Tips On Settling Your Illinois Workers’ Compensation Case

We are Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers who with our state-wide network, handle cases everywhere in Illinois.  We’ll talk to anyone for free and in confidence. You can contact us any time at 888-705-1766.

We love to answer questions and help people.  We get so many good questions that I thought it would be a good post to list some that I’ve heard lately.

I just had a neck fusion last month.  I feel much better. When can I expect a settlement and how much will I get?

That’s a big surgery.  Any time you have something that serious it’s not a good idea to try and rush a settlement. Doing so could cause you to get hundreds of thousands less in benefits potentially.  We wouldn’t expect to pursue a settlement until a client has been discharged from medical care and back to work without problems. This person is not close to being discharged as the typical timeline for recovery is at least six months and usually up to a year.  How much they will get depends on what recovery they make among other things so there’s no way to give an accurate number right now.

Someone told me a work comp settlement in Illinois is tax-free.  Is that true?

It is. When your case is over you will get a copy of an approved settlement contract.  You should always keep a copy in case anyone from the IRS or elsewhere wants to know where you got your money from.

I’m on social security and was hurt at work. If I get a settlement will that end my social security benefits?

It shouldn’t, but it could reduce them. To offset that, we add something called “spread language” to your settlement contract. You still get your money upfront in a lump sum, but the language on the contract would note that the payment you are getting is based on your life expectancy and for social security purposes, the dollar amount would be spread out over the rest of your life which will cause your benefits to not drop as much.

This next one is a mashup of something I hear a lot. My cousin had the exact same knee injury with surgery at his job and he got a settlement for $20,000 more than I did. How is that possible?

There could be a lot of explanations. It could be that your lawyer doesn’t know what they are doing or isn’t fighting hard enough. The more likely answer though is that while the injuries are similar, the cases are different. The cousin might make more money.  They might have had a worse recovery. There might be potential defenses to your case where the cousin’s case was cut and dry. Maybe the cousin has permanent restrictions or a possible need for future medical care. All of these factors can cause two cases to end up with different results. It’s sensible that people want to compare, but in the end, it’s a bad idea.  Your claim is unique and should be treated that way.

And here’s another spin on the last one. I hurt my back ten years ago and got a settlement for about $15,000.00. I had a similar injury last year with the same treatment, steroid injections. Now I’m getting an offer for almost $30,000.00. Did I get too little the first time?

It’s the same answer as the last one along with the fact that every year the value of cases goes up because the settlement rates go up.

 

If you have any questions about anything related to Illinois work comp law, please contact us at any time.

When Your Attorney Is On Vacation

We are all excited that Illinois is open again and while Covid might not be all the way behind us, it does feel like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

If you are in Chicago, you can tell things are getting better. The Loop and public transportation are getting busier. Many restaurants are packed. People want to get out.  Part of that means that people want to travel after sitting at home for more than a year.

A lot of attorneys are taking vacation. That is their right like anyone else. I’m going to take a trip in July and have made a couple short ones.  What I’ve noticed though is that we are getting a lot of calls that go something like this:

My lawyer is out of town and I have a question I need an answer to that can’t wait.

What these injured Illinois workers are really saying is, “My lawyer is out of town. I have a question I need an answer to that can’t wait and my lawyer didn’t put any process in place to help me while they are gone.”

This is terrible customer service and a sign that you hired the wrong law firm. When an attorney takes vacation, if they are part of a good firm they will have a backup system in place.  They’ll tell you who you can talk to, they’ll assign someone to cover their client calls and in an emergency, they will respond to you.  For me and most lawyers I know, while we might not be available right away as we normally are, we will text, email and call when appropriate, even if we are on vacation.  It doesn’t take a lot from your vacation to make a five minute phone call or shoot an email.

This is what customer service is all about and what you should expect if you are a client. Otherwise, if your attorney is going away for a month does your case just sit on the sidelines for a month?  That would be absurd.

In one call, the injured worker had a question about their benefits and was frustrated because her attorney didn’t say he was going on vacation and nobody in the office will talk with her other than to say only that particular lawyer can talk to her and he’ll be back in 10 days.  When we looked further, we discovered that her case had been denied for no good reason and in two years her attorney has made no attempt to correct that problem with a trial.

What this shows is that a lawyer who does a bad job when they are on vacation is probably not doing the best job even when they are in the office.  If you aren’t thinking about how your leaving for a bit will affect your clients, you aren’t thinking of your clients best interests.  Fair or not, that’s the job. If your attorney isn’t looking out for you, it’s time for you to look out for you and find a new law firm.

