The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Doctor

If you are injured at work, your workers’ compensation doctor will have a very big impact on your workers’ compensation claim. Your doctor will greatly influence:

  1. What kind of treatment you should receive.
  2. How long you should be off of work.
  3. How your injury will affect you for years down the road.

Now, remember that the doctor has two interests in mind: the patient and the insurance company. As an injured worker and patient, you are, first and foremost, looking for the right treatment that will get you as healthy as possible. The insurance company might want treatment for you too, but may prefer more conservative options. The insurance company may also want you to get back to work before you are ready.

How you approach your visit(s) with the doctor is critical. The information you share will impact his/her opinion and important decisions regarding your treatment. Here are two points to follow:

  1. Don’t Lie

This should go without saying, but don’t lie about previous injuries. Don’t lie about pre-existing medical conditions or treatments.

  1. Don’t Exaggerate

Along those same lines, do not exaggerate or play down your symptoms. Be honest about the level of pain that you are experiencing and at what level you are functioning.

Besides being the “right” thing to do, why is it important not to lie or exaggerate to the doctor? Well, if a doctor can’t trust what you’re saying, it is much more difficult for him/her to give you the proper care. In addition, your medical records show your full history, so if you downplay past injuries and your records say otherwise, you look untrustworthy.

If there is a dispute decided by a workers’ compensation arbitrator, he/she will consider your credibility. An arbitrator will be less likely to side with you if your medical records show that you’ve lied about the extent of your injury.

Anxious about what to say to your doctor? Don’t risk medical treatment being denied. Give us a call at 312-346-5578. All calls are free and confidential, and you can speak with a licensed attorney who can help you.

Truck Drivers And Occupational Accident Disability Policies

When it comes to Illinois workers’ compensation law, one thing we notice is that when you see a weird defense to cases going on, if you see it one case, you’ll see it on a lot of others.  Essentially, insurance companies throw strategies against the wall and hope that it sticks.

There is one defense that isn’t actually new, but it’s being used in a slimy way to hurt truck drivers.  What happens is a trucking company will go to get workers’ compensation insurance. They balk at the price and then get advised to make all of their drivers independent contractors.  They purchase a cheaper work comp insurance policy and are strongly encouraged to make their drivers buy an occupational accident disability policy.

These policies basically tell the truck drivers that if you get hurt at work, you can’t claim work comp, but instead have to apply for these lesser benefits.  Most drivers think they are getting a work comp policy, but really aren’t.  This is wrong and illegal for so many reasons.  Let’s count the ways:

  1. You can’t call a driver an independent contractor when you have control over them. If they are employees then they are employees.
  2. You can’t make an employee pay for their own workers comp coverage.
  3. You can’t make an employee waive their rights to work comp benefits in Illinois.
  4. You can’t force a worker to use a policy that doesn’t pay as much as work comp laws do nor one that limits their medical care.

So the bad news is that many trucking companies are confusing their drivers, many of whom aren’t native English speakers, with these sham policies.  I can think of at least ten drivers who we’ve spoken to in recent months who have been harmed as a result.

The good news is that the law is on the side of these workers.  They can still file for workers’ compensation benefits in Illinois which provide some of the best worker protections around. This includes the right to choose your own doctor, 100% payment for medical bills and compensation for your time off of work.

Regrettably, trucking companies an insurance companies will keep doing this stuff until it bites them in the butt enough.  Fighting these insurance company scams is like a game of whack a mole. You knock one down and then another one pops up in its place.  This one though has gone on for a while because trucking companies open and close and then re-open under a different name all of the time.

The bottom line is that if you are an injured truck driver with a connection to Illinois, we can likely help. Call us for free any time at 312-346-5578 to see if you have a case.

 

When You Don’t Live In Illinois But Work Here And Get Hurt

It’s been a month for getting asked questions I’d never heard in 20 plus years of being an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney.

The latest was from a nurse who got Covid working in a Chicago hospital.  She unfortunately has a bad case and appears to have some long term heart damage.

The twist, in this case, is that she lives in Indiana, and apparently was told that she should apply for FMLA.  Her boss either told her or implied that since she lives in Indiana, those laws apply.  This is of course, totally wrong.  She wanted to know if she could bring a case here.

