Illinois Workers Compensation For Nurses

We are Chicago work comp lawyers who help people with work related injuries throughout Illinois.  If you want a free consultation call us at 312-346-5578 or fill out our form and we will call you.

While we have helped people in just about every profession with Illinois workers’ compensation claims, we have probably helped more nurses than any other type of job.  I enjoy them too, in a similar way that people tell me the best part of being in the hospital was the nurses.  I like working with them because they almost always have a great work ethic and care about people.

While a CNA can do different things than a LPN who can do different things than a RN, they all do similar things as well.  That’s because when you are a nurse, no matter what you know (which is often more than the doctor) you have to be willing to do whatever is needed for the patient. The most common activity they do that can lead to an Illinois work injury is lifting a patient.

I’ve probably heard a version of this accident 500 times in my 22+ years as an attorney:

I was helping a patient out of bed when they lost their balance and fell in to me and I had to support all of their weight.

While the most common injury lifting a patient causes is a back injury, I’ve talked to nurses who have torn their rotator cuffs, broken their wrists and hurt their legs.  Lifting patients is for sure the number one health risk of being a nurse. In fact, over 35,000 nurses every year get a work related back injury.

It’s not just lifting patients once that cause back and shoulder injuries. I’ve studied this a lot and according to one report I read, nurses lift on average 1.8 tons of weight per day. Patients are bigger than ever and the repetitive nature of picking them up all day, week after week, can break down your body.

Beyond the obvious risks that cause problems for nurses, there are a lot of hidden risks too.  Often a nurse is asked to do the work of two people.  Many nurses we work with walk 8-10 miles a day throughout the hospital.  There are so many liquids that can be spilled on to the floor that there is a really high risk of slip and falls.  You can get infectious diseases like c-Diff because you are exposed to things that the average person doesn’t have to deal with.  You can be physically attacked by a patient with mental health issues.

Most nurses are fortunately able to get back to work after getting some treatment. Some, especially those whose backs are just broken down, can’t return to the job. When that happens you are protected under Illinois workers compensation law.  If your employer can’t find a new job for you within your restrictions you should continue to receive work comp benefits and get vocational rehabilitation to find a new career within your restrictions.

Whether it’s with us or any other firm, if you are injured while working we highly recommend that you hire an attorney who not only just handles work injuries, but also has a real track record of helping nurses and understands the unique risks they face.  We have a state wide network of attorneys who fit that description.  If you have questions about anything or want our help, call us any time.

 

IL Work Comp – The IME Doctor Says I Can Work. What’s Next?

To be honest, if you have a legitimate injury, the Illinois work comp system is one of the best for employees in the country.  Our benefit rates are high, you are able to choose your own doctor and when the case is over you are likely able to get a good settlement.

This doesn’t mean that insurance companies can’t dispute or investigate claims. They can and do.  One of the most common tactics is for them to send an injured worker to an independent medical exam or IME.  This is not a doctor looking out for you. Instead they review your medical records and meet with you to answer questions posed to them by the insurance company.

Each case varies, but the two most common questions are was this person hurt at work and can they return to work?

Some of these doctors are just hired guns who only care about making a lot of money from doing these exams. Depending on the case, it can be difficult for even the biggest whore of a doctor to say you weren’t hurt at work.  If you get hit by a forklift and break your leg, it’s not something that can really be disputed.  What does happen a lot is these doctors state that you are fine to return to work even though your orthopedic doctor says that you aren’t ready.

So what happens when the IME doctor says you can work and your doctor says otherwise?

Well, you are left with some choices:

1. You can try to go back to work. Whether or not we’d recommend that depends on the severity of your injury and your financial situation.  The reality though is that even with an IME report that says you are OK, some companies won’t take you back if your doctor doesn’t release you.  If that happens you should continue to receive TTD benefits.  If you do go back and give it a good faith try, but have pain, we recommend you immediately notify a supervisor and go see your doctor.

2. You can refuse to go back and go to trial.  Injured workers in Illinois are allowed to listen to their doctor.  If yours says you can’t work and articulates why, most Arbitrators will favor them over an IME, especially if the IME doctor has a reputation as a hired gun.  The good is that you’d get paid back all of your missed time if you win.  The bad is that a win isn’t guaranteed and this could leave you without income for some time.

