Six Illinois Workers Compensation Questions

We are Chicago work comp attorneys who will talk to anyone for free about Illinois workers compensation laws and their cases. You can call us any time at 312-346-5578 for help anywhere in Illinois.

Many of the posts we write are based off of great questions we get from people. Here are some good questions from the last few months:

Can I relocate out of state during vocational rehab?

Yes, but if you get a low paying job in another state because you can’t earn as much there as you could in Illinois, it might change your settlement value a bit. But many people we have helped over the years have moved out of state to be by family, have a support system or many other reasons.

What does it mean when a respondent files a request for hearing?

The respondent is your employer. When the attorney for their insurance company files a request for hearing, it means they are asking for a trial date. This often happens when the attorney for the worker isn’t moving the case along.

Can I get a finder’s fee if I refer my friend to you who was injured on the job?

NO!!! This is illegal. I get asked this once every few months. If you don’t have a law license, you can’t share in attorney fees. I’ve heard rumors of some shady law firms doing this. It’s gross and reflects that they don’t really care about doing things the right way or the best interests of their clients. If someone asks us to do this we simply hang up.

Is there a distance limit for how far I have to travel for the IME?

There isn’t. That said, the insurance company has to pay your travel expenses and that would in some cases include hiring a driver for you if you can’t drive long distances. This happens a lot with downstate workers who get sent to Chicago area doctors for the IME. Sometimes it’s because the injury is so specialized and other times it’s because the doctor is a hired gun and the insurance company knows he/she will say what they want.

I was wondering your opinion. My case went to a 19(b) trial. We got everything we asked for. My lawyer sent me a copy of the decision and said there’s a 30 day time limit to appeal. He didn’t say anything else. Shouldn’t he tell me more?

This sounds like a case of a good attorney who is terrible at communicating. We see that a lot. Your lawyer won’t appeal because you won. There’s nothing for you to appeal. What he should have made clear is that the other side has up to 30 days to file an appeal. He can either contact them now to see if they will appeal or do nothing and then contact them after the 30 days are up. The right approach depends on the facts of your case. For example, if you were awarded a surgery, he could call them now to try to get help in getting it scheduled.

What does not ready for permanency mean in Illinois work comp?

It means that the case isn’t ready to settle yet. Permanency is a term used when calculating your settlement amount. The level of permanency depends on how well you recovered. We won’t know that until you are done with your treatment and back to work or it’s been determined you can’t work ever again or at the old job. It’s just a bunch of legal jargon really, but the bottom line is that it means it’s too soon to talk settlement.

As always, if you have any legal questions, please get in touch.

How Often Should You Hear From Your Attorney?

A very nice woman who had hired a Rockford workers compensation attorney was upset with him. He hadn’t gotten in touch in any way in over nine months. She was right to be upset with him as that is way too long not to hear anything from your lawyer. She went on to ask me if she was being unreasonable (definitely not) and how often she should expect to hear from her lawyer?

First off, not hearing for that long is a huge red flag and a sign that you hired the wrong law firm. That’s just terrible customer service and a sign that they don’t care at all about you or your case. If it’s not too late you’d want to get a new lawyer in that situation. Fortunately it costs nothing to switch firms.

As far as how often you should hear, that answer depends on the facts of your case. In Illinois, your case is up on the status call at the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission every three months. Nothing happens at those calls unless your lawyer or the defense attorney files a trial motion of some sort. That said, to me it’s a great time for a lawyer to just shoot a short note to the client to advise of the new status date and see if everything is ok.

That’ the bare minimum. If your lawyer learns of an IME taking place, they should call/write to you ASAP. They need to prep you for that event as far as what to expect.

If your lawyer is aware you are returning to work after having been off for a bit, I would expect that they would check in with you to see how it went a week or two after your return.

If you have a surgery, I would expect that they’d check in to see how it went within a day or two of it happening. There may not be much you can tell them other than what the doctor said, but it’s a sign that they care about you if they are asking about it.

