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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.