What the right choice is for you depends on the unique facts of your case and your personal situation.  If you are facing this dilemma, we highly recommend that you speak with a lawyer who has years of experience with similar situations.  If you want to speak with one of our lawyers for free, you can call or email any time. We cover all of Illinois.

 

Repetitive Injuries For Union Workers

A Union pipe fitter in Chicago called me with questions about his back and shoulder injuries. He had been in the trade for over 20 years and while he had never filed a workers’ compensation claim, his body was starting to break down from all of the work.

Due to the nature of his job, he’s worked for a lot of different employers over the years.  Some jobs lasted many months and at times he was on the job for just a few weeks.  He isn’t saying he got hurt on a specific day, but instead that the day in and day out activities of his heavy duty job have broken his body down.

His very good question was how far back can he go to bring a case and which employer should the case be against?

The answer depends on when he first made the connection to his job being the cause or a contributing factor to his problems.  Most likely the employer at that time is the one who the case should be brought against.  That can be tricky though because this is usually proven by a doctor tying it up for you or at least you seeing a doctor.

What makes no sense to some people is the fact that when you’ve worked for all of these different companies for many years, it’s usually the last one who you bring the case against.  In other words, his back and shoulder have been put under stress for many years by all of these jobs.  If he didn’t report a problem or seek medical care until the current employer then all of the previous ones are off the hook.  The case would be against the company he last worked for.

In some ways this is unfair as you could be with one employer for two years doing heavy work and then go to another for two months. If you don’t get treatment until you start with the second company, the case would be against them even though you spent a much longer time with the first company.

Bottom line is that you shouldn’t worry about who the case might be against. That is something your lawyer should figure out for you. The most important things for you to do are to get medical treatment, tell your doctor about your job duties and how you think they are contributing to your problem and make sure whichever employer you are working for at that time is aware of the issue.

I get that this can be confusing. If you have any questions you can always call us for free at 312-346-5578. Through our state wide network of experienced lawyers we handle claims everywhere in Illinois.

Work Conditioning And Illinois Workers’ Compensation

Would you try to run a marathon without training for it?  You could I guess, but most people wouldn’t be successful and even if they somehow finished, they’d likely hurt themselves.  A smart person would do a training program where they worked their way in to shape and prepared their body to handle the stress of race day.  This is the same idea by a benefit available under Illinois work comp law called work conditioning.

Also known as work hardening, work conditioning is a program for injured Illinois workers who have been off the job for some period of time and are hoping to return to a job that involves a lot of labor or activity.  The goal is to prevent you from going back to work and getting re-injured right away.  So instead of jumping in to an eight hour work day with lots of lifting, you train your body for that type of work.

Often performed by physical therapists, this benefit to you will start at just a couple hours a day and will simulate the movements and activities you have to do on the job. Over a period of weeks you will increase the amount of time per day you train as well as the difficulty of the tasks.  You and your therapist will set goals, create a customized program for you, work on safe body mechanics and discuss other things that can increase your chances of remaining healthy such as proper nutrition.

If your doctor recommends work conditioning, you have to do it. If you don’t your benefits can be terminated. While in this program you should receive TTD payments.  You are in a work setting, but not doing actual work.

A lot of these programs focus on strength. Many long term injuries to the back leave you in a weakened condition, even if you don’t realize it. You’ve spent a lot of time in bed or sitting on the couch, especially if you are recovering from a surgery.  You’ve been de-conditioned and these programs re-condition you to get back to where you need to be.

Weekly progress reports are part of the process and some injured workers we know have told us that they come out of this in the best shape of their lives.

When your training program is over, you will often be given a functional capacity examination or FCE.  This is a 2-4 test that gives both workers and employers a realistic evaluation as to where your health is and if you can return to work full duty or need some restrictions. The #1 goal is to get you back to work, but #1A is to make sure you don’t hurt yourself as soon as you are back.

Bonus tip.  Just like you can pick your own doctor, you can also choose where to go for work conditioning.  If you have questions as to who does a good job with that, we’d be happy to point you in the right direction based on where you live and what type of work you do.

