Arthritis and Illinois Work Injury Cases

They say the only sure things in life are death and taxes.  But now that I’m 48, I know that the third sure thing is arthritis.  You might have a mild case, but as you get older you will likely get swelling or tenderness in one of your joints.  That’s arthritis.  You wake up and your neck is stiff or your back is sore for no reason.

When it comes to Illinois workers comp cases, insurance companies love to use arthritis as a reason for denying your case.  You hurt your back lifting a patient???  That’s not work comp, that’s arthritis they like to say.  Your shoulder needs treatment and you lift over your head all day?  They will say it’s arthritis, not work comp.

Basically it comes down to them saying you weren’t hurt at work, you have a pre-existing condition that was temporarily aggravated.  They want the court to believe that even though you weren’t in the need of treatment until you had the work accident, what happened at work was just a temporary problem.

The reality is that a pre-existing condition does not bar you from getting Illinois workers’ compensation benefits. If your job aggravates or accelerates an existing problem then you should be covered.

It really can be frustrating.  For most workers we’ve helped they’ve never even known they have arthritis or if they did they didn’t think about it. You’ll see crazy defenses where an insurance company gets a hired gun doctor to say your back pain isn’t from working construction all day, it’s actually because you were in a car accident 15 years ago.  It’s nonsense, but if it works even one out of ten times, it’s a huge victory for them.

This is a way different scenario than someone who’s been treating for a chronic problem and then says after a couple of years it’s the job that made it worse.  That could be a case, but is no slam dunk.  But to say someone who hasn’t either been to a doctor ever or in many months/years for a problem wasn’t really hurt at work is just b.s.

The good news is that we almost always prevail on these cases. The bad news is that there are enough shady doctors who will tell the insurance company what they want to hear that you might have to jump through some hoops before you win the case.  For a work comp insurance company, they are trying to save money however they can, even if it they are clearly in the wrong and it’s at your expense.

Illinois Millwright Wins Workers’ Compensation Case

We are experienced Illinois work comp attorneys who care about our clients. If you would like our help, we have a state wide network of tough, experienced attorneys.  Please call us any time at 312-346-5578 for a free consultation.

Working as a millwright is one of the most dangerous jobs out there.  They are some of the most skilled tradesmen out there and that skill leads them to be put in many situations that can lead to a work injury.  It’s very heavy duty work that involves installing machinery, lifting a lot of heavy equipment, using a lot of tools and quite often working in small areas with a lot of bending, stooping, etc.  They may also be asked to do the jobs of other professions such as welding or transportation.

It’s not surprising that millwrights would have one off injuries such as lifting a heavy box and having your back go out on you.  They also have a lot of repetitive trauma injuries from doing the same activities over and over.

Despite the fact that these jobs are so physically demanding, insurance companies in Illinois work comp cases love to fight repetitive trauma claims.  Millwrights are no exception.

In a recent Court case, a millwright had been doing his heavy duty job since 1991.  Most of his work was with power tools at or above shoulder level.  In 2017 he sought treatment for shoulder pain and in 2018 he had a right shoulder replacement.

Under Illinois law, if you believe that his job contributed to his shoulder problem, he should get work comp benefits.  That doesn’t mean it’s the only cause,  just a contributing clause.  Can anyone say with a straight face that 26 years of lifting, maintaining transmissions and hydraulic systems, continuously working overhead and constantly using power tools didn’t cause any wear and tear? Of course not, but that didn’t stop the insurance company from denying his benefits and forcing him to trial.

And of course the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission found in his favor. He credibly testified that about 60% of his work was repetitive and at or above shoulder level working on large, industrial machinery.  The insurance company gave the IME doctor an inaccurate description of what the actual job duties are and of course that hired gun didn’t try to find out the truth from the worker.  In fact the millwright testified that he tried to make clear what his actual job duties were and the IME doctor would not allow him to talk.  Even though he was a millwright, the IME doctor didn’t know or believe that he did activities that put stress on his shoulder.

And the treating doctor did know what the real job duties were and testified that the repetitive duties aggravated the underlying arthritic condition that he had.

So ultimately this millwright won his case, but I’m sure that he has a terrible view of the legal system. He had to go through a battle because the insurance company gave out false information and essentially tried to frustrate him out of pursuing a case.

The bottom line is that insurance companies will fight cases they shouldn’t especially when you have a serious injury like this one.  Their philosophy is that if they lose the case it doesn’t cost them much because they are just paying what they owed anyway.  It’s sad but true and all the reason why you need a lawyer who knows how to win trials in your corner in case it comes to that.