Off Two Years And Still Waiting For The Employer To Do The Right Thing

A statement I hear a lot from injured workers is that “I’m not the suing type.”  That’s alright because Illinois workers’ compensation claims aren’t lawsuits, they are claims for benefits you are entitled to. So just like you wouldn’t feel bad using your company’s health insurance if you or a family member got sick, you shouldn’t feel bad using their work comp insurance if you get hurt on the job.

Despite this, I do come across workers that “feel bad” for getting work comp when they are hurt.  If they didn’t take it, they’d be off work without pay and have nobody to pay their medical bills. In other words, feeling bad could cause them to go bankrupt, go homeless, etc.

Often an employer will take advantage of these types of employees by promising to take care of things themselves.  In 95% of the cases I’ve seen, they look out for themselves and do little to nothing.

In one case we were recently contacted on, an employer for two years has been telling a worker with a bad arm injury that they will cover the bills.  Two years and nothing has been paid and now this worker is being sent to collections. It’s nuts and quite honestly cruel on the employer’s part.

The good news is that the simple solution of pursuing benefits is usually enough to right the wrong when the facts are on your side. By that I mean if it’s clear you were hurt at work and your need for treatment is related to that accident, you should be able to get work comp benefits. The danger of waiting on your boss, aside from going bankrupt or getting sued for unpaid bills, is that if their insurance company isn’t aware of the accident they will likely fight having to pay if the delay has been long.

While I understand the mentality of the “not the suing type” people, they really have to look out for themselves at some point. If they don’t, nobody else will. And I’m not the suing type either.  I haven’t sued anyone for myself in almost two decades. And it’s not because I haven’t felt wronged.  At some point though you have to draw a line in the sand and stick up for yourself.  It costs nothing to make a claim for Illinois work comp benefits. A lawyer to protect you costs nothing upfront too. At the very least, you should get a consultation to know what your rights are and make an educated decision.

If you’d like to speak with a lawyer for free, fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5320. We cover all of Illinois.

Injured O’Hare Truck Worker Gets $3.9 Million

We are experienced Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys who will talk to you for free about your work injury case.  We have a state-wide network of aggressive attorneys who care about their clients. Call us at 312-346-5578 for a free consultation.

One of the hallmarks of Illinois work comp law is that you can’t sue your employer for negligence. As a result, even the biggest, most serious work injury cases don’t settle for more than a million dollars. So how did a construction worker at O’Hare end up with $3.9 million?

Back in 2016, Gildardo Antunez was hauling dirt for an excavating company. While doing that, his truck flipped onto its driver’s side after the wheels sunk into the soft soil as he raised his dump box.  This all happened because the ground was too soft. His injuries were many and significant.

Antunez, then 57, sustained a left scapular fracture, a left full-thickness rotator cuff tear that required surgery, a right knee medial meniscus tear requiring surgery, aggravation of preexisting degenerative disk disease, among other injuries.  And he never returned to work.

If this was just a work comp case he would have been found to be permanently disabled. On top of being paid for his medical bills and lost time, I estimate he’d get around $350,000 for a settlement. In this case, though, there were multiple contractors, a property owner, the City, and others who shared responsibility for making sure the ground was safe.  Because someone who wasn’t his employer was negligent, he was able to sue and come out of this with much more money than he would have had this just been a work comp case.

It was important though that he got work comp in the beginning.  That paid for all of his medical care. That paid for all of his time off work.  That got him the best medical care he could have hoped for.  The lawsuit will help him with future needs.  The work comp case kept him whole for the four years it took him to get the settlement. Without work comp he would have had no money coming in and who knows who would have paid his medical bills if he could get treatment at all.

I mention this because I’ve seen some firms who don’t represent injured workers take on these negligence lawsuits and not tell their clients about their work comp rights.  Maybe they don’t know better, but for some, I suspect they are worried about losing the case or not getting as much of the attorney fees as they want.  It’s shameful because it can really hurt their client.

We are for work injuries only but work with many great firms that handle major injury cases. The guiding principle is to always do what is best for the client. We hope you don’t have a catastrophic injury like Mr. Antunez did, but if you do, you need someone to look out for you.

Bonus tip, it also shows the importance of getting an experienced lawyer in your corner.  Some less knowledgeable lawyers might have blamed the worker for getting hurt and not have had a proper investigation done to determine who really was at fault.