 

This Is Why You Always Ask A Lawyer If You Have A Case

One of the truest things about Illinois workers’ compensation law is that if an insurance company thinks they have any reason to deny your case, they will.  Something else that is true is that they often deny cases, and it will turn out that their legal reasoning is flawed.

This happened recently to an employee in Illinois whose job required him to maintain and monitor equipment at a refinery.  As part of his job he had to up and down the stairs. One day while doing this work his knee buckled. It turned out he had torn his meniscus.

The insurance company denied his case because generally speaking under Illinois law, if you are walking down the stairs and your leg gives out, you don’t have a case. You have to show something about your job increased your risk of injury.  Usually that means showing that there is a defect in the stairs such as it being wet, slippery, torn carpet, etc.  Because there was no defect, they rejected his claim.

A further look though showed why he had a good case.  This was no ordinary staircase, but instead a spiraled and angled one.  It was part of a work area not accessible to the general public, and even employees required special clearance to be on it.  Climbing to the top required going up 92 steps on an angle and he did it twice that day.  Beyond this his job involved climbing, twisting, pivoting, squatting and getting into awkward positions.

So the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission determined that this was no ordinary climbing of stairs.  The type of stairs themselves created an increased risk of injury as did the general job duties.  Since there was no record of any prior knee problems or outside activities that could have caused this injury, they ruled that his job did play a role in his injury and awarded him benefits.

I don’t know who the lawyer was in this case, but they did a great job.  Many lawyers wouldn’t have the guts to take this case on because there was no fall on the stairs.  They did a deeper analysis and also did a great job of prepping their client for trial.  I say this because it’s clear he testified very descriptively as to what his job duties involved.

This is a great example of why you should never just accept a rejection from an insurance company.  It’s one of the rare times that they weren’t out of line in rejecting the case, but at the same time a deeper look shows that they were wrong.  It also shows the value of having an experienced attorney in your corner.  I know many lazy law firms that would have not taken this good case or told the client to take a compromised settlement.

This post is one reason we always will talk to you for free.  If you want our help call any time or fill out the contact form and we will call you. We cover all of Illinois.

“I Don’t Want Money, I Just Want To Be Fixed”

I’ve been a lawyer for over 22 years, and I can’t count on one hand the number of people I’ve met who enjoy having to bring a case. Most people would rather be healthy and working.  I can’t same I blame them one bit.

A lot of those people are really surprised when an insurance company jerks them around.  I had two calls recently within 30 minutes of each other where neither person has ever talked to an attorney nor wanted to.  Caller One had been without pay for six months while the insurance company “investigated” her case. Strangely, they were paying her medical care, but not her time off work. Caller Two had a major hip injury and his doctor thinks he needs a hip replacement surgery.  In that case, they were paying him while he was off work, but had not approved the surgery. It’s been going on a four-month delay.

In both cases, the insurance company said that they were waiting until they can get an IME, as if it should take this long.

Neither caller was ready to hire an attorney.  The second one, a straight out of central casting laborer from downstate told me, “I don’t want money, I just want to be fixed.”

I get it and appreciate his frustrations and attitude. He is getting royally jerked around.  He’s in big time pain and his hip isn’t going to get any better until he gets the surgery.

What I told him is what I tell anyone who’s hesitant to file a case.

1. This isn’t a lawsuit. It’s a claim for benefits like processing a health insurance claim.

2. You are in the right and being taken advantage of.

3. The only way to get the medical treatment you need, is to file a claim.  You can’t go through your health insurance because it’s known it’s a work injury.

4. A lawyer costs nothing up front.  At the end of the case you will be entitled to some money, but it’s not a financial windfall.

More than 37,000 cases were filed in the state of Illinois in 2019.  We don’t get involved in anything that isn’t serious or legitimate.  The people who need lawyers the most are the ones where the insurance company isn’t following the law.  That’s what appears to be happening in these two cases.

Our goal is for every client to get as healthy as possible and back to work. The straight truth is that the best way to do that is to file a case with a good attorney.  That’s true whether you hire us or any other competent firm in Illinois.

Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act And Workers Comp

I’ve kept this blog going for over ten years because I like helping the general public get educated on Illinois workers’ compensation laws.  One thing I try to do is not give cookie cutter posts, but instead raise issues that affect real people, even if they aren’t what most readers are thinking about. Sometimes you don’t know your rights until you are alerted to them.

