If You Ignore The IME Doctor, Will You Lose Your Claim

One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to Illinois workers’ compensation law is lawyers who lie to their clients because it makes their own life easier.  It happens all of the time, usually because some attorneys are just lazy and don’t want to have to go to trial. It’s really frustrating.

This happened on a case I recently consulted with. To make matters worse, the attorney the injured worker hired didn’t explain basic Illinois work comp legal principles.

In sum, this worker was injured severely and taken off work by their doctor.  The insurance company sent her to an IME appointment.  That is a doctor chosen by the insurance company for a one time medical exam. They are often “hired guns.”  Predictably, that doctor said she was fine and could return to work.

The caller at first wanted to know about the IME doctor and if they were their doctor. That’s basic information the attorney she hired should have explained before the exam.  It’s negligent of them not to.

Their bigger concern was that her lawyer said that even though her doctor thinks she’s at big risk of severe injury if she returns to work right now that they should follow the IME doctor and give it a try. He went on to tell her that if she doesn’t return to work, she will lose her right to have a claim at all.

That is a HUGE lie and one of the worst ones I’ve ever heard. Not only are they not fighting for their client, but their lie is putting them at risk for a real significant medical problem.

The reason the lawyer would do this is because when two doctors disagree about a workers ability to work, you solve that problem with an arbitration. It’s not a complicated process, but it does take some time as each doctor has to be deposed.  This will also cost the attorney some money as you have to pay the doctor for their time and pay court reporters.  It’s not a huge amount, especially in a big injury case like this. It’s usually around $3,500 or so. After that, once all medical records are properly subpoenaed you can go to trial.

The reason this type of lie is maddening is it’s literally the job of the attorney to go to arbitration if things aren’t going well. If you don’t want to do that then you should go find another career.

So while I recommend that you review the IME report for what they said and have a discussion with your attorney about it, not following the IME won’t prevent you from having a right to a case.  Any any lawyer who says otherwise is a lazy liar.

Seizures And Illinois Workers Compensation Law

I find it interesting that people with Illinois workers compensation questions seem to call with similar situations in bunches. Yet I was very surprised recently to get two calls within an hour from two different people who had seizures while working in Illinois.

The first person was walking down the hallway when he had a seizure.  It was a normal work day.  They hit their head, busted it open and got a handful of stitches when they went to the hospital.

The second person had just finished pushing a machine when they had the seizure. They too hit their head. Their injury was a pretty bad concussion.

Unfortunately neither of them had a case.  Let me explain why.

Under Illinois workers compensation law, to get benefits if you have a seizure at work, it’s not enough to just prove you were working when you had a seizure. You must also show that something about your job duties put you at an increased risk of injury.

While I’ve never seen it happen, if a neurologist or other expert would testify that something about your work increased your risk of having a seizure, then you’d have a case.  The most common reason would be if you had a separate head injury that was work related. This could increase your risk of having a seizure at a later time.

The more common way to win work comp benefits after a seizure would be to show the injury from falling was worse because of your job risks.  Typically this means someone who works in an elevated manner like a ladder or a scaffold. If you fall farther down because you are on a ladder, your injury is worse. So even though the seizure wasn’t caused by the job, if the injury is made worse by the job duties that would be enough for you to win. If you were driving when you had a seizure and were hurt in the crash, you likely would get benefits then too.

The other way to win would be if you fell in to something that caused an injury. For example if you fell in to a machine that was spinning and cut open your head that way, that could be a case.

In general these are difficult cases to win, but we can usually tell you with a five minute phone call if you will win or lose. If you want to review a case for free, you can call us any time at 312-346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois and will speak to you at no cost and in confidence.

How Does An Illinois Workers’ Compensation Lawsuit Work?

A huge mistake any lawyer can make, not just work comp attorneys in Chicago like me, is to think that legal issues that are common sense to you are known by non-lawyers.  Some attorneys don’t have the patience to explain how things work to clients which is a huge mistake.  This thought crossed my mind when a recent caller asked:

How do Illinois workers compensation lawsuits work?