The Chicago Workers’ Compensation Commission Now At The Daley Center

There is a big update for Cook County injured workers as of today. This morning, hearings for workers’ compensation cases in Chicago have moved from the Thompson Center to across the street at the Daley Center.  The Daley Center is the main courthouse in Chicago and is located at 50 W. Washington.

It’s a bit odd to me and anyone else who has made a living helping injured workers.  All Cook County injury cases are assigned to the Chicago hearing location and that has been the Thompson Center for what seems like forever. It was that way when I started practicing law in 1997.

The move was made as part of cost cutting measures by the State which has included efforts to go paperless. The new space is about 25% smaller and partially reflects a reduced amount of cases being filed in the State. In fact, last year there were only around 33,000 cases filed over all.  20 years ago the number was double that.  It’s an important thing to remember when you hear businesses make complaints about work comp costs.  Case numbers are going down and insurance companies are making more than ever.

The hearings will take place in the basement of the Daley Center which has also been the home to minor traffic cases in the past.  The Chairman of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has stated the goal is give workers an easier path to trial as compared to what happens now. As he described it, there can be 100 people standing in a room and nothing getting done. That’s a pretty blunt and sadly accurate statement.

So how will this affect you as an injured worker?

The real answer is likely not much. It’s just important that you know where to go if you need to show up in person. What’s more important is making sure that you have a lawyer in your corner who focuses their practice on workers’ compensation and regularly appears before the Arbitrators there.  The Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys in our network are there almost every day and this is all they do.

If you’d like help with a case or just want to speak to a lawyer for free, please call us any time at 312-346-5578.

How Many IME’s Can The Insurance Company Send You To?

Some of the best Illinois work comp topics we blog about come from great questions we get from injured workers. We aren’t always thinking about what you are thinking about and many of the questions we get are inspiring.  Take this recent one on independent medical examinations (“IME”).

How many IME’s do I have to go to?  I’ve been to a few in the last two years and now they want to send me back to the first one for what they called an addendum.  I feel like they keep sending me to new doctors to see if anyone will change their opinion.

First off, this is a somewhat unique scenario in that it’s unusual to go to more than one IME during the course of a case. But this is a worker with a severe back injury that is not getting better and he’s had multiple surgeries.

Typically an insurance company can send you to an IME and they are generally stuck with the opinion of that doctor if it doesn’t go their way. Many of these doctors are “hired guns” but some are honest and others have cases so blatantly clear in favor of the worker that they have no choice but to tell the truth. If you have a compressed disc in your back that will leave you paralyzed without surgery, it’s hard for even a hack to say surgery isn’t needed.

What happened to this worker is that they never got a lawyer.  They went to the first IME and that doctor agreed surgery was needed.  After the first surgery didn’t go well, they wanted to do a follow-up procedure.  Before the insurance company approved that, they sent him to a different IME doctor. That one also found against them.  They insanely used a third IME when a spinal cord stimulator was requested and now want to go back to the first IME for a question about if the conditions are work-related.

It’s a bit of insanity. But back to the question.

You have to go to an IME if it’s scheduled.  The only reason you’d have to go to a second one is if there is a new condition or question to be asked.  That technically happened here, but not really. Had we been representing him, we’d have pushed back on the third one for sure and maybe even the second.

The bigger issue is that they are doctor shopping. It’s unique that all the IME’s found for the worker.  Even with that, they are delaying another procedure that is now needed which is a joke.  While technically they can choose a new doctor for a new situation, to just about every work comp Judge it’s going to look super shady.  Once the first exam didn’t go their way it showed that the treating doctor is credible and attempts to later say he is doing things that shouldn’t be done are in bad faith.

Simply this is a worker who got bullied because he didn’t have a lawyer.  Sadly, it affected his health which ironically cost the insurance company even more money.

The bottom line is that every case is different, but if you are being asked to go to more than one IME it’s at least suspicious and potentially against the law. If you want to discuss your unique case in confidence, you can contact us for free at 312-346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois.

Is There An Illinois Workers Comp Settlement Chart

We are experienced Chicago work comp attorneys who will talk to you for free and in confidence about any Illinois work comp case. Fill out our contact form or call us at 888-705-1766.  We have a state-wide network of lawyers so we can help anywhere in IL.

Injured workers in Illinois are usually very curious about what their case will be worth. That makes sense. I’d want to know too. Lately, I’ve been getting questions from injured workers about where they can get a copy of the Illinois workers compensation settlement chart.