So today I want to write about the Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act (“BIPA”) and what it has to do with work comp.

But first, what is BIPA?  Basically in the last decade or so, many companies have had employees punch in to work with fingerprints, eye scans, facial recognition or other biometric ways that were unheard of a short time ago.  In response, the State passed a law that says you can do this, but you have to follow rules for safeguarding, storing and destroying this information. Your biometric data is unique and if someone who had bad intentions got a hold of it, they could financially ruin you.  Companies also have to make disclosures to employees about this practice and get written consent for it.  If they violate any part of the BIPA Act, you can sue.

I bring this up because under something called the exclusive remedy provision, you are usually barred from suing your employer for negligence.  So when a company called Power Solutions International was sued by an employee for violating BIPA, they tried to have the case thrown out.

The worker won the case because you are only barred from suing your employer for negligence for unintentional acts.  If you are walking the factory floor and a co-worker hits you with a forklift, it likely wasn’t on purpose. So even if that person had no license or training, suing for negligence would not go anywhere.

With BIPA though, failure to follow notice requirements or other parts of the law is intentional, no accidental.  You also aren’t talking about physical injuries, but instead financial ones and a denial to control your own body.

So while an employer tried to use the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act to get around violating the law, in the end common sense prevailed and they lost.

There are a lot of Illinois companies who are violating this law, toward their customers and workers.  We are for work comp only, but work with labor attorneys who have had incredible success with these cases.  One firm we know and recommend was able to settle over $60 million for violations in just a couple of months.

So if you feel your data rights may have been violated, call us at 312-346-5320 and we will refer you to a firm that can help you.  With these cases there is never a fee unless you are successful.

 

Jewel Workers Compensation Claims

We are experienced Chicago work comp attorneys who will talk to you for free about your case.  If you would like our help, please fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578 to speak with a lawyer. 

One of the great rewards of doing this job is that I get to learn about all sorts of industries and get to know the people in them.  When I was in college, I worked in the summer as a deli counter worker for about a week.  I was terrible at the job and still have scars on my fingers from the meat slicer.  My best friend worked with me and was in charge of the fried chicken and had to carry vats of hot grease.  We were just dumb 19 year olds, but even then talked about how there must be so many injuries on the job.

Fast forward almost 30 years and I’ve had the pleasure of talking to and working with many Jewel Food Stores employees.  Talk about salt of the earth great people.  What’s impressed me about them is how dedicated they are to their job and how long they’ve stuck with it, even when they aren’t treated the greatest.  It’s a good, mostly union job done by hard working Chicagoans.

Due to the varied nature of the jobs at Jewel, there are a lot of work related injuries.  Some of the claims I’ve seen in my 20+ years as an attorney include:

– Many back injuries from lifting heavy boxes.

– Tons of cuts to my deli worker brothers and sisters.

– More slip and falls on wet floors than I can count.

– A handful of employees who have been assaulted by unruly customers.

– Falls off of loading docks.

– Carpal tunnel and cubital tunnel from repetitive activities.

– Many leg injuries from being hit by a car in the parking lot.

– Many leg injuries from being hit by a shopping cart.

– Hypothermia from working in the cold.

The list goes on.  I could honestly write a list of 100 unique accidents that I’ve heard of for Jewel employees and still have more to discuss.  There are so many different types of jobs and activities that need to be done.  Employees at Jewel are definitely “do what it takes” type workers and when you are in that situation, you will often perform job duties that put you at risk of injury or are unfamiliar to you which can make them dangerous.

We have worked with hundreds of Jewel employees over the year and understand the jobs and injuries that those workers face. If you would like to discuss a claim or just have general questions please contact us at any time.

It’s Valentine’s Day. Does Your Work Comp Lawyer Love You?

Hiring an attorney is a little different than hiring a plumber or Uber driver or even a handyman. When you hire us, it’s almost never a one day job.  We are going to have a relatively long term relationship with you.  We don’t need to be best friends, but you as a client have a right to be treated well.  In honor of Valentine’s Day, here are ten signs that your attorney is showing you the love you deserve.

1. They call you back. In a relationship, communication is key.  If you call your girlfriend and she doesn’t call back for a week you’d think something was up.  Well it works the same way with your attorney.  It should never take 24 hours for them to get back to you.

