CTA Worker Gets $12 Million For A Back Injury On The Job

Under Illinois work comp law, you are never going to get a windfall of money, even if you have a major injury.  So how did a worker doing construction on a CTA job site end up with $12 million for a back injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down?

While doing his job, he slipped and fell 20 feet. He received $650,000.00 as a settlement along with payment of all of his medical bills.  Under IL law he was barred from suing his employer because you can’t sue them for negligence.  All you get is the work comp benefit.  While 650k isn’t a small amount of money, it’s certainly not enough for someone who ended up paralyzed from a job accident.  He’s in a wheelchair and reportedly has chronic pain.

Most workers wouldn’t get anything else but in this case, he was able to sue the CTA, the general contractor and project managers.  His lawyers successfully argued that OSHA rules were violated because workers who were more than six feet off the ground did not have fall protection 100% of the time.  There was a security cable, but you had to take it off during some movements.

While I’d argue $12 million isn’t worth being paralyzed either, it certainly will help this man and his family have a somewhat more normal life and reduce the financial pressures they certainly were feeling.  He hasn’t been able to work since the accident and the settlement will allow them to modify their home (although that could have happened through work comp and I question why the work comp attorney didn’t make that happen).

It isn’t fair that some injured workers can get millions more than others, but it is the reality of our legal system. If it’s just your employer who is negligent, you are likely out of luck. If it’s someone else that was negligent, you can go after them.

It wasn’t obvious from the facts I read that someone was at fault in this case.  That shows why it’s important to speak with a lawyer who will do a thorough investigation and examine every issue beyond the obvious ones. If that hadn’t happened it literally would have been the difference of millions of dollars.

Beyond that, it’s important to know that the best lawyers for work comp aren’t usually the right ones to handle a catastrophic case like this. What we can do for you is help with the work comp and make sure you are connected with one of the ten or so law firms in Illinois who have exceptional success with these types of cases.  Call us any time for free at 312-346-5578 to discuss a case with a lawyer.

Liberty Mutual And UPS Work Comp Claims

We are experienced lawyers who will talk to you for free about your work injury case.  Call us at 888-705-1766 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

I’ve been an a work comp attorney since 1997 and after a while you begin to notice trends in how insurance companies try to screw over workers. I’ve noticed one lately in relation to injured UPS workers that have called or emailed us for legal guidance.

In Illinois, UPS claims are administered by Liberty Mutual. They basically act as the agent for UPS who pays out the claims. Liberty Mutual is of course motivated to pay as little as possible to injured workers because they don’t want to lose such a big client.

The trend we’ve noticed is that a driver, sorter or other worker has a very straight forward injury. Often it’s back injury from lifting a box or some sort of slip and fall.  The worker does the honest thing and reports the accident to a supervisor and gets medical treatment.  The worker will send off work slips to Liberty Mutual and expect to be paid for their time off work because that’s the law.

These scenarios are very common and straight forward.  But what happens next is that the employee gets a letter in the mail saying their claim can’t be approved because Liberty Mutual doesn’t have documentation to support the claim.

Huh? Why would this happen?  You sent in the documentation and have verbally given information to them and your supervisor. How could they not have documentation?

It’s all bullshit of course.  They either have the documents they need or are not trying to get them.  Maybe there is a form they need from your boss that they don’t have.  Well, if they don’t ask for that form, they won’t have it.  If they don’t scan your off work slip it won’t be in the official file.  It could be a lot of different “reasons” but in my experience they are almost always nonsense.

In a normal, fair world, they’d seek out the right documentation so they can meet their obligation under the law. But their obligation isn’t to the law or to your health, it’s to making sure they minimize what they pay out on cases.  So if they can frustrate you, maybe you’ll quit your job, maybe you’ll treat your injury with pain meds, maybe you’ll use your group health insurance.  All of these things hurt you and help them.

It isn’t personal, it’s just business.  And lately it seems to be the strategy of the day, especially when a worker doesn’t have a history of bringing claims and there isn’t an obvious reason to deny you.  They know that if you know your rights, you won’t let them get away with this.

The good news is that it’s a solvable problem and once a lawyer gets involved the b.s. denials and delays usually stop. It’s dumb that it has to come to that, but that’s the reality of Illinois work comp law.

Acetabulum Fractures Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law

Have you suffered a fracture of the acetabulum due to a work accident? Unfortunately, you know firsthand how painful this type of injury can be. 

The hip joint is a ball and socket joint. The upper end of the thigh bone, or femur, meets the socket part, which is lined with smooth cartilage. This socket part is called the acetabulum, and is part of the pelvis.

An acetabular fracture happens when the socket of the hip joint is broken. This is not a common injury. It is much more common for the top of the femur to be fractured. Very rarely are both the thigh bone and socket damaged in an injury.

What typically causes an acetabular fracture? A high-energy trauma, or in other words, a swift blow to the side or front of the knee, usually from an automobile accident or a feet-first fall. In older individuals, or those who have osteoporosis, a simple fall can cause an acetabular fracture. For Illinois workers we see these injuries a lot when people fall off of scaffolds or ladders.

