

It’s shockingly refreshing to see an attorney admit they don’t know how to handle the case, but it’s also awful.  They should have told the client that they weren’t the best choice for them in the first place.  It’s not easy to turn down business, but if you run your law firm in a manner where you put your interests ahead of your clients it’s a bad decision for everyone.

For example, if you called me and said a loved one was killed in  an airplane crash, that could be a potentially lucrative case for me.  That said, I’ve never sued an airline before so if you asked me to handle the case, the right thing to do would be to refer you to one of the three law firms I know that has great experience in handling those cases.

On the flip side, these attorneys should have never taken on these work comp cases.  The good news is that their clients can easily fire them and get better representation at no additional cost.  The bad news is that their medical care is getting delayed by a greedy, yet somehow honest, attorney.

Lawyers in Illinois aren’t allowed by law to call themselves specialists.  So while I can’t tell you to look for a “specialist” I can highly recommend that whether you hire us or some other firm, you get an attorney in your corner whose practice is at least 80% workers comp and in most cases 100%.  You don’t want something to come up that they do not know how to handle even if it would be basic for me or many other lawyers.  They should not get their practice on how to handle a work injury case by working with you.  You are not a guinea pig.

I hope this makes sense.  If you have any questions or concerns, you can call me any time at (312) 346-5578.  We have a state wide network that handles cases throughout Illinois.

If They Will Deny This Case They Will Deny Any Case

Very rarely am I shocked when I see an Illinois work injury claim denied, but a recent one I read about shocked me.

First off a little background.  When you have a job, you are given job duties, but in general your job is to do things that benefit your employer.  So while my very nice and smart assistant usually helps with the phones, typing, writing and research, if I ask her to get coffee or pick up my dry cleaning (I’ve never done either of those things by the way), then she has to do it.  When it comes to work comp, if she does something and gets injured, as long as it’s reasonable and to the benefit of the company.  So if she gets hurt doing some crazy, spontaneous dance, it’s not a case.  But if she gets hurt cleaning up a spill that someone else left, it’s a case even it’s not her job to do that.

In the case I read about, a patrolman for the Berwyn Park District was injured while trying to apprehend an individual who was being chased by the police department.  This job as a park district officer was a second job to his main work as a policeman.

In the Park District job, officers had their own cars with sirens and were often dispatched to do work through the police department.  They also had access to the police radio and on the day this guy got hurt, he heard a message that the police were in a pursuit.  He saw the alleged criminal crash his car and kind of spin out.  The worker exited his own vehicle and told the suspect to put his hands up.  At that point the suspect hit the worker with his car.

The Berwyn Park District fought the case because it didn’t occur on Park District property and involved a driver who committed a traffic violation which was not part of his normal patrolling duties.

The Arbitrator in the case fortunately used common sense and correctly noted that there is a clear crossover between the two jobs.  The part time job was only staffed by police officers.  Quite honestly it sounds like a bit of scam to avoid paying overtime.  More so, the claimant was acting in his role as a Park District officer when this happened. He didn’t intentionally leave his post to pursue the chase, but came across it while on patrol.  Beyond all that the Arbitrator noted that since the District only hired police officers, it was forseeable that they might have to act in response to a crime that was not on Park District property.

This one is so obvious that I can’t believe the guts it took to deny it.  But insurance companies and their lawyers will deny anything if they think they can make an argument.  Maybe you’ll go away.  Maybe you’ll hire a bad lawyer and lose the case.  Maybe they’ll get some leverage to pay you less than the case is worth.

Bottom line is that don’t be surprised or frustrated if your case, that is clearly a work related injury, gets denied. It’s sadly the normal course of business even in obvious situations like this one.

Illinois Work Injury Lawyer Not Showing You Any Love???

It’s Valentine’s Day. Hopefully you have your own Valentine in your personal life that treats you great.  It’s illegal for your work comp lawyer to be romantic with you, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t show you love year round.

They can do that in so many ways:

  1. Return your phone calls.
  2. Remember what your case is about.
  3. Show you empathy when you are having a tough time.
  4. Listen when you feel the need to rant or vent.
  5. Answer your questions.
  6. Do what they say they are going to do.
  7. Actually fight for you when your benefits are wrongfully denied.
  8. Explain the law.
  9. Not pawn your case off on other lawyers.
  10. Not yell at you.

That’s just ten things they can do, but the list could be longer.  Do any of those things sound unreasonable?   They aren’t.  This is a customer service based business, but sadly many Illinois work comp attorneys treat their clients like garbage.  They either hate what they are doing, have become jaded after too many years of practice or are just terrible business people.