If you work in Illinois or get hurt in Illinois or were in Illinois when hired, you can file a workers’ compensation claim here if you are hurt on the job.

The actions of employers who do this are shameful, but in this case, they are even worse.  I can’t imagine who would make a health care worker with Covid feel like they have no rights.  They should be bending over backwards to thank them and help them.

Where you live does not affect your rights to bring an Illinois workers’ compensation claim. Not only can she file in Illinois, but she also doesn’t have to come to IL for treatment.  She can treat with doctors close to her home in a manner that is convenient for her.  In fact, we once were involved in a case of a flight attendant from Australia who was hurt on a trip to the United States. She treated in her home country.  That made for a challenge as far as getting medical records goes, but that’s how the law works.

I always tell people that call that they aren’t expected to know the law, so feel free to ask whatever you want.  It’s also true that the employer, beyond posting notices about the law, doesn’t have to guide their workers on how the work comp system in Illinois works.  That said, they shouldn’t mislead workers or make them think that they don’t have certain rights.

So the good news is that she does have a right to bring a case here. The bad news, beyond her terrible injury, is how she got jerked around.  Her illness goes back to the spring and if she does go forward with a case, she should be able to get benefits from the day she stopped working. Hopefully, that will partially make up for what she’s gone through.

As an aside, the only reason she reached out was because her FMLA was about to run out.  FYI, your FMLA should not impact your workers’ comp rights in any way.

This Shouldn’t Be Your Doctor

I’m in my 24th year of being a lawyer. One thing that makes me a huge lawyer nerd is that I get excited by new fact patterns or scenarios. It’s not as fun as helping someone, but it’s refreshing to know that you haven’t heard/seen it all.

I thought of this on a recent call from an injured Chicago worker.  She asked a question I had never been asked before. She wanted to know if her brother could be her treating doctor.  He is a family practice physician, and she has a leg injury.

So could he be her doctor?  There is no law against it.  But it would be a terrible idea for a couple of reasons.

First off, it looks suspicious. If he recommends a bunch of treatment and an insurance company IME doctor says you don’t need it, that could be a problem. In my opinion, an Arbitrator will assume a family member is biased in their medical opinions if your case goes to trial.  It also wouldn’t surprise me if the insurance company denied medical care just because you are treating with a family member.

Second, in this case, she has a serious leg injury.  Those injuries should be treated by orthopedic doctors.  Her brother could be the best, most honest family practice doctor in the world. That still wouldn’t make him the right physician for a serious leg injury. You want and need a doctor who deals with those problems every day and is constantly reviewing MRI’s, physical therapy results, discussing surgery, etc.

In both cases, you are giving the insurance company a reason to fight your case which you don’t want to do.

All that said, having a family member who is a medical professional is a tremendous resource.  There is nothing wrong with asking them for a recommendation to an orthopedic doctor.  That is a much different scenario than trying to get the insurance company to pay them for giving you care.  And I’d bet that if your brother or sister recommended an orthopedic doctor to you, that person would give you the best treatment possible based on who your sibling is.

So while I appreciated the unique question, I highly recommended that she not do what she wanted to do.  And if you are looking for a lawyer, whether us or anyone else, if your attorney won’t tell you the truth instead of what you want to hear, it’s a bad sign.

Fast Food Workers And Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law

I really don’t like smug people who think they are better than others.  The phrase “he’s qualified to flip burgers” pisses me off. It’s so elitist and truth be told, the best life training you can get is working in a restaurant where you have to deal with the general public on a regular basis.

When it comes to Illinois workers’ compensation law, fast food workers do tend to get taken advantage of for a lot of reasons. 1. Their workforce is often younger. 2. The pay isn’t always great, so some attorneys won’t help if it’s not a big injury. 3. Since a lot of these stores are franchises, the owners aren’t always honest about what your rights are. 4. A lot of the workforce isn’t highly educated and unethical employers try to take advantage of that.

