Not in every Illinois work comp case, but in many of them, insurance companies deny benefits for no reason or in really bad faith and it’s obvious. When that happens, your lawyer should file a petition for penalties and fees which can punish them for their bad behavior. For some reason, these petitions get filed a lot, but are hardly ever followed through on.
So I was really happy to read about a case recently where the lawyer did things right and the client was rewarded for the nonsense they had to put up with.
In this case, a factory worker had the same job for a little over a year and had to turn a screwdriver up to 800 times a day. While doing it she had wrist and elbow pain and eventually underwent surgery for carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel syndrome.
In this case, the claim was denied not because someone thought the worker wasn’t injured at work, but because there was an argument as to what her accident date should be. The company she worked for switched insurance companies during her employment and they were arguing over which company was responsible to pay for her care. This happens when you are claiming a repetitive trauma injury like this one.
The issue is that her claim wasn’t against the insurance company, it’s against the employer. It’s not her problem that they can’t agree as to who is responsible, at least it shouldn’t be. In most of those cases, the two insurance companies agree to split the payments until things are sorted out, but in this one they decided that neither would pay.
This created an unreasonable delay in benefits. Fortunately she hired a lawyer that took the case to trial. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission agreed that the delay was unreasonable and as a result they awarded the worker $10,000.00 in penalties.
You can bet that the next time this issue comes up, these insurance companies will think twice about not paying benefits without good reason. Or maybe they won’t because it seems that too infrequently these motions actually get followed through on. Most often they are used as leverage to try and get benefits reinstated or to get a higher settlement. That’s not always a bad idea, but in some cases the behavior is so bad that an attorney is not truly fighting for the client if they aren’t willing to get the extra money that will be awarded by going to trial.
The bottom line is that when an insurance company acts in completely bad faith in order to try to limit what they have to pay you, you have the ability to push back. It’s just a matter of finding an attorney who is willing to do so.