If this is happening to you, you should love yourself for Valentine’s Day and switch attorneys.  It costs nothing to switch, you are allowed to do it and if your attorney is doing things on this list it is likely that you will get a better end result with a real fighter in your corner.  If you don’t look out for you, nobody will.  There are bad attorneys who do these things, but it’s not “normal” and shouldn’t be accepted.

If you have any questions related to Illinois work comp law, we are happy to talk to your FOR FREE any time.  Call or fill out our contact form to speak with a lawyer.  We cover all of Illinois.

Is Gallagher Basset The Worst Work Comp Insurance Company?

A very frustrated reader commented on one of our posts about how awful Gallagher Bassett was being in their case.  They felt that it was personal and quite honestly (and understandably) it was getting the best of them. When you are seriously hurt at work it feels like your life is on the line because in many ways it is. If you can’t pay your bills and are having stress in your marriage or are in constant pain, when the insurance company is screwing with you it feels like war.

Gallagher Bassett seems awful, but are they the worst Illinois work comp insurance company? How about Chubb? The Hartford? Travelers?  BerkleyNet? CCSMI? Sedgwick?

The answer is none of the above and all of the above.  The reality is that they are all businesses.  Very similar businesses who approach cases in similar manners.  Their agenda is to make money. They do that by charging businesses for insurance and paying much less in claims.  If your case could cost them between $20,000-$100,000, they will do whatever they can to make that number as close to 20k as possible, even if it seems shady.

They do it by only approving two physical therapy visits a week instead of three.  They do it by denying your MRI or if they do approve it, only doing so when you agree to go to the place that will charge them $400 instead of $1,000 even if that facility doesn’t do a good job.  They do it by paying a hired gun IME doctor to say you are fine.  They do it by telling you your case is closed in the hopes you will go away. They do it by convincing you to use your personal health insurance to get treatment.  They do it by not counting the wages you earned from overtime or your second job in calculating your average weekly wage.  They do it by conducting surveillance on you. They do it by taking a recorded statement from you.  They do it by having a nurse case manager interfere with your treatment.

To you this is your life and it’s personal.  To them, even when the adjuster is clearly an awful person, it’s just business.  They will drive you crazy and do whatever they can to frustrate you or they will seem like they are super nice because they know if you get a lawyer you will discover the rights you are missing out on.  Rest assured whether they are mean or nice or in between, their goals are not for you to get better, but to save themselves some money.

So while I can’t tell you not to be stressed or frustrated, I can assure you that you are not alone and if the facts are on your side, justice can prevail.  Even when you are dealing with the worst insurance company in the world.

Will The Insurance Company Make A Settlement Offer?

A reader asks:

I hurt my back at work nearly three years ago and had surgery.  It was a long process to get better, but I was finally discharged by my surgeon about six months ago. I’ve been back at work and feel great.  Do you know when the insurance company will make me a settlement offer?

We hear versions of this question all the time.  The 100% honest truth is:

1. They don’t have to make a settlement offer.  Unlike paying your lost time and medical bills, a settlement isn’t mandatory.

2. If they do make an offer, in 95%+ of the cases we’ve seen, it’s in the very low end of the range of what your case could be worth. So if your case is worth between $30-50k, you can expect the offer will be between $24,000-$30,000.  Why so low? First off, they automatically deduct any offer by 20% because that’s what you’d have to pay a lawyer.  So you think you are saving money with no attorney, but you aren’t because they take out those fees.  They then offer enough to make it so no attorney would want to touch the case, but low enough that it saves them money. You get screwed.

3. If it’s an injury that often gets hurt again, like with back injuries, they often won’t offer anything.

4. For cases like this one, they are hoping that the statute of limitations to file a case will pass and the worker will lose their rights to get a settlement at all. They won’t put it in writing, but they’ll say things like, “We’re working on it” or “We are waiting on some of your medical records” or “We want to see how you are doing in a few months.”  It’s all delay tactics designed to hurt you.

The only way to make them give an offer is to formally file a case with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  That way if they won’t settle or offer something fair you can have a simple arbitration where a payment will be ordered that they have to comply with.

I realize that it sounds like I’m saying you will get more money with a lawyer because I’m a lawyer, but if you read my blog or talk to me you know that I am bluntly and brutally honest.  If injured workers could get a fair shake without an attorney I would tell you.  The God’s honest truth is that insurance companies are worried about their bottom line and their bottom line only.  If you think they are going to be fair with you or give you what you are entitled to, you are simply being naive. They don’t have to make an offer and if they do it’s almost never fair.