The caller was essentially asking what happens if you are injured at work and bring a claim. Here are some things you need to know:

  1. It’s not a lawsuit.  It’s a claim for benefits.  There will be no jury and you don’t have to prove negligence. You just have to prove you were injured while performing your job duties in a manner that relates to your job somehow. In other words, if your job is to lift boxes and you hurt your back, that’s a case. If you lift a box to throw at a co-worker because they root for a football team you don’t like, that back injury wouldn’t be a case.
  2. The first step is one of two things. Either report the injury to your employer or get medical treatment.
  3. If you get treatment first, you then need to report it to the employer. On the other hand, if you report the injury first, go to the doctor ASAP.
  4. When you go to the doctor, just tell the truth. Don’t embellish anything. You get to choose your doctor in almost every Illinois work comp case.
  5. Under Illinois law, you have to report a work related injury within 45 days of it happening. We highly recommend you do it sooner than then to avoid any defenses. Notice of an accident can be done verbally or in writing.  You should document who you told, what you said and when. In writing via email is the safest way to provide notice.
  6. You can expect that an insurance adjuster will contact you. They might ask for a recorded statement which you should refuse.
  7. If you get a lawyer, we will handle all of the communication with the insurance company and protect you.
  8. If you are authorized off work by your doctor due to the injury, you are entitled to receive 2/3 of your pay, tax free.
  9. All reasonable and related medical bills must be paid.
  10. If your claim is denied without good reason or if the insurance company is messing around, you can go to arbitration and get an order that forces them to pay.
  11. When you are all better you will be entitled to a settlement. If their settlement offer isn’t a good one or if you are worried about future medical care, you can go to arbitration and get an award of payment that way.
  12. Lawyers who handle work comp cases in Illinois cost nothing up front.  We work for free until we get you a settlement.  Our fee is 20% of whatever we recover for you.

That is the nuts and bolts of how things if you are injured while working in Illinois. Of course every case is different and there are things that happen in some cases that don’t happen in others.  If you have any questions or just want to talk to an experienced lawyer for free, contact us any time.

When Your Work Comp Lawyer Blows You Off

If you hire an attorney to handle a divorce, you are only hiring them to handle the divorce. Similarly, if you hire an Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer, you are only hiring them to handle to the work comp case unless they agree they will also handle something else.

A lot of firms, including mine, are able to assist you if you’ve been hurt on the job from the negligence of someone else.  But even if the lawyer does only workers’ compensation cases, they still should be able to refer you to an attorney who can handle a negligence lawsuit. If they won’t, they are blowing you off.

I say this because situations like that happen all of the time if you represent people who are injured on the job.  Another common one is injured workers who end up needing a help with a wrongful termination case.  We don’t handle those claims, but it’s so related to the work injury that it’s part of the job to give you some trusted names to call.

When we talk about how lawyers should deliver customer service, this is a big part of what we mean. There’s nothing wrong with telling a client you can’t help with a case because you don’t handle those cases.  There is something wrong if you won’t even have a conversation about it or offer to point them in the right direction.

It shocks me how often we get this type of call from injured workers whose attorneys just don’t care.  In one case a worker was being asked to sign a document that said she wasn’t hurt at work and the attorney wouldn’t even look at it or say don’t sign it.  These are lawyers who don’t want to be lawyers.

So what do you do in this situation?

Hopefully you realize early on in the case that the attorney you chose isn’t going to do a good job for you or is blowing you off. If so, you have no choice but to switch.  A better firm will take over your case at no cost to you and then either handle the other issues in house or hook you up with a trusted attorney that specializes in the case you need help with.

If you are having trouble or just have questions, we are happy to speak with you for free and in confidence.  Contact us any time at 312-346-5578.  We cover all of Illinois. And while we can’t promise a result, we do promise to fight for you and treat you like a family member or friend.

Occupational Injury Benefit Policies Aren’t Work Comp

of injured truck drivers over the last 20 plus years. I don’t have an exact number, but it’s in the thousands.  I love helping them because they are salt of the earth, the injuries are always legit and most of all they get screwed over more than any other worker, so we are able to really solve problems.

One issue that comes up a lot with truck drivers is that they get illegally called independent contractors. No matter what you are called or what you agree to be in writing, if a company has control over you, you are likely an employee. And if you are an employee you get work comp benefits. Control means you only work for them, they tell you what to do, you can be fired, you can’t turn down work, etc.

It’s kind of a joke because we’ve worked with drivers who are told to present themselves to customers as working for a company and even wear a uniform, but behind the scenes, they get paid as contractors. The good news is that it’s a problem we can solve.

One tactic these shady companies seem to take a lot is opening a company, closing it, and then opening up with similar operations under a different name. If you see that happening, you know that you aren’t working for a good outfit.

Another tactic is that not only do they convince you that you are an independent contractor, but they get you to take out an occupational injury benefit policy and make you think this covers you like work comp insurance does. Sadly, it doesn’t.

Not all of these policies are completely useless. Some can pay for limited time off work and even some medical bills.  But they won’t provide the same full benefits that you are entitled to under Illinois law. It’s not even close and in some cases could be hundreds of thousands of dollars less.