Any time your attorney is aware of something that could affect your case, they should check in. If they subpoena medical records and learn that you paid for some expenses out of pocket, they should ask about it. If they discover a new medical provider you didn’t mention or a history of a similar injury that you didn’t share, they should ask about it. If they learn you are having surveillance done on you, they should make you aware of it.

We could go on and on with many examples of when your lawyer should get in touch. The basic answer is that we feel it’s at least every three months and as often as daily while important things are happening on your case.

You also have a responsibility to communicate with your lawyer. If your TTD check is late, tell them. If you have bills or can’t get approval for a doctor’s appointment, tell them? When lawyers don’t hear from their clients, they tend to assume that everything is ok with the case. If you have something that concerns you, call or email them. You aren’t being a bother. It’s their job to help you when you need it. So always reach out if ANYTHING is concerning you. There aren’t dumb questions and there aren’t dumb reasons for reaching out.

Bonus tip. Your lawyer does have other clients and a life. So while we pride ourselves in talking to people right away and always within an hour, it’s reasonable for a lawyer to take up to 24 hours to get back to you in some cases.

The Importance Of A MRI With Work Comp Cases

When you get injured while working, to win a case you have to be able to prove that your injuries and need for treatment are related to the job accident.

In some cases this is straight forward. For example, if you get hit by a forklift at work and break your leg, it’s pretty obvious what the cause of your injury is.

In other cases, a diagnostic exam is the way of proving (or disproving) what your injury is and if it got worse by a job accident or something else. While x-rays are the most common diagnostic test, MRI’s are usually the best way to show an injury.

I thought of this when a potential client came to us with a shoulder injury. He treated for four months, but put all of his medical bills through his own insurance because he didn’t know what work comp is. His doctor ordered a MRI to see what was wrong with the shoulder, but that test never happened.

Right before he came to us, he popped his shoulder while lifting one of his kids and went to the doctor and told him that happened. The doctor’s response was that it was still important to get a MRI.

While the doctor’s advice is correct, there’s now a huge problem with the work comp case. Because he didn’t have a MRI before the lifting at home incident, when he does get a MRI it could be difficult if not impossible to prove what damage was caused by the job and what wasn’t. This will make it unlikely that we will be able to secure medical care for him.

On the flip side, we’ve been involved in a lot of cases where someone had a prior back problem and a MRI showed bulging discs. They then got hurt at work and a new MRI showed that either the discs were hurt much more severely or that they were now bulging or herniated at levels that didn’t show up on the old MRI. In other words, comparing the new MRI vs. the old MRI made it a slam dunk case.

And while MRI’s aren’t everything and at times can fail to show a problem, they are a real valuable and trusted tool in medicine. If your doctor recommends that you get one, you should. They aren’t cheap and it’s not unusual for the work comp insurance to balk at paying for it. If they do, they usually are doing so without good reason. Give us a call and we can almost always solve that problem rather quickly. It’s really important for determining the next steps your doctor will take and in some cases can identify problems that are real emergencies.

The Company Nurse And Illinois Work Injuries

Every week we are fortunate to talk to 30-40 Illinois workers about their cases. We love helping people no matter what stage of their claim, even if it’s just offering some free advice.

The truth is that the sooner after your accident/injury that you reach out, the more we can likely help you avoid mistakes that can hurt your case and your health in the long run.

I thought of this recently when discussing a case with a really nice woman who hurt her shoulder on the factory line. Her company has a policy that if you get hurt at work, you go see their on site nurse and follow what they say.

In many cases these on site nurses are nothing more than a rubber stamp for the wishes of the company. Usually that means they’ll tell you to put some ice on it, take a day and get back to work. This nurse was not looking out for the company and told the worker to take two weeks off and see how she feels from there.

While it sounds ok, the reality is that even though this company nurse appears to have meant well, she was well on her way to causing a problem for this injured worker.