How To Prove You Are An Odd Lot Permanent Total

We are Chicago work comp attorneys who help with cases all throughout Illinois via our state wide network of experienced attorneys. If you want to speak with us for free, fill out our contact form or call us at (312) 346-5578 any time.

You may have heard the phrase permanent total disability.  That’s when you have a work related injury that has lead a doctor to state that there is no line of work you can return to.  It’s a somewhat rare, but in some cases you are so injured that a physician will say that you can not safely return to any type of work.

In other cases though, you may have a very severe physical restriction due to your accident, but not a doctor saying you can’t do anything. In those cases too you can receive permanent disability benefits for life if you can prove you are an “odd lot permanent total.”

“Odd lot” is one of those weird work comp terms that most people have never heard of. It basically means that due to your injury and the other factors in your life like your age, work experience, etc. there is no stable labor market for you.

To prove you are an odd lot, you have to perform a really diligent job search. That means looking for lots of jobs that appear reasonable for you based on your work experience and your physical limitations.  You should keep a log of who you contacted, what the job was, what follow up efforts you made and what the result was.  If you apply at 200 different places and nobody will hire you, that goes a long way to proving there is no job market for you.

This effort is best supplemented by a vocational counselor report.  Just like you can choose your own doctor, you can choose a voc counselor to help you look for a job, prepare a resume and author a report as to what jobs are available for you.

In a recent case, a worker applied for  more than 1,500 jobs without success.  The voc counselor testified that he worked hard to find a job and that in all likelihood would not be able get one.

Now even with all of that, the insurance company can still try to prove that jobs are available.  In this case though they didn’t do that.  They said they offered vocational rehabilitation efforts, but they required him to be able to drive at least 30 minutes which was against his restrictions.  That’s not a good faith effort on their part to help him.  They then did a labor market survey which is a test that is nowhere near as effective as an actual job search.  To them it showed he was “prospectively employable” but the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission was not persuaded by this.

The bottom line is that if you put in a good faith effort and can’t find work and the insurance company can’t prove that real jobs exist for you, you should be considered an odd lot permanent total.  This is important as the difference between winning or losing this issue at trial would likely be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

IL Work Comp – Falls On The Job

We are honest, experienced Chicago attorneys who help with work comp cases all over Illinois.  We care about our clients and would be happy to offer you a free consultation.  Call us any time at 312-346-5578.

One of the most common Illinois workers’ compensation questions we get is, “Do I have a case?”  The answer of course depends on the facts about how you got injured.  This is especially true when people get hurt after falling on their job.

It’s not enough to say you were at work when you got hurt if you want to have a case.  You have to show something about the job increased your risk of having an injury.

Take for example a recent caller to my office.  She was working outside and tripped over a small hole and ended up fracturing her ankle.  Her job duties required her to be outside.  The hole was on the company’s property.  She couldn’t see the hole because she was carrying work items.  All of those things increased her risk of getting hurt.  She has what appears to be a very strong case.

On the other hand, if she wasn’t paying attention and her feet got tangled up with each other, it’s likely she wouldn’t have a claim.  If she was walking down the stairs and slipped because they were wet it would be a good case, but if she has no idea why she fell then she’d be out of luck.

The biggest way Illinois workers lose out when they fall at work is that they are in so much pain they don’t realize why they fell. If your ankle breaks or you tear your ACL, it can’t be expected that you’d calmly look around and figure out why you fell.  But if you did fall, there are some things you can do to protect yourself.

1. When you can, think about what you were doing before it happened.  Were you carrying work items?  Were you rushing?  Was there something wrong that caused you to fall? All of these things can help your case if they are true.  If stairs are slippery, you don’t have to know what substance you fell on, but must know it was something.

2. If you are able to, head back to the scene of the accident after you get medical care. Perhaps you will find nothing, but you may see that there is still a wet floor or a leaky roof or some other defect. If that’s the case it increases your chances of success.

3. Do not under any circumstances give a recorded statement.  It’s very likely the insurance adjuster will ask for this and might even say that can’t process your claim without one or that it’s just for training purposes.  This is not true. You do not have to give a statement no matter what they say and refusing to give one won’t cause you to lose your Illinois work comp rights.  They can ask an innocent question like, “Is it correct that you don’t know what caused you to fall?”  If you say yes, but mean “Yes I don’t know, but it was something slippery,” your lack of an explanation could cause you to lose the case.  They are trained to ask questions that will twist your words in a way that can harm you.