If you’ve received compensation under one of these policies, it does not prevent you in any way from filing an Illinois work comp case.  It might change the strategy we take for you, but in the end, if you can get work comp payments it’s way better for you.

Bonus tip, even if you worked for one of these sketchy companies that closes and re-opens and/or didn’t have work comp insurance, you can still bring a case and get compensated for your injuries, including money for a settlement.

20 Ways Illinois Workers Compensation Has Changed

I’m coming up on my 25th year of being an Illinois attorney. I had an interesting conversation with another experienced lawyer and we were discussing the ways work comp has changed since we both became attorneys.  I thought it would make an interesting post, so here are 20 ways workers compensation in Illinois has changed since I became an attorney in 1997.

1. While it’s now called the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, it used to be the Illinois Industrial Commission.  The new name makes way more sense.

2. The main office is in Chicago, and forever was housed at the Thompson Center on the 8th floor.  It’s now located downstairs at the Daley Center, 50 W. Washington.  That is the main courthouse in Cook County.

3. It was way more common back in the day for downstate hearing locations to be in random places like hotel meeting rooms.

4. Arbitrators would stick around forever back in the 90’s. You almost never saw someone get fired or not getting re-appointed.

5. As part of Arbitrators not sticking around forever, we no longer see Arbitrators falling asleep during hearings. I’ll never forget the first time I saw that as a young lawyer. They’d never get away with that today.

6. Right now, Democrats are in control of most branches of state government which is theoretically good for injured workers.  Back in the 1990’s it was the opposite and we are quite honestly lucky that the laws weren’t changed back then to heavily favor employers.

7. When I first started practicing law, there were around 70,000 cases filed every year. Last year that number dropped to around 33,000.  Even before Covid the total cases filed were down to around 40,000 a year.  Insurance companies haven’t dropped their rates though.

8. Cases are worth more money now because settlement value is in part based on wages and wages have gone up almost every year.

9. There is now a medical fee schedule that determines what a payment to a doctor will be for services rendered. This has made the whole process work much more smoothly. In the past a doctor would send out a bill, the insurance company would pay what they thought was reasonable and we’d have to fight over the balance.

10. Along the same lines, medical providers can now charge interest on bills that are not paid in a timely manner.

11. In my opinion, Arbitrators seem more willing to write awards for penalties and fees than they were years ago. So if your case is wrongly denied, get to trial.

12. There is now a damage cap on injured workers with carpal tunnel syndrome who make a full return to work. This all stems from some downstate prison guard cases from years ago that made a lot of headlines for possible abuse of the system.

13. You can look cases up online now. So if you call us for a second opinion on your claim, we can usually tell you if your attorney is doing what they should be. In the old days, the only way to look up case information was to go to the Illinois Industrial Commission and look at their very slow computers.  This is great for everyone and makes it more efficient.

14. You can also file a lot of paperwork online now which is a huge plus.

15. Medicare set asides are much more common now. The end result is that for workers with serious injuries, they should get even more money to settle their case.

16. Arbitrator locations rotate now. It used to be an Arbitrator would hold hearings in the same part of the state for years and years.  That is no longer true outside of Chicago.

17. It seems that there are more attorneys than ever trying to dabble in workers compensation law because the cases are worth more money.  That’s a huge red flag for injured workers. Make sure your attorney is handling work comp all day, every day.

18. Lawyers are being really aggressive with their advertising, especially with billboards and TV. This includes some attorneys who aren’t even physically in Illinois hiring attorneys here under their name.

19. With the rise of the internet, some law firms are making misleading claims, especially when it comes to their success rate or the amount they’ve recovered.  Some of these firms include medical bills that they do nothing to get paid or count a $500 nuisance value settlement as a “win.”

20. Maybe I wasn’t aware of it back then, but it sure seems that some law firms customer service has gotten drastically worse. It really makes no sense because text and email should make it easier to communicate with clients whereas in 1997 most people could only talk on the phone or meet in person. I think that technology has caused some firms to reduce their staff. One of the end results is that these firms don’t call people back in a timely manner because they are overworked. Others just don’t care and if they do call you back will lie or be rude.

Hopefully things don’t change too drastically in the next 20 years.  As always, if you want to speak with a lawyer for free, contact us any time. We cover all of Illinois.

Multiple Herniated Discs And Sent Back To Work

We are experienced Illinois work injury lawyers who will talk to you for free. Fill out our contact form, click the chat button or call us at 888-705-1766.  All calls are free and confidential and we have attorneys throughout Illinois.