We love nurses and have helped thousands of them over the years. But if you, like this caller, hurt your shoulder and can’t lift it above your head, you need to get to an orthopedic doctor. And this nurse should have mentioned that right away. The longer the shoulder goes without proper care, the bigger risk of making it worse. And in this case, the company insisted she try to return to work after the two weeks even though she felt that she couldn’t do it.

There’s a lot of value in having an onsite nurse. They are great for minor sprains, cuts, some burns, etc. It sure beats having to go to an ER and wait around. In this case and many others though, they need to let injured workers know their rights. You have a right to go see a medical doctor of your choosing and don’t have to wait two weeks or any other amount of time to do so. In fact you can go right from work to the doctor and usually should.

I believe most of these company nurses are well intentioned and want to help people. But they do often face pressure from the higher ups that view their employees as disposable and don’t think about your health, long term future or much else that should matter to you.

So there’s nothing wrong with seeing the company nurse. But if you are really hurt or worried that you might be, get to a medical doctor, preferably a specialist, ASAP.

And as always, if you have any questions, you can call us for free any time at 312-346-5578.

Work Hardening And Illinois Workers Compensation

We are Illinois workers compensation attorneys who help people understand their rights. This includes explaining certain work comp related events such as work hardening.

What is work hardening?

Work hardening is a form of occupational therapy. It is a highly individualized, job-specific program designed to get an injured worker who cannot work at full capacity back to work. Work hardening programs use real or simulated work tasks and exercises that are tailored to a person’s job and their injury. For example, someone who works in construction and handles machinery may work on grip exercises to make sure they can accurately handle the equipment.

An injured worker who qualifies for a work hardening program has an initial evaluation to determine what skills or abilities need to improve, and a specific plan is developed based on their current limitations. A therapy team supports the work hardening client by planning weekly strength and endurance therapies and goals to help them meet their job requirements and safely get back to work.

Work hardening may consist of just a few sessions or it may involve several weeks of more intensive therapy. It’s usually meant for very serious injury cases.

What does getting an injured employee “back to work” really mean?

“Back to work” can mean:

  1. Getting the injured worker back to the same job they had when they got hurt.
  2. Having the injured worker return to a modified position.
  3. Having the injured worker return to an alternative position.
  4. Getting the injured worker to a point at which they can participate in a vocational rehabilitation program.

Who qualifies for work hardening?

In general, if you’ve been hurt on the job, you may qualify for work hardening. Many clients have already made improvements through physical therapy, but they need a more intensive or work-related program to get back to work. A doctor may refer someone for work hardening when they are close to being able to perform their job requirements and have the potential to continue making progress. The client also needs to be medically stable and willing to participate.

Does workers compensation cover work hardening?

The short answer is yes it does. If your injury is work-related and you need work hardening therapy to get back to work, it should be covered under workers compensation. It’s a form of medical care like any other medical benefit. If your doctor feels you need it, you should get it and work comp should pay for it.

What happens at the end of a work hardening program?

When a worker completes the program and is discharged by the therapy team, they have a final evaluation with their doctor. Their doctor can then recommend a return to work. Often the client will continue with a home exercise program with instructions on how to maintain their work readiness on their own.

If you have questions about work hardening or anything else related to Illinois work comp law, please contact us any time at 312-346-5578. We help with cases everywhere in Illinois.

Illinois Work Comp And Labrum Tears

We hear from people in Illinois looking for workers’ compensation advice related to the painful labrum tears that they suffered on the job. Some have a torn shoulder labrum and others have a torn hip labrum.

In the shoulder, the labrum is a thick piece of tissue or cartilage that is attached to the rim of the shoulder socket. It helps keep the ball of the joint in place and stabilizes your upper arm bone within the joint. In the hip, the labrum follows the outside rim of the hip socket and similarly, helps keep the ball of the joint in place and stabilizes your thighbone within the joint.

This type of shoulder injury can happen at work by falling on your arm, a direct hit to your shoulder, a sudden pull when picking up a heavy item, or by trying to stabilize yourself during a fall. Simple overuse of your shoulder can cause a labrum tear as well.

