You get three main benefits under Illinois workers’ compensation law. First you get 100% of all reasonable and related medical expenses paid. Second, is temporary total disability payments which are 2/3 of your wages, tax free, for the time you are disabled from working due to a job injury. These first two benefits are mandatory if you sustain a work related injury.
The third benefit is permanent partial disability (PPD) which in plain English means that in most cases you can get a settlement for the manner in which your injuries will impact you in the future. It’s kind of a fallacy because you can end up as good as new after your medical treatment and still be entitled to something.
Unlike the first two benefits, you can’t punish the insurance company if they don’t offer you a settlement. In fact, some insurance companies and self insured companies are making it a policy to not offer settlements for some injuries unless the employee resigns or no longer works at the company.
The cases we see this happening on involve injuries to the back or neck. If you hurt your arm, hand, leg or foot and get a settlement, if you end up with a new accident in the future, the insurance company gets a credit for the first settlement. In other words, if your first case is worth 20% loss of an arm and the second case is worth 25% loss of the arm, they’d only have to pay you an additional 5%, not the full 25%.
For back and neck cases, which are called man as a whole injuries, the insurance company doesn’t get a credit. So if you hurt your back and get a 10% loss of the man settlement and then have a new back injury which is worth 20% loss of the man, you’ll get the full 20%. This is good for employees, bad for insurance companies. As a result some of them are retaliating by not offering settlements if it’s possible you could go back to the same job and get hurt again.
So what”s an injured worker to do?
While an insurance company can’t be punished if they don’t make a voluntary settlement offer, they can’t just say they aren’t going to give one and not have to give one. When this happens, the solution is simple and it’s the same as it is if you get a settlement offer that you don’t think is fair.
All you need to do is have your lawyer file a motion for trial. At that point, once the case is ready, you’ll have a hearing that will likely only last a few hours and when it’s over the Arbitrator will write an award that will in effect be the same as getting a settlement.
Sure there are risks with trial, but it’s more risky to quit a good job just to get a settlement. The insurance company being worried that you might get hurt again in a not issue when you go to trial. Beyond that, by going to trial you keep your medical rights open as it relates to that claim so if you have a flare up of pain for no reason in the future, you have the opportunity to have the insurance company still pay your medical bills.
While some of this talk about credit might sound confusing, the solution to most work comp problems is simple; get your case ready for trial (secure all medical records by subpoena, take a deposition of your doctor if it’s needed, secure any needed documents like unpaid bills and arrange witnesses to testify if they are needed) and actually do the trial. It’s relatively quick, completely painless and the best way to fight back against non-sense like this immoral strategy.