All that said, there are a lot of common injuries at places like McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, Starbucks etc.  I’ve lost count of the number of calls we’ve had from workers who have burned themselves or slipped on wet floors.  It happens all of the time.  There are also a lot of lifting injuries and occasional work comp claims from altercations with customers.

One of the challenges of working fast food is that you often do the same activities over and over and are expected to do them at a fast pace.  As a result we also see a lot of “repetitive trauma” claims from using the same body part over and over.

In a recent Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission case, a McDonald’s worker brought a case for getting carpal tunnel on the job. She had to use a heavy sauce gun which required a lot of force  and other condiment dispensers hundreds of times a day. On busy days that meant over 800 times.  She dispensed ketchup and mustard at least 500 times a day.  After a while she noticed pain in her thumbs and wrists.

This restaurant was owned by a franchisor and he fought her claims and testified that she didn’t make as many sandwiches as she said she did.  The Court did not find him credible though because he was the only one that had access to how many meals were actually made and didn’t provide this evidence.  Much more persuasive was her testimony that her symptoms didn’t develop until she began working there and that she had been doing this work for ten years.

And that’s something I’ve really found to be true when it comes to fast food workers. While there is a lot of turnover on those jobs, there are also many great employees like this one who stick with the job for many years.  Of course instead of supporting the worker, the boss treats them as not essential and fights them when it’s objectively clear that the job would at least contribute to some of these problems.

When it comes to these cases, the best thing you have going for you is the truth.  If you credibly testify and have a good doctor, things usually work out the way they should. I’m thrilled it did for this employee.  And if you work in the restaurant business, don’t listen to bosses who tell you that you don’t have work comp rights, aren’t eligible for benefits or anything else. Seek out confidential legal advice and then make an educated decision. We are happy to talk to you for free any time.

IL Work Comp Law – When You Don’t Report An Injury Right Away

Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, you need to report your injury to your employer within 45 days of when you knew, or reasonably should have known, a work injury occurred.  This is a very common sense law. I say that because if you are lifting a box and feel a tweak in your back, most of the time it’s nothing and will go away. It would be crazy to have to report that every time it happens.

While the law is 45 days, I’d strongly recommend you not delay more than a week in reporting anything.  If it’s a serious injury, you should report it right away.  If it’s something where you aren’t sure you are really hurt or the pain doesn’t show up until a day or two later, reporting then is fine.

For some workers, you understandably are more concerned about your job than anything else.  That happened in a Work Comp Commission case of a police cadet.  He was injured while doing burpees as part of his training with the Illinois State Police Academy.  While doing burpees, he felt sharp pain in his neck.  His supervisor saw him stop the exercise and shouted at him to keep going.  He didn’t tell them he was hurt because he wanted to finish the academy.

Three days later he sought medical care and texted his supervisor about the injury. He had to drop out until the next session of training began.

The State of Illinois is notorious for how they treat injured workers and how difficult they are in responding to claims.  They denied this cadet any benefits because he didn’t report the accident until three days later.  That is not what the law requires though.

The good news is that after an Arbitration, he won benefits.  His testimony was undisputed and credible.  Of note is that the cadets were not to speak to instructors unless spoken to. Beyond that, his medical records clearly indicated that he was hurt at work.

In my experience, the medical records are the main factor in determining how these cases go.  If you report to your doctor you were hurt while working, it lends a lot credibility to your case.  It’s assumed, generally speaking, that you will tell the truth to your doctor.  In the same vein, if you say you don’t know how you were hurt, it can really go against you.

While the law says you have 45 days to report an accident, the longer you wait, the more likely it is that the insurance company will contest your case. So the sooner you can report, the better.  As you saw from the police cadet case, even a three day delay was enough for them to fight an injured worker.

I hope this helps.  If you have any questions, you can speak with a lawyer for free by calling us at 312-346-5578.

Shady Apartment Complex Owner Loses Attempt To Call Worker Contractor

It’s a felony under Illinois law not to have workers’ compensation insurance. A lot of employers try to be “smart” and look for ways around calling their employees actual employees.  The most common “smart guy” thing to do is to call them independent contractors.  They act as if they’ve come up with some genius way to get around the law.  The truth is that even if you claim someone is a contractor, if they really aren’t, they still get work comp if they get hurt on the job.