These cases get fought by insurance companies more often than they should.  If you have any questions or want help with a case, please call us for free any time.

When An Illinois Work Injury Is Your Fault

I randomly got a call from a person who was in a car accident while driving their company vehicle.  They wanted to know if their employer could be made to pay their traffic ticket.  I asked if he was injured, and he said yes.  I then asked if he was getting work comp benefits, and he told me that he wasn’t eligible because he got a ticket for the accident.  I wondered where he got that info and he said his boss told him that.

I wanted to scream, “THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS!” because I hate it when workers in Illinois get lied to. Instead, I calmly said, “That’s not how Illinois workers’ compensation law works.”

Illinois is a “no fault” law when it comes to work related injuries.  That means that even though my caller turned left when oncoming traffic was going straight, he can still make a workers compensation claim.

It also means that if you are running down a flight of stairs and trip because you were going to fast to make a meeting, you can get benefits even though you were being a bit careless.

It means that if you drop a box on your foot and break it, you are eligible for Illinois work comp even though you have nobody to blame but yourself.

And if you are lifting a box and throw your back out because you used bad form, you still get your medical bills paid for as well as your time off work and a settlement.

So does fault never matter when it comes to an Illinois work injury?  You’d think it doesn’t but it’s really a no fault law with an asterisk*.

If you are drunk or high when you get hurt. that is a violation of your job duties and will likely prevent you from getting benefits unless you can show that being inebriated didn’t contribute to you having an accident.

If you are engaged in “horseplay” and get hurt then you won’t get work comp benefits in IL.  What does that mean? Let’s say you are a security guard and drive a golf cart around a property as part of your job.  If you and another security guard decide to drag race each other and you crash, your injuries wouldn’t be covered.  That’s because your accident wasn’t part of your job duties.

Another example where fault actually does matter is if you get in to a fight with a co-worker.  If you are the aggressor and then get hurt when they fight back, you will not get work comp benefits because you started the fight.

There are other exceptions, but these in my opinion are the big ones.  The bottom line is that in most cases fault does not matter when it comes to Illinois work comp law.  And unlike personal injury cases, if you are partially at fault, it doesn’t reduce the amount you will receive.  My caller in the car accident will get that same amount he would have been entitled to had he been rear-ended.

As always, if you have questions, you can speak with us for free at any time.

A Work Comp Attorney Who Will Talk To You For Free

We are experienced Chicago attorneys who help with cases all over Illinois. If you want to speak with a lawyer for free, call us any time at 312-346-5578 or fill out our contact form and we will reach out to you.

Every day is an opportunity to learn. One thing I’ve certainly tried to do more this year is see things from other people’s perspective and experiences.  While I’m doing this more and more in my personal life, this is something I’ve always tried to do as a lawyer.

When it comes to a lawyer seeing things from the perspective of others, it’s helpful that I’ve had injuries, worked some heavy labor jobs, am friends with nurses and worked in a grocery store and many restaurants.  There is another perspective of others that it’s beneficial for attorneys to have and that is realizing that not everyone knows an attorney, has talked to an attorney or has any idea what to expect when talking with a lawyer.

One of the common questions I get when someone calls is, “Is this call going to cost me anything?” For me or most people who have dealt with an attorney before, they know that the answer is no, the call is free.  But if you’ve never spoken to an attorney before and your perception of them is from TV, movies, friends opinions, etc., you might not know that.  You might be nervous.  Or worried. I’ve had countless people tell me that they were concerned about getting in trouble.  That doesn’t happen, but if you are a lawyer and don’t treat those concerns with respect then you are doing a bad job.

I’m here to tell you a few things:

1. Calling a work comp attorney, even the bad ones, is always free. In fact every lawyer I know in every other area of law will take your call for free.  Some will talk longer than others (I will talk as long as it takes), but you shouldn’t expect to have to pay anything for making an inquiry.

2. In no case can attorney charge you for their services if you don’t agree to it.

3. All calls are confidential. If you call me about your work injury and I go and call your boss, I should lose my license to practice law and would probably be guilty of legal malpractice.  We don’t do that and even the terrible law firms I come across don’t do that.