Some calls from injured workers really piss me off because of the injustice that they are experiencing. The decisions insurance companies make are made with a bottom-line dollar amount in mind and not at all on the health of the people they have insured.

The most recent shocking call was from a woman who hurt her back on the job. There is no dispute that her injury is work-related, at least not to any reasonable person. She has no history of back trouble and felt a pop while lifting heavy materials on the job.  When she felt the pain, she took a step and tripped over some materials which caused her to fall and sprain her foot. She passed the drug test, reported the injury immediately, went to the doctor right away, let the doctor know she was hurt at work, and has been compliant with the recommended treatment.

This should be as straightforward of a case as there is. But of course, it’s not.

The MRI she had showed multiple herniated discs.  She has shooting pains down her leg.  On top of all that, she’s in a boot for her foot.  Her job doesn’t offer any light-duty or accommodations.  She has been treating with the company clinic who released her to return to work full duty despite the MAJOR back injury.

These company clinics are the worst. Often you aren’t treating with a medical doctor and very rarely do you see a specialist when you need one. In this case, she has to be with an orthopedic doctor for her back condition and might need one for her foot too.   She doesn’t have to treat with the company clinic and shouldn’t.

No reasonable person would say it’s a good idea to go back to a labor job while dealing with multiple herniated discs.  She’s a long way from recovery and working a job where she has to lift will almost surely make her condition worse if she can lift it all. Honestly, most credible doctors would say she can’t work in the walking boot.

Company clinics are designed to provide low-cost medical care for injured workers, but they are not meant for anyone who is seriously hurt and unless you are in a union who has agreed that you will go there if you are hurt (this is true for City of Chicago workers for example), you don’t have to go there. And even if you do agree to go, you can still choose your own doctor and should.

The casualness with which they are treating this hard-working woman is what has me so fired up. They are putting her in a situation where she might never physically be the same.  It’s wrong.  It’s cruel.  And we can only hope that she’s come to us in time to get this going on the right track.

 

Who Is The Best Work Injury Lawyer In Schaumburg? It’s A Trick Question

When people need to hire a lawyer, especially if they are hiring one who only gets paid if they win, they usually want the best one. We’ve written before about how there is not a “best” but the best one for you.  Sometimes that’s us and other times it’s someone else.

But a reader recently asked me who the best workers compensation lawyer in Schaumburg is.  The honest answer is nobody.

Sure there are attorneys in Schaumburg who handle work injury cases. There are also some who have satellite offices there.  That means there main office is elsewhere, but if you want to meet out there, they have a place to meet with you. The reality though is anyone can do that.

The reason I think the honest answer is nobody is because if you are hurt on the job in Schaumburg or Hoffman Estates, Elk Grove Village or anywhere else in Cook County, your case will be assigned to the workers’ compensation hearing site in Chicago.  That means that your attorney, for hearings, has to head downtown to appear before an Arbitrator.  While most of the attorneys that head to the Daley Center, where the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is located, walk there, yours will be driving or taking the train.

This presents two scenarios, neither of which are good for you:

1. They don’t do this very often so it’s not an inconvenience for them. But that also means that they aren’t regularly in front of the Arbitrators and likely that this isn’t the main focus of their legal practice.  Both of those facts can hurt your case.

2. They do handle a lot of work comp cases and are downtown all of the time.  This means they are away from their office all of the time too. So while I or any other Loop attorney can be in court within five minutes and head back to our office and then return, those suburban lawyers can find going to court to be disruptive. Even if they take the train, that prevents private phone calls with you about your case and often means that when they return to the office, messages pile up.  As anyone who has taken the Metra before knows, getting from the suburbs to downtown when you factor in wait time and walking can be over an hour.

So you could be the most brilliant work comp lawyer in Illinois, but if your home base is Schaumburg or any other suburb, it’s my strong opinion that your clients would be better off without you in most cases.  For many of those attorneys, their “office” ends up being the food court of the Thompson Center.  It’s not uncommon to check with an Arbitrator  at 9:00 a.m. and find out that they want you to come back at around 10:30 a.m.  You could then come back and learn that if you want to go to trial it will start at 2:00 p.m.

I’ve seen attorneys turn down the chance to go to trial because they didn’t want to spend the whole day in the City. That might be best for them, but certainly isn’t best for their clients.  I’ve also seen attorneys not make it to court because it’s snowing and they didn’t want to struggle to get back to their main office.  That is shameful.