While the state of IL has set up a medical fee schedule that determines what amount medical providers can charge for their services, there is no such thing as a work comp settlement chart in Illinois.

There is an item known as a rate card that lets you know what the maximum and minimum PPD rates are and the most an injury to a particular body part can be worth.  There is also a book called the Q-dex that lists what previous cases have settled for and offers a description of the injuries.

But there is nothing out there that requires any case to be worth any certain amount. Every case is different based on your age, injury, restrictions, wages, work experience, need for future medical care, and subjective pain among other reasons.

That’s not to say that we as lawyers don’t look at other cases to determine what your case would be worth if we went to trial and what a good settlement would be. We do that and previous cases can be a good guide.  But there is no “chart” or other formula where you plug in an injury and some numbers and can say for certain that is what a case is worth.

You also have to take into account two big issues. Number one, if there are potential defenses to your claim, that can dramatically alter the value of the case.  Number two, if you are unable to return to your old job and suffer a significant wage loss, that could make a case that would normally be worth tens of thousands of dollars suddenly worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

By writing this blog, I choose to provide more information for injured workers than any lawyer I know of. I want the general public to know what lawyers know.  The reality for settlements though is that you can’t figure out what a case is worth from a chart or by knowing what someone else with a similar injury got.  There are just too many variables to take into account that affect the final outcome.

Bottom line is that you can drive yourself crazy worrying about this stuff. As the case goes on your lawyer should be able to give you a range of what the case might be worth, but there’s no way to know for sure until you are discharged from medical care.

IL Work Comp- Is A Hernia Injury Worth Nothing?

Insurance companies lie.

That’s not a shocking statement or a defamatory one. They aren’t looking out for you, they are looking out for themselves.  Is everything they say a lie? No. Are most things they say not true?  Usually not.  But they lie or don’t tell the whole truth all the time.

The latest whopper I heard was from an injured worker who has a work related hernia. He does a lot of lifting on the job and has for years. It’s usually four to six hours of lifting 20-200 pounds a day.  That type of worker would not surprisingly have a back injury or get a hernia.

That case should be straight forward, but in this case he was told by an insurance adjuster that Illinois law provides no compensation for work related hernias.

THAT IS A LIE!

These type of lies happen all of the time. Sometimes they are malicious, but I don’t think that’s what happened here. Quite often people don’t know the answer to something but still tell you information as if they are confident.  In this case, the adjuster is based out of state and handles work comp cases in multiple states. My best guess is that she covers one state where maybe you can’t get a settlement or medical care for a hernia (the laws are different in every state) and assumed it was the same way in Illinois.

The truth of course is that if you get a hernia at work in IL, you get all of your bills paid, all of your time off work compensated and a settlement when you are all better. The settlement depends on a lot of things, the three big ones being your wages, the medical care you had and the ultimate recovery that made.

Had this worker listened to the uninformed at best or lying at worst insurance adjuster he would have cost himself tens of thousands of dollars.

Almost no Illinois work injury is worth “nothing.”  At the very least if you get medical care, your bills should be paid. If it’s something more than a superficial injury, it has some settlement value. And if it’s a more serious injury like a hernia, one that impacts your ability to do your job and enjoy life, it can have significant settlement value.

Bottom line is that if you are ever told you aren’t allowed to do something by someone who has a competing interest with you (like your boss or the insurance company), don’t assume they are telling the truth or are correct. Call a lawyer who will give you the truth and won’t charge you to do it. We are happy to talk with you for free any time.

You Can’t Be Forced To Take A Work Comp Settlement

The most important thing to know about settling just about any Illinois workers’ compensation case is that once it’s over, it’s over. By that I mean when you get a settlement, it almost always means that your work comp benefits are over.  If you need more medical care from your accident, that’s on you.  If you have to miss work because of your injury, you don’t get compensated for that time off of work. If you think your case is worth more money than you got, there is nothing you can do about it.

Insurance companies make these settlements because they like certainty. When it comes to work comp, certainty means that your case is closed and they don’t have to spend any more money on it. A good lawyer uses this knowledge to get you the most money possible, but whatever the end result, there is no such thing as re-opening a work injury case when a settlement contract has been approved by an Arbitrator.

With Covid, a lot of law firms are not doing as well as they used to.  Whether it’s a coincidence or not, I don’t know, but I’ve noticed a lot of calls lately from injured Illinois workers who felt “pressured” by their lawyer to take a settlement. Maybe in some cases the lawyer really got them as good of a result as possible.  But I do worry in some cases that some attorneys who need the income convinced a client to take a low ball offer so the lawyer could put some money in their pocket.