4. In general, most attorneys are like regular people.  Of the people you know in your life, some are smart, some are dumb, some are friendly, some are rude, some treat you well, others treat you like garbage.  That is my experience in getting to know lawyers too.  You should never be nervous to reach out to one and if they aren’t nice then hang up on them and call someone else.  One of the benefits of being in Illinois is that there are more than 70,000 attorneys in the State. The right one is out there somewhere for you.

I try to write in plain English because that’s how I talk.  I try to be approachable because I believe in karma and I like to treat others how I want to be treated.  If you have any questions or want to talk to a lawyer, please reach out to us any time.

Not The Best Workers’ Compensation Attorney In Chicago

I’m a huge believer in customer service in the legal profession.  It’s not taught in law school nor emphasized enough, but it should be. Too many attorneys have no idea how to be business people or even just decent human beings.

You see it a lot with work comp cases for sure.  I get around 20 calls a month from injured workers who have lawyers that won’t call them back, don’t respond to emails, yell at them etc. One recent caller to my office had a terrible experience.

He was told that he had hired the “Best workers compensation attorney in Chicago.”  What followed was six months of that lawyer refusing to speak to him and insisting he speak with his secretary or paralegal.  That just blows my mind. I put my direct line on my website and offer my cell phone to anyone who wants it.  I quite honestly don’t know how you can handle a case without talking to your client.  It stresses me out just thinking about it.

One day though, this worker did get a call from his lawyer.  There had already been a surgery one leg and he was waiting for approval for a surgery on the other leg.  His doctor agreed the need for this was work related.  The IME doctor said he needed surgery, but it wasn’t work related.  That is a very common thing to happen in a work comp case in Illinois.

Instead of discussing how he planned to help his client get the medical care he needed, this attorney lied and said it would take two years to get through court at least and then said they should settle the case.  Mind you this worker is out of work, receiving weekly checks and needs an expensive surgery.  There is no way to tell if he’ll ever get back to work.  All that said, the attorney recommended that he settle out for around $80,000.

That is not the best workers compensation attorney in Chicago.  It may be the worst.  No lawyer should be telling their client to settle when they are still in need of serious medical care and getting weekly benefit checks.  It’s pretty much malpractice to do so.

I will never get why some attorneys treat their clients like garbage.  And I certainly will never understand why you’d sell a client out.  The difference between what this attorney is recommending and what the actual value might be if he doesn’t make a good recovery is hundreds of thousands of dollars.  All I can think of is that some lawyers are hurting for money with a slow down in business from Covid and will go for an easy money grab if they can even if they client gets screwed. It’s pathetic.

If You Pass Out At Work Is It Workers Comp?

Many Illinois workers’ compensation laws are pretty black and white.  If you are traveling for your job and get injured in a car accident it’s a case. If you are drunk at work and fall down and hit your head, it’s not a case.  There are plenty of other examples that are pretty clear cut in determining if you have a case or not.

On the other hand, there are plenty of gray areas when it comes to job injuries in Illinois.  One such area is if you pass out at work.

Many people believe that if you are hurt while at your job that it’s a work comp claim.  That alone is not enough.  You have to show that something about the job, other than just being there, contributed to you getting hurt.

In general, if you faint while working and get hurt, we’d want to know why that happened.  If it was too hot, that would likely be a case. If you have a history of fainting, it most likely wouldn’t be a case.  If you were just standing and the next thing you know you were on the ground, it’s probably not a case.  If you are six feet off the ground on a ladder and faint, you’d probably have a good case if you were injured.

So why does someone who is on a ladder or scaffold or other elevated platform have a case if they faint and fall to the ground?  The answer is that being up high puts them at an increased risk of injury.  Their job duties make it more likely they will get hurt. If you faint in your chair, nothing is going to likely happen to you. On the other hand, if you pass out from ten feet in the air and can’t break your fall, it’s very likely you will suffer a serious injury.

When it comes to gray areas like this, facts matter. Fumes might make you fall over and that could be a case. Passing out from stress is probably not a claim.

Bottom line is that if you do faint at work, it might be a case and it might not be.  You can bet that if you do get hurt that way the insurance company will look to deny it.  Them denying it does not mean you don’t have a case.  It’s just standard practice.  We are happy to talk to you for free to see if you have a good case or not and help you make a decision from there.

Long and Short Term Disability And IL Work Comp

An injured worker called our office after a serious injury to her neck.  She was freaking out a bit because her employer hadn’t turned in the accident to their insurance carrier.  She was also worried because the employer doesn’t offer short or long term disability (“STD”, “LTD”) and she doesn’t have medical insurance.  So basically in her mind she has a life altering injury with no income coming in and no way to pay for medical care.