I almost understand how small businesses make this mistake. You bring on one person and maybe don’t know if you have to call them an employee or not. But when big businesses do it, it’s shameful and in my opinion should be jailable.

This was shown recently in a claim of a maintenance worker against a housing complex. The owner has apartment complexes all over the country. This isn’t some small business who could say they didn’t know what they were doing. The called the maintenance worker an independent contractor and knew it was b.s.

How do you know he wasn’t a contractor?  Let’s count the ways:

  1. He completed a job application.
  2. He was given a uniform to wear while he worked.
  3. He was assigned daily tasks by the property manager.
  4. He had set hours.
  5. He had to be on call during off hours to address emergency issues.
  6. They gave him instructions on what to do.
  7. He wasn’t allowed to hire help.
  8. He couldn’t decline a job.
  9. If his cell phone wasn’t working he was required to regularly report to the property manager’s office.
  10. He was paid an hourly wage and submitted daily time sheets.
  11. He was paid the same day other employees were, twice a month.
  12. They provided him tools for the jobs.
  13. They could fire him any time for any reason.

Does that sound like an employee or a contractor? Obviously he worked there.  They had control over him. Yet when he got hurt performing an assigned task they said, “You don’t work here.”

It’s really gross and shows how little they value their employees and how much they worship money over morals.  He won in the end, but had to jump through hoops of going to trial at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  His injury surely got worse and he suffered economically.

It was a very serious injury with over $130,000 in medical expenses and about 12 weeks off work. The employer even appealed the decision and lost there too. It’s likely a case of an employer that is too smart for their own good, which sadly caused a worker to suffer. I only wish the attorney in this case had gone after penalties and fees because asshole companies like this one need to be punished when they act this way.

How Do You Know When To Change Work Comp Lawyers

I love getting great questions from readers.  One contacted me and was very to the point which I also appreciate.  He right away asked, “How do you know when to change lawyers?”

Couple of points first.  1. It costs nothing to change law firms.  Attorney fees can never exceed 20% total. 2. While the ideal situation is to hire the right attorney first and we encourage injured Illinois workers to try and work things out when they can, if you wait too long you could cause serious harm to your case that can’t be fixed.

So when is the right time?

It really depends on the case of course.  Let’s first talk about when it’s too late.  If your case has gone to trial, it’s too late. If there is a big settlement offer, it’s probably too late.  If all of the depositions have been done, it might be too late.

The right time to switch is when you realize your lawyer doesn’t really have a lot of work comp experience.

The right time is when you discover that your attorney doesn’t call you back.

The right time is when you learn that your lawyer isn’t following through on the things they say they will do.

It’s the proper time to switch when your lawyer mocks your concerns about not having any money since your TTD got cut off or in general shows no empathy.

You should get a new lawyer when it’s apparent that there is a lot of turnover at the firm you’ve hired and they have to keep re-assigning your case.

I’d get a new lawyer if my attorney was screaming at me or belittling me.

The right time to get a new lawyer is when you catch yours in a lie.

The right time to get a new law firm for your Illinois work comp case is when they insist that your medical care be with the doctor that they recommend.

It’s time for a new lawyer when you are advised that yours is spending the winter in Florida.

You should probably get a new work comp attorney if yours gets very sick and doesn’t have experienced partners to take over your case.

I’d get a new lawyer if you learn that your attorney lied about the value of your case just to get you to sign up.

I could go on and on, but the point I’m really trying to make is that when you see red flags, they are warnings that you made the wrong decision with the firm you hired. One red flag is a bad sign which mean you should consider changing. Two or more means you should run for the hills. The last thing you want to do is have your case finish and be stuck with medical bills or know that if you’d gotten a different, more reliable firm you’d have a bunch more money in your pocket.

I’m unique in that if you call me to discuss your case, I’ll tell you if I think that you have a good lawyer or not and tell you if I think they are doing a good job or not. And I’m honest about it.  There are a couple law firms that do a bad job on so many cases that just having them is a red flag. Others usually do a good job but maybe aren’t communicating well with you. Whatever it is, I’ll give you my honest opinion. You can call us any time at 312-346-5578.