Pain would likely be the first symptom that you notice. If your shoulder is hurting, catching, making noises, and you feel a loss of strength or range of motion, or it just feels unstable, you may have a labrum tear. If you fell down and your arm dislocated, then the ball of the shoulder actually pushed the labrum off of the socket. This is called a Bankart or Perthes lesion.

If you believe you have a torn shoulder labrum caused by a work injury, the first thing you should do is see a doctor. The doctor will do a physical examination as well as X-rays. He/she may also order a CT scan or an MRI to help look for the tear. Once a tear is found, the treatment will be determined based on the tear type, severity, and location. Treatment may involve anything from physical rehabilitation to surgery to repair the damage. If surgery is required, you may need 12 weeks of recovery time; however, if you use your arm a great deal, it could be many months. If you are a baseball pitcher, for example, it could end your career. If you are a carpenter or work a heavy-duty labor job, it may also end your career or force you into a job change.

Torn hip labrum injuries can result from similar accidents at work or overuse. If you have fallen on your hip, or if you do repetitive motions like twisting, you could be at risk for a labrum tear of the hip. The symptoms are similar to those of a torn shoulder labrum. Pain, grinding and other noises, and limited range of motion are all indicators that you should see a doctor. The doctor will examine you and order X-rays, and possibly a CT scan or an MRI to find the tear. Once the tear has been identified, what type it is, where it is, and how severe it is will dictate the type of treatment the doctor recommends. Basic physical therapy might be all you need, or you may need surgery to repair or replace the torn piece of the labrum. This type of surgery could require 8-12 weeks of recovery time or even longer.

If you have injured your hip or your shoulder at work, make sure you go to the doctor as soon as possible. It is critical that you explain your injury happened at work. After that, it’s important to get timely treatment so your injury doesn’t get worse.

We realized some of this medical jargon may be complex. It all boils down to getting the medical care you need and making sure workers compensation will pay for your medical bills and lost wages. And of course, we can get you a settlement at the end of the case. For free advice regarding your specific situation, contact us at 312-346-5578. We help with work injuries everywhere in Illinois.

The Importance Of The First Doctor’s Visit

While every Illinois workers compensation case is different, there are certain factors that we look into when we give you a free consultation that will help us determine if you have a case that we or any other lawyer would want to pursue.

One of these factors is how long did it take you to see a doctor after your accident? If it’s beyond a month it could start to create problems. The longer you go without seeing a doctor, the harder it gets. Other issues include your medical history, how the accident happened, what witnesses will say, and prior work comp cases you may have brought. But there’s one issue that above all others seems to make or break whether or not you win a case. And it seems so small, but it’s really not. I’m talking about the first doctor’s visit and what you tell them in regard to how you got hurt.

It’s assumed that when you go to the doctor you are going to tell them the truth. You are usually given a medical history sheet to fill out that asks you to detail why you are there that day. Some of them have specific boxes that ask you to say whether or not it’s a work injury. They do this for insurance billing reasons.

Even without the form, the nurse and/or doctor will take a medical history from you. They are unbiased and it’s also assumed that they will accurately write down what you tell them (sadly that isn’t always true).

So if in the medical history section of the form you state that you hurt your back lifting a box at work, that provides credibility to you in bringing a workers compensation case. Same if the doctor documents a work-related injury like that or even just says something as basic as “patient states they were injured at work.”

On the other hand, if in the form you state that you don’t know how you were hurt or that you hurt yourself shoveling snow at home or in some other non-work related way, it can kill any case for work comp. The same is true if the doctor or nurse writes down that you weren’t hurt on the job.

Some people lie to the doctor because their boss pressures them to. Others honestly don’t know how they were hurt (think repetitive activities causing an injury). Some are just lazy in filling out the forms. Whatever the reason, the insurance company is always looking for a reason to deny your case and this is the first and most common way they will do it. It’s also the first thing that defense lawyers look at when evaluating a case and any possible defenses for their insurance company client. And good lawyers for injured workers will ask you what you told the doctor.