While I get that it’s easier said than done, you can’t be forced in to a settlement. I say that because nobody can make you sign the pink settlement contracts that end Illinois work comp cases. They can pressure you for certain. Your lawyer can (wrongly) make you feel abandoned or that you have no choice. But they can’t make you sign. At the end of the day, if you don’t want to settle, you don’t have to settle. If you want to go to trial, that is your right. It’s your lawyer’s job to let you know your options, make a recommendation and then let you make an educated decision.

Bonus tip.  Another thing I’ve seen way more of in the last year is settlement offers being made while an injured worker is still getting treatment for their injury.  That benefits the insurance company and maybe your lawyer, but it’s a terrible idea for you. If anyone is telling you to take a settlement while you are still getting medical care, even if you get some money for future medical care, don’t do it. It’s a terrible idea and a huge risk. In one case a worker with a knee injury was facing a knee replacement surgery.  They were offered a decent settlement for the injury itself, but only $20,000 for future medical care.  A knee replacement surgery would probably be triple the cost not to mention all the time off work that would be needed. If the worker settled they would have likely short changed themselves around $75,000.00 minimum.

I Have Permanent Work Restrictions. What Happens Next?

While you obviously don’t want to get hurt at work, if you do, you certainly want to make a great medical recovery  For most workers, after treatment they will return to their normal job and move on with their lives.  For others though they won’t make a full recovery. When that happens and your doctor thinks nothing else can be done for you, they will either decide you are permanently disabled from working or release you to return to work with permanent restrictions.

Permanent restrictions typically happen in heavy duty jobs that require a lot of lifting or when it’s clear that your job duties will likely re-injure you. So if you have a severe case of carpal tunnel and your doctor thinks that if you type eight hours a day will bring back the problem, they might release you to return but restrict typing to only an hour a day. If you have a back or arm injury, it’s not uncommon to get a release to work that has a lifting restriction. Sometimes they limit the amount you can lift and other times they limit the frequency.

So the question is, what happens after you get released with permanent restrictions?

The answer at first depends on your employer.  If they can accommodate your restrictions, you can return to that job and see how it goes. Hopefully you can work for some time without problems. From our standpoint, we want to know if this is a legitimate job or if they only created a fake one for you in order to limit your work comp benefits.  We’ve seen some cases where laborers are asked to sit in an office and stuff envelopes. That’s not a real job and usually we’d advise those clients to not settle their case any time soon and see if the job really exists in six months.

Sometimes you are told they will follow your doctor’s orders, but they don’t. A common scenario is a worker with a 20 pound lifting restriction. They’ll get a real supervisor type role, but get constantly asked to help with lifting. Often other workers or the boss will pressure them.  In other cases it becomes clear the job can’t be done without violating the restrictions.  In these cases we usually advise our clients to not risk hurting themselves.  If you were to get fired for not doing these activities, we believe it would be illegal and your work comp benefits should start again.

Other times you’ll try to work within the restrictions and it turns out that work is too much for you to handle. If that happens then you should return to your doctor and get their guidance. Often they will again take you off work or order some occupational therapy to help you return to work.

And if you are able to successfully return to work with the limits in place, at some point after three to six months it will be time to talk settlement. The value of your case will increase since you can’t work a full duty, normal job.

On the other hand, if they can’t accommodate your restrictions, you have some work to do.  The first step is to start looking for a job on your own and keep a log of the jobs you apply for or inquire about.  You will be required to turn this list in to keep your workers’ compensation benefits going. They are called maintenance benefits, but are paid at the same rate as your TTD.

If you are unable to find a job you can ask for vocational rehabilitation assistance.  This will allow your to hire a vocational expert at the expense of the insurance company who will assist you in looking for work.  During this process your pay should continue.  Often they will discover, especially if you were a high wage earner, that the only jobs you can get will pay you much less than what you used to make. In those cases this will help establish that you are entitled to wage differential benefits which are 2/3 of what you would be making in your old job compared to what you can make now. That pay would continue until you are 65 (or for five years, whichever is longer).

While this is a basic explanation, the bottom line is that if you are hurt at work and do have permanent restrictions, there is a lot to think about and the safest thing to do is talk to a lawyer who is experienced.  If you would like to have a free consultation with one of our lawyers, please call us any time at 312-346-5578.  We help with cases all throughout Illinois.

LexBlog