One Way To Fight Work Comp If Denied For A Failed Drug Test

If you are injured on the job in Illinois, your employer has the right to send you for a drug test.  It’s one of the biggest bullshit rights that employers and insurance companies have.

I say that because what often happens, is a worker tests positive, gets their benefits denied, and then is forced into a battle to prove that they were not intoxicated when they got injured.  Insurance companies like to preach that they are against frivolous cases, but they bring this frivolous defense all the time.

The reason I say it’s b.s. is because in almost every scenario, an injured worker busts their butt for their company and then in their free time they drink or smoke pot. Obviously if you are drunk or high while working and get injured, your benefits should be contested. The reality though is you can be black out drunk on Saturday night and have no alcohol in your system when hurt at work at noon on Monday.  On the other hand, you could eat one edible or take a couple of smokes from a joint on Saturday night and it will still be in your system the following Friday.

So what happens is that you have to prove you weren’t intoxicated/high when you got hurt.  This usually means a trial. If your injury is minor, most attorneys won’t take your case because the time and money involved to fight for you means that they will spend more than they can recover.

If it’s a mid-size injury, say a broken wrist with no surgery, most Illinois work comp attorneys would take that case and try to use your testimony to rebut they drug test.  You’d tell the truth that you used marijuana on Saturday, but were completely sober the day you got hurt. That, along with witness testimony is usually enough to win, but there’s no guarantee.  It’s stupid though because people would know if you were high, especially if they were with you all day and watched you do excellent work otherwise.

If you have a very big injury, there’s a strategy to use that can often help avoid a trial.  It’s not cheap, but if you are seriously injured and need surgery, it can be worth it.  We can take the results of your drug screen and send them to a toxicologist.  They often can pinpoint based on how much of a drug was in your system when it was actually ingested.  At times this can be enough to convince an insurance company that their fight is a waste of time.  Even if it doesn’t, it can be very convincing at trial along with your credible testimony.

I don’t expect this law or the way it’s used against workers to change.  When that happens you can either sulk or work on ways to counter it which is the best way to win.

I Work On A Computer All Day And Have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

We are work injury lawyers in Chicago who will talk to you for free about any Illinois workers’ compensation case.  You can call, fill out our form or as many people do, start a live chat to speak with an attorney.  A recent chatter asked the following question:

I work at a school and spend a lot of time entering information into a computer. For a couple of years I have struggled with problems with my wrist and just had test done to confirm that I need carpal tunnel surgery. Is this covered as workers comp?

There is no slam dunk answer to this question because when you have a repetitive activity injury, we are going to need to see your medical records. More likely than not though, he carpal tunnel is from typing all day for a couple of years.  If the job contributed to her injury, she’d have a case.

To prove this we’d want to see her records. We may also want her to talk to her orthopedic doctor and give a very detailed description of her job duties to see if they think the job contributed to her getting injured. It’s important to know how many hours she types a day, the angle of her wrists, the force used, any other activities, etc.

One possible hiccup in this case could be that the problems have existed for years. If she received medical care years ago and didn’t tell her employer about it, she may have a notice issue under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Under IL law, you have to tell your employer you suspect a work related injury within 45 days of when you knew or reasonably should have known you got hurt at work.

The counter argument to that defense would be two fold. First, it’s arguable that you don’t know it’s work related until a doctor says so. Second, if you are still doing the same activities, it’s arguable that your injury date is the last date you worked.  The injury getting worse over time also plays a factor.

I’m not one of those lawyers who will tell you what you want to hear so you will go with our law firm.  We tell you what needs to happen to win a case and sometimes that means that we need more information. I and any lawyers I work with would want to sign this case up as it does sound likely that it’s a good one, but we can’t say for sure without seeing the records.  If you are diabetic, pregnant or obese the insurance company will use that information to fight your case as those are risk factors for carpal tunnel.  That doesn’t mean you can’t win, it just means there will be a fight.  Seeing your medical records helps us evaluate your chances of winning.

As always, if you want to know if you have a case or just have questions, you can contact us at any time.

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