While this issue at the first medical exam can blow up your case, it doesn’t have to end it. Some reasons it might not happen include:

  • You saw a different doctor shortly after the first one who you gave the proper medical history to.
  • English isn’t your first language so you had trouble stating what happened in a way they could understand.
  • Your accident was witnessed and/or on video and your injury couldn’t have happened any other way. Think of someone who breaks their leg when they are hit by a forklift or has a crush injury to their hand.
  • Someone testifies that your boss pressures people to lie to their doctor about how they got hurt.
  • The doctor or nurse agrees to correct your medical history based on their error.

We always emphasize to injured workers to be honest. Mistakes or bumps in the road happen. You have to be your biggest advocate and that includes making sure you write down how you got hurt. We recently turned down a case for a guy with a major hernia injury because he gave a medical history stating that he was hurt at home a year prior. He otherwise would have had a great case and as a result, will lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in benefits.

And as always, if you have any questions or want help with a case, contact us for free at any time.

When Should A Lawyer Be Used For Work Comp Claims?

I had a live chat recently with someone who had a back injury and was being released to light duty that they didn’t think they should do. They had a great question which was:

When should a lawyer be used for workers compensation claims?

What I told them is what I’d tell anyone. Hopefully, it doesn’t sound too “sales-y” because that is not my intention. What I always do is tell the truth in a direct and honest manner.

The reality is that the right time to get a lawyer is usually when you have something that is more than a superficial injury. In other words, if you get hurt at work, see a doctor, and are told it’s just a bad contusion and you won’t need more medical care, you don’t need a lawyer. There’s not much we can do for you there other than advise you on how to get your medical bill paid.

On the other hand, the more serious an injury is, the more likely you need a lawyer. The more treatment you have, the more likely a good attorney can benefit you.

This is true even when it seems like your employer and/or the insurance company are being nice or doing the right thing. It may seem that way, especially with the insurance company, but I promise you that they are looking for any reason they can to deny, delay or end your work comp benefits. It’s the whole basis of their business model.

The longer your case is going to drag on, the more likely they will try to mess with your case. They do this in a variety of ways including:

  • Having nurse case managers talk to your doctor directly (that shouldn’t happen)
  • Having nurse case managers attend your appointments (also shouldn’t happen)
  • Trying to get you to sign medical authorization forms that allow them to access medical records which have nothing to do with your case (we can fix this)
  • Sending you to an IME doctor to review your case and injury (a good lawyer will prepare you for this)
  • Conducting surveillance on you via a private investigator
  • Trying to take a recorded statement of you
  • Searching your social media accounts

These are just some of the things that they will do to try to mess with your benefits. The truth is that having a good lawyer on the case can prevent a lot of these things from happening and also help you be on the lookout or prepare for these tactics. In other words, an experienced Illinois work comp attorney will protect you and increase the chances of your case continuing to go well.

And having a lawyer on the case will also allow you to get into court if something does go wrong. In other words, if the IME doctor says you don’t need surgery, but your doctor says that you do, you will have the ability to get in front of an Arbitrator much sooner by already having a lawyer in place.

So at best, a lawyer will protect you if they know what they are doing. At worst, it’s being proactive in case something goes wrong. And in the end, you will get a much higher settlement with a good attorney than without one.

This all may sound salesy as I said, but it really is the truth. If you have any questions or want to discuss a case, you can call us for free at any time. There’s no commitment and everything we discuss is confidential.

Overview Of Work Conditioning In Illinois Work Comp

If you’ve been injured at work, you may find, even after your injury has healed, that you don’t have the same strength or endurance that you used to. This is a common situation. After all, doctors often tell patients to rest their bodies or injured body parts while recuperating. So it’s not surprising that some additional therapy may be required to get your muscles or other body parts back to where they need to be so you can do your job well again.