2. They treat you well.  Imagine your boyfriend and you are out to dinner and he starts screaming at you.  In front of everyone.  You’d be mad, scared, embarrassed and hurt.  Well some work comp attorneys think it’s ok to scream at their clients.  It’s not.

3. They don’t flirt with others. Some people try to make their significant other jealous by flirting with other people.  With a good lawyer, when they are with you, all of their attention is on you.

4. You want your friends to be with someone as good as the one you have.  The best compliment you can give an attorney is to refer a friend.  They should make you want to get them more business because of how they are killing it for you.

5. Their friends treat you well too. A lawyer’s support staff doesn’t have to kiss your ass, but they should treat you well and feel like a part of the team.

6. They are honest. Nothing is worse than catching the person you are with in a lie. Your attorney should always tell it to you straight.

7. They don’t steal from you. This isn’t super common, but some attorneys have stolen settlement checks or TTD checks.

8. They are experienced. Most people wouldn’t want to date the 40 year old virgin, especially if they acted like they were really experienced.  Well you don’t want to hire the 40 year old attorney only to have them assign you the young lawyer in the office who just got licensed to practice.  That’s not showing you love, that’s them training someone on your case.

9. They don’t talk bad about you behind your back. When I started my career I was a defense attorney.  It always amazed me when I was trying to settle a case how many lawyers for injured workers would tell me all the bad things about their client.  If you are getting the love you deserve, your attorney should present you in the best light possible.

10. After getting to know them, they don’t creep you out. Most people have a friend who started dating someone that seemed great at first, but when everyone gets to know them they are creepy.  Most attorneys put their best foot forward when they first meet you. If months later they seem like a different person or you learn who they really are, that’s a bad sign.

I hope everyone has a fun and safe night whether you have a Valentine or don’t. And most of all, if you have a lawyer for an Illinois work injury, I hope they are showing you love.

How Do You Know Your Injury Is Work Related In Illinois?

Here’s an Illinois work comp question we get a lot.  “How do I know if my injury is work related?”

Sometimes the answer is simple and obvious.  If you have never had back trouble and pick up a box and feel a pop in your back, if that happened at work it’s work related.  If you are walking down the hall and slip on a wet floor, tearing your ACL, that’s work related.

A lot of other cases of course aren’t as obvious.  What happens if your back is just really sore all of the sudden?  How about if you now have numbness and tingling in your wrists and fingers?  Maybe you fell at work and felt no pain at the time, but three days later have trouble getting out of bed.  Is that workers’ compensation?

Whether it’s an injury from doing repetitive work or from a single incident that doesn’t flare up until days later, there is one major question that needs to be asked.  Did your job contribute to you having this problem?

Put another way, if you job caused, aggravated, accelerated or played a role in your injury, then you likely should be receiving Illinois workers comp benefits?  The law in Illinois doesn’t say your job has to be the only cause or even the main cause.  If your job duties play some sort of role then you are supposed to get benefits.

With the example of a worker who has numbness and tingling in their wrists and fingers, it’s a sign they have carpal tunnel syndrome.  One thing that can lead to carpal tunnel is pregnancy.  Another thing that can lead to it is typing all day.  Both of those things could contribute to your problem and if that’s true then you should get workers’ comp.

Maybe you hurt your back a year ago, but have been feeling good for about six months.  One week on the job you do a lot of heavy lifting.  By the end of the day on Friday you are really stiff and the next day you can’t get out of bed.  An MRI reveals a herniated disc.  It’s true you had a pre-existing problem, but also true that your job aggravated that condition.  In my opinion, if this happened to you, you’d win a case for Illinois work comp benefits.

Bottom line is that while insurance companies will deny your case for good and bad reasons, don’t take their word for it.  If your doctor states that your job duties were a factor in your need for treatment, you should prevail. Make sure when talking to your doctor they have a good understanding of what you do at work and don’t ever assume they know what the law is.  We’ve seen tons of cases where a doctor has said an injury isn’t work related only to change their opinion when they realize that the job just has to be a factor, not the only or main one.

If you have any questions about whether or not you have a case or anything else, you can call our lawyers for free any time.  We help everywhere in Illinois.

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