If you want to talk about any of this or just have a question, call or e-mail at any time for a free, no commitment consultation. We will talk to anyone at any time and we will give you the same advice we’d give our family members and friends if they were in your shoes.

IL Work Comp – Car Accidents Driving To Work

As anyone in the Chicago area can tell you, the roads have been terrible as of late.  If you haven’t seen a car that has been in accident from sliding on ice, you haven’t been out much.

In general, accidents while driving to work are not covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  So if you skid on ice in to a pole, you are probably not covered. If someone skids in to you and injures you, you can get a car accident lawyer (we’d be happy to refer you to a great firm near where you live).

Like most laws, there are exceptions. While driving to and from work is generally not covered, if you are a traveling employee you would be covered.  Last month a traveling nurse called us after skidding on ice in to a curb and sustaining a back injury.  It’s a work comp case because she was traveling to her client’s home.  Another guy called us who was injured in a car accident while driving to an off site meeting.  That is also clearly a case under Illinois law.

Another exception could be if you are driving a company vehicle that has advertising on it. Your employer benefits from you driving around and promoting their company, so accidents while driving are typically covered under Illinois law in that case.

It’s also an exception when you are hauling materials for work in your car.  If you drive to the same construction site every day, that is your office, so generally speaking, a car accident to or from work wouldn’t be covered.  But if you load up your truck with work materials, the employer benefits and you are essentially on the clock while you are driving, even if you aren’t getting paid at that time.

Bottom line is that while generally driving to work isn’t work comp when you are in an accident, there are exceptions and with the crummy weather we’ve been having, it’s always worth it to see if you fit in to any of these or other exceptions.  Feel free to call or e-mail us any time for a free consultation with a lawyer to see if you have a case.

Illinois Work Comp and Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative disk disease is caused by wear and tear on the spinal disks. This condition appears when a person’s disks lose the ability to absorb shock naturally over time.  Typically found either in the lower back or upper neck this disease is known to cause chronic pain, weakness and numbness. While it may sound like this disease gets worse with time, the term “Degenerative” actually refers to the process of the disk degenerating over time.  According to some specialists, more often than not, the pain that is caused in the back or neck is actually from another injury and not the condition itself.  Workers compensation can cover degenerative disk disease for that reason.

Highly repetitive motions, high impact activities or even a job where you remain sitting for too long of a period may contribute to degenerative disk disease. Aggravation of degenerative disk disease may happen if a person is required to do heavy lifting, twisting and turning or any other motions that may lead the typical person to a back injury.   In other words, you see this problem a ton in Illinois workers’ compensation cases.

Aggravation of degenerative disk disease is likely covered regardless of the term “preexisting condition” due to the fact that the work responsibilities made the condition worse.  Under Illinois work injury law, if the job duties are a factor in your injury, even if they aren’t the only or primary factor, you are still entitled to receive work comp benefits.

Workers compensation will cover all of your medical bills, and could provide you with income while you are unable to work. In addition, a determination may be made that you are unable to return to work at all or need to get trained for a new career.  We see that a lot with degenerative disc disease because the nature of your job duties often means that you can’t safely work or will always be exposed to a likely re-injury.

The biggest way we see insurance companies fight a degenerative disc disease diagnosis is when it’s the only thing that shows up on a MRI after you’ve had a specific injury like back pain when lifting a box.  Don’t be fooled by this defense.  They will try to tell you that since nothing else showed up it’s a per-existing condition and not covered.  The truth is that even if you have some underlying injury, if it’s not a problem until you get hurt while working, your case should still be covered.

If you have any questions or concerns, contact us any time for help anywhere in Illinois.  All calls are free and confidential.

Spinal Stenois And Illinois Work Injuries

Spinal stenosis is defined as a narrowing of the bone channel occupied by the spinal nerves or spinal cord. Typically, it is caused by degeneration of the bones, disks, muscles and ligaments that make up the spinal column. However, in certain instances and jobs, work can add to this already extremely painful condition; causing a person to have extreme radiating pain in their back and neck.

Sometimes, if left untreated, it can also cause weakness and numbness to a person as well.  There are some non-surgical treatments for spinal stenosis including physical therapy and activity modification, epidural injections and medications. Surgical decompression is an option depending on the severity of the case, and other conditions and risks.