That’s where work conditioning and work hardening comes into play. Work conditioning focuses on restoring your physical capabilities to do your job: increasing strength, endurance, flexibility, motor control, and cardiovascular function. The goal is to get back to work and not get hurt again. It’s not much different than how NFL players do a training camp to get ready for the season.

If your doctor advises you to begin work conditioning, your program may include some combination of the following:

• Cardio workouts such as treadmill running or active walking
• Weight training/circuit training
• Balance activities
• Home exercise training that may continue even as you return to work
• Nutrition counseling to help with weight loss
• Goal training
• Occupational therapy
• Vocational therapy
• Safety instructions related to your body and job functions

You may have heard of work hardening. Work hardening is different from work conditioning in that it focuses more on behaviors, education, and safety.

A work conditioning regimen is usually intensive. You may be putting in four to eight hours a day for five days a week on the high end. Usually, patients in a work conditioning program need two to four weeks before they get the green light to return to work.

If you are an injured worker, and your body has been “deconditioned” due to rest and/or time off from your job, you may be advised to start a work conditioning program. This is a medical benefit that is available to any injured Illinois worker as long as it’s prescribed by your doctor. If you’ve been off work for a while and are worried about re-injuring yourself, you should ask your doctor if work conditioning is a good idea for you.

If you have any questions about this or a potential workers compensation case, don’t hesitate to contact us by filling out our contact form or calling us at 312-346-5578. We have a state-wide network of attorneys so we can help with cases anywhere in Illinois.

Overview Of Amazon Workers’ Compensation Claims

Amazon is a thriving business that delivers to consumers at an unmatched rate. The downfall to this convenience is a constant occurrence of injuries to their workers. Amazon is found to have an abnormally large influx of work-related injuries. This could be due to anything from poor work environments, employee overexertion to high-pressure working conditions. It’s why we have helped with more cases against Amazon than any other employer.

Employees that work in warehouses commonly suffer from repetitive stress injuries possibly due to the demanding production rates and low employee appreciation. On top of that, any employee that works in a warehouse is commonly faced with being hit by falling objects, equipment malfunctions, or an injury from a simple trip or fall.

Another area of employment that sees a high influx of work-related injuries is Amazon drivers. They have been known to sustain injuries from collisions, physical assaults, and/or dog attacks while carrying out their deliveries. Drivers directly employed by Amazon can recover from these work-related injuries however, Amazon flex drivers cannot.

Flex drivers are considered ‘independent contractors.’ This means that they aren’t employees of Amazon and are considered self-employed. Since they aren’t directly employed by Amazon, they are unable to file a workers’ compensation claim against them. Injured flex drivers must file a claim through a personal injury lawsuit. This is likely the only mode they can recover from.

Workers employed by Amazon that file a workers’ compensation claim may be entitled to several different types of benefits. These include temporary or permanent disability payments, rehabilitation, medical care, vocational training, lost income, etc.

Amazon warehouse workers and drivers have the option to recover from a third-party injury claim as well. This allows recovery of benefits that they should, but did not, receive from their workers’ compensation claim, as well as additional benefits related to the third party. A third-party claim requires that the accident was caused by an individual or party not employed by Amazon. This could include, forklift manufacturers, outside vendors, drunk drivers, etc.

After an employee files a workers’ compensation claim, it is reviewed by a Sedgwick adjuster. Sedgwick is the insurance company that handles Amazon’s workers’ compensation cases while adjusters are the individuals who work for Sedgwick that directly interact with claimants and attorneys. Adjusters are known to be distrustful individuals whose goal is to get all claims dismissed or forgotten about. It is likely that the same adjuster will consistently interact with the same group of attorneys. Certain attorneys are likely to have standing relationships with these adjusters thus knowing their tricks. It is extremely helpful to have an attorney that is experienced with handling Amazon workers’ compensation claims because they know how things work and where they are leading to.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss a case, please call us for free at any time at 888-705-1766.