It sounds like a nightmare and it would be if she wasn’t hurt at work.  Nobody wants to get injured, but if it does happen to you, having it be work related is a silver lining.

What I did for this worker is explain how the Illinois work comp system works and why there being no long or short term disability benefits is irrelevant.

When you are hurt on the job and can’t work, your employer is obligated to pay you 2/3 of your average weekly wage, tax free.  In a case like this where this isn’t happening because the employer won’t report it to the insurance company, there is a simple solution. By formally filing the case with the State via an Application For Adjustment of Claim, it forces the employer to report it.  If they don’t they’d lose their insurance and be personally responsible.

When we get involved in these situations, we not only file the case right away, but we look up who the insurance company is at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  By doing that we can call them and speed up the process  Often they are actually happy to hear from us because their client doesn’t give the information they need.

But even if you are being delayed, applying for long or short term disability benefits doesn’t make sense if your job offers it.  That’s because one of the questions on the application for those benefits is “Was your injury work related?” If you answer honestly and say yes, you won’t get LTD or STD.  If you lie, you will blow up your work comp case and you might not get LTD or STD benefits anyway once they see your medical records and discover you were hurt at work.

So what you should do is just tell the truth. If it’s a work related injury those are the best benefits you can get.  All of your medical care gets paid for, your time off work is compensated, there is no cap on benefits and you get a settlement when you are all better.

The bottom line is that we understand people are beyond anxious when they have no money coming in.  A short term solution isn’t the way to go.  Get with someone who knows the IL work comp system and protect yourself.  Your employer not offering these other benefits or you not having health insurance should not be a factor.

And as always, if you want a free consultation with an honest, experienced and blunt attorney, call us any time. We help everywhere in Illinois via our state wide network of like minded lawyers.

Lies Workers’ Compensation Adjusters Tell

I don’t want to paint a picture that everything Illinois work comp adjusters say isn’t true.  I do, however, want you to realize that their goals aren’t the same as yours and it’s their job to try and not pay money on your case.  So you should be wary of them even when they seem nice.  Often they lie or stretch the truth.  Here are the top lies we see all the time.

1. You have to give me a recorded statement- You absolutely don’t have to do this and you absolutely should not do this.  The old saying that anything you say can and will be used against you applies here.  Their questions may seem innocent, but if they ask how are you doing and you say “great” that could be interpreted that you don’t need any more medical care.  Sounds crazy but it’s true.  Never agree to have a conversation recorded, even if it’s one of those b.s. messages that it’s for “training purposes.”

2. We have accepted your case as compensable- This makes it seem like there is nothing to worry about.  This decision can be reversed at any time and they can also dispute certain benefits or pay a percentage of what you are actually owed.  Sometimes you realize this has happened and it’s too late such as when you settle the case and discover unpaid medical bills.

3. Your case is under investigation- It doesn’t take a long time to look in to most work injury claims.  This is often double talk for “we are going to deny your case for no reason.”

4. That medical treatment isn’t necessary- I’m not a doctor. You’re not a doctor.  And insurance adjusters aren’t doctors either.  They shouldn’t give you medical advice and if they tell you that a certain medical procedure isn’t required that isn’t their place.

5. Workers’ comp doesn’t cover that- We’ve heard of adjusters saying that certain benefits aren’t available.  The most common one is telling new or part time workers that they are not eligible to make a claim.  You are covered the moment you start working no matter who you are.

6. We have a right to all of your medical records- The insurance company can access records related to your injury and prior treatment to a similar body part.  What they can’t do is get every medical record you’ve ever had.  If you hurt your knee, your pregnancy records are irrelevant.  If you have a back injury, it’s none of their business that you saw a psychologist.  Never sign a general medical release form.

7. If you don’t sign a release form, we can’t pay you- This kind of goes with the last lie, but it’s all b.s.  If you get hurt at work and send them an off work slip from a doctor, they have to pay you.

8. Accept our settlement within 30 days or it will expire- Could this be true? Sure.  Have I ever in 23 years seen it happen.  No.  It’s a bogus threat by people who think they are smart negotiators.  The only time I’ve seen a settlement offer go away is when new facts came to light.

If you suspect the adjuster isn’t being honest you are probably right.  We are happy to give a free assessment of your case any time you want even if you don’t hire us.  We cover all of Illinois and are available at 312-346-5578 any time.