Symptoms develop over time and this condition is sometimes hard to prove was caused by a job. Most workers compensation insurance companies will claim spinal stenosis is caused by old age, deterioration, and not any specific job.  However, in some instances, with the help of an experienced attorney you may be successful in your workers compensation claim. For instance, if a mechanic is able to show years of medically documented, progressing back pain throughout his career, it would make sense that over time his job duties contributed to the condition. The same could be said for any person in a labor-intensive career, or one who puts excessive pressure on his or her back on a regular basis.

The KEY POINT is that just because other things have contributed to your back problem or if a doctor says it’s degenerative does not mean you have no case.  Part of the reason your condition is degenerative can be from your job activities. If that’s true then you should have a winning case.

To be successful in a worker’s compensation case, a doctor must determine that the persons job duties were a contributing factor to the condition. It’s important that you give your doctor a detailed description of what you do at work, how you do it, how often you do it, how long you’ve been doing it for, the weights you lift, the amount your bend, etc.  You could have a winning case and lose because your physician doesn’t have enough information.

The most important thing you can do if you have been diagnosed with spinal stenosis is get the right medical treatment, usually with an orthopedic doctor. If you think your back condition may be work related or want to know if it is, contact us for a free consultation.  We have helped in hundreds of spinal stenosis cases throughout Illinois and would be happy to talk to you to see what options you have and/or answer any questions you may have.

Illinois Work Injury During Training

Many Illinois companies make you feel like you aren’t a real employee until they say so.  That can be done through probationary periods or a time of extended training. Often it’s a way to pay you less for a short time or to make firing you easier.  It happens with small companies and even big companies like United as part of their flight attendant training program.

The fact is that whether you are “training” on probation or anything else, you are a full fledged employee and if you get injured during that time, you are covered by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  There simply is not an exception. You are covered the minute you start to do anything that benefits the company.

One caller to my office was falsely told that her ACL tear wasn’t covered since it happened during training.  This lie was told by her boss as well as the insurance company and she believed them until she was fortunate enough that a friend told her to get ask a lawyer just to make sure.

Now the insurance company can try and defend the case by saying you weren’t hurt at work or you were high or any other defense they use on other cases. But to flat out say that you don’t have a case because you were on probation or training is not how Illinois law works.  Unlike dental or medical benefits or vacation pay, work comp is a benefit that doesn’t have a waiting period.  Every employee is covered.

The other thing we see happen with injuries during these periods right after you start work and get hurt are supervisors who tell you to lie about how you got hurt when you see the doctor.  They try to intimidate you with your job status which is illegal and the reality is that they are looking out for themselves, not you.  If you lie to your doctor it will make it much harder to win your case even if otherwise your case was a slam dunk.  We’ve seen too many times where this happens including people with really serious injuries who end up homeless because they gave in to the pressure to lie.

No matter who you are or what has happened to you at work, don’t take legal advice from the employer or the insurance company as they have a motivation to lie to you.  If you ever want to ask if you have a case you can call us at (312) 346-5578 for a free consultation with an attorney.

A Shady Insurance Company Move On Settling A Case

You don’t see this a ton in Illinois workers’ compensation cases, but you are seeing it more and more.

We received a call from a worker who injured her leg and has been off work for a few months.  Right now the treatment has been mostly physical therapy and pain medications, but there has been talk about needing surgery in the future.

The worker was only at the job part time so the TTD rate is really low, about $200.  The insurance company knows (or at least believes) that this worker doesn’t have much money, so they tried something that is really shady.  They offered around $10,000 to just close out the case telling the worker, “We’ll just give you all of your money now so you don’t have to wait.”

They make it seem like they are being really generous, but if you look closer you realize they are trying to screw this worker in three ways:

  1. If she has to get surgery, it will cost 3-4 times more than what they are offering her and additional medical care after that could be another 20k.
  2. While her weekly check is low, if she does have surgery and is off for a year, that would be 10k in benefits she’d miss out on.
  3. On top of all of this, she’d still be entitled to a settlement when she’s all better.

She called me just wanting to know if this was fair or if she should counter and was shocked to learn the truth as to what the case is really worth and how much this “generous” settlement would actually cost her in the end.

Pretty much everyone wants to settle their case if they can, but nothing is more important than your health.  Beyond that, there’s no point in settling a case for an amount that is grossly unfair and low.  A settlement will come and won’t go away because you waited until you are all better before considering one.

We don’t promise a result, but do promise that we will always put your interests about ours and do whatever we can to get the best result possible.  If you want to talk about a case call us at (312) 346-5578 for help anywhere in Illinois.