Bonus tip, if you live in the suburbs, no matter who your lawyer is, you shouldn’t have to travel to Chicago unless you want to or the case is going to trial. Every attorney we work with will meet you in the burbs or Zoom with you.  But they also are downtown on a regular basis and happy to be in court because it won’t disrupt anything for them.

When An Insurance Company Needs More Information

We are Chicago-based workers’ compensation attorneys who handle cases all over Illinois with our statewide network of attorneys. If you would like a free consultation with an honest, experienced attorney please contact us at 312-346-5578. We promise to treat you in the same manner we would a family member or friend.

Workers’ compensation insurance companies make money by reducing the amount they have to pay out in a case.  That can mean not offering a settlement or not paying for medical care that you clearly need.  Their hope in that situation is to frustrate you and get you to use your personal insurance.  That can be a bad idea because your personal insurance might come after you for reimbursement or could deny payment for future medical care for other problems.

This happens all of the time and often in a sneaky way where they say your case isn’t denied, but they need more information or are still investigating the case.  Take this description from an injured worker who contacted me a while back:

My worker’s comp company is refusing to pay for a surgery they are responsible for. Their claim is not that they are not responsible for paying for it, but that the hospital did not send them enough information. The hospital is insistent that they sent all the information possible but the company is still stonewalling me.

This is a typical insurance company bogus game.  They have all of the information they need.  Work comp isn’t rocket science.  There’s no dispute that her injury occurred at work. Her doctor says she needs surgery from it.  That should be it.

But insurance companies have figured out that if they pull this nonsense 100 times, a certain percent will not push the issue. That means they save money and it’s how they make billions a year. It’s just business to them even if your health is at risk.

What’s crazier about this case is that it’s the second shoulder surgery due to the work accident from 2020.  They paid for the first one and certainly aren’t in need of any more information.  But because this nice woman who just wants to get healthy and work hasn’t pushed back, they are messing with her.

It’s an easy problem for a lawyer to solve, but one that shouldn’t happen at all. When they say they are investigating, researching, need more information, gathering the facts, etc., those are code words for “we are trying to screw you, let’s see if you catch on.”  Your only recourse in that situation is to get a lawyer because otherwise you will wait and wait and wait.  The sooner you realize that to the insurance company it’s a game, the better your chance of a successful outcome.

When The Insurance Adjuster Is Driving You Crazy

I get along with most of the insurance adjusters I’ve talked to over the years.  The lawyers I work with on cases throughout Illinois are the same way.  If you act like an asshole to the insurance company they will just punish your clients.  So we are nice in most situations and let the legal process be where we do our fighting. The lawyers I work with won’t get pushed around and will certainly push back when called for, but they aren’t going to hurt your case with their ego or attitude.

Most adjusters are reasonable people too and want to get along with people and get home to their lives.  They don’t necessarily want to do a bad job, but don’t care to pick fights. Those same adjusters though will be difficult if you are difficult.  In other words, don’t call an adjuster and scream, “Where the fuck is my check!?!?!”  It won’t help and will certainly hurt.

There are some workers compensation insurance adjusters who are just miserable people.  They treat every case as if it’s fraud or like the money for it is coming out of their pocket.  They don’t fight cases based on facts, but because they don’t want to see others get money when they have none.  They’ve lost all perspective and have no empathy.  You could get your leg run over by a forklift and they’d fight you from having a MRI or physical therapy three times a week instead of two.

They are the worst people to deal with, especially if you don’t know how to deal with them and they’ll drive an injured worker crazy. It can actually be bad for your health and recovery because of the stress and time delays the adjuster cause.  So what do you do?

While not every Illinois work comp case needs an attorney, if the adjuster is a pain in the butt, it’s a great idea and there are a lot of reasons why:

  1. An experienced lawyer has dealt with them before.  They will often act “tough” to workers but meek when a lawyer is on the phone. It shouldn’t be that way, but it happens.
  2. You get to focus on your health.
  3. If they are really problematic, it’s likely we know their supervisor and that person will take our call.
  4. A lawyer can fight for you without making emotional reactions.
  5. If benefits are improperly denied by the adjuster we can file court motions that will make them hire a lawyer. While they don’t always listen to their attorneys, if they are in the wrong, they will hear it from them.
  6. Our court motions can punish the insurance company with penalties and fees which will negatively reflect on the adjuster.

So while I won’t tell you not to stress when an adjuster is acting this way, I will tell you that it’s usually a solvable problem. If you want to speak with one of our experienced lawyers for free, call us any time at 312-346-5578 or fill out our contact form. We cover all of Illinois via our statewide network of aggressive attorneys.

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