Acetabular fractures usually cause hip pain, but they may also produce pain in the groin and leg. A person might be able to put weight on it, but it will likely be painful.

To diagnose an acetabular fracture, a physician will take a full medical history of the patient, perform a physical exam, and order X-rays or a CT scan to see the extent of the fracture.

If the doctor sees extensive damage to the cartilage in the joint or a high degree of instability in the hip, he/she may recommend surgery. The surgeon would remove bone debris from the joint and align the surface of the cartilage so the ball is held securely within the socket of the joint.

After surgery, patients must stay off of their affected leg for up to three months. If a patient walks on the leg too soon, he/she risks displacing the joint again. Rehabilitation is required after surgery.

If you were involved in a vehicular collision while on the job, or if you had a feet-first fall at work, and you have an acetabulum fracture, reach out to us. We are experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorneys and our state-wide network of like-minded lawyers can protect you.  Call us at 888-705-1766 for a free consultation any time.

Illinois Workers Compensation Rates For 2021, PPD and TTD

The amount you get paid for being off work from a work injury in Illinois or for a settlement is based on your average weekly wage.  In general, you get 2/3 of your wage, tax free, for the time that you are unable to work due to being injured on the job.  There are maximum amounts though that insurance companies have had put in to protect their bottom line. In other words, if you are some rich doctor or stockbroker who makes $30,000.00 a week, if you get injured on the job you won’t get $20,000.00 a week in TTD benefits.

The maximum amount you can receive for work comp pay in Illinois is based on the state wide average weekly wage of all employees.  Over time as wages go up, rates of pay for work comp for being off work (TTD benefits) and for a settlement (PPD benefits) go up. In other words, a high wage earner with a back injury in 2021 will have a case worth more than someone with the exact same wages and injury from 2016.

TTD rates are updated every six months.  For injuries that happen between January 15, 2021 and July 14, 2021 the new maximum rates for being off work are:

Temporary Total Disability Benefits: $1,613.93

That is also the maximum rate if you become permanently disabled for your settlement, have an amputation or lose an eye.

For all other settlements, the PPD rates are adjusted once a year.  For injuries that happened between July 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, the new max rates are:

Permanent Partial Disability Benefits: $871.73

For some Illinois workers, they were injured before the new maximum rates came out.  In other words, if you got hurt January 20th this year, if the insurance company is paying you under the old rates, you should retroactively get paid for the increase.

These rates will again change this July. If you have questions about pay rates or anything else related to IL work comp law, please contact us at any time.

Injured Truck Drivers Wrongly Called Owner Operators

Since 2001 we have helped thousands of truck drivers who had questions about Illinois workers compensation law or who needed to find the right legal representation.  There is probably no other industry that is as shady as trucking when it comes to work comp claims.

I say that because many trucking outfits are fly by night operations and they don’t give a crap about their employees based on how they treat them.  One of the biggest ways they do that is by mis-classifying drivers as independent contractors. If you aren’t called an employee they avoid payroll taxes, they can break wage laws and they think they can avoid paying anything if you get hurt while working.

I’m not a labor lawyer so I won’t comment on wages or payroll taxes.  But when it comes to work comp, calling you an independent contractor or an owner-operator doesn’t get them out of having to provide work comp benefits.

If you are an owner operator, you really own the truck and make decisions about when you will drive, what you will haul, how much you will charge, the route you will take.  You can turn down work if you want.  You are in control of yourself.

That is way different than what happens in most cases. The trucking company has you sign a contract that says you don’t work for them, but then they tell you that you can only drive for them, set your pay rate, tell you what to do, etc

Control is the most important factor when determining whether or not you are truly an employee at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The more control they have, the more likely it is you prove you really are an employee and entitled to work comp benefits.

These companies lie about your true status out of greed.  They save money by paying you less and if they aren’t responsible for your work injury then they don’t have to pay your medical bills, lost time or give you a settlement. We are there to make sure that you don’t get taken advantage of and that the law is followed.

If you are a truck driver injured while working, either hurt in Illinois, hired in Illinois or based out of Illinois, we would be happy to talk to you for free to see if you have a case.  We only get paid if we make a recovery for you.  Call 312-346-5578 to speak with a lawyer or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

Why Would Work Comp Insurance Deny Your Case?

A lot of my blog posts come from talks with injured workers or attorneys on some interesting cases.  When I hear the same question over and over, it’s also a sign that writing about it would be a good idea.

One common query is, “Why would an insurance company deny my case?”  It’s often asked in response to me telling people that even though their case is accepted now, don’t be surprised if it’s denied at some point.

The reason they will deny you is to save money. That’s what insurance companies do. They’ll do it in an accepted case when they think they can.  By that I mean that if they can get an IME doctor to say you are fine, they will.  If they can act friendly to find out what you are doing this weekend to aid their attempts to put you under surveillance, they will.  If you have a nurse case manager on your case, she’ll try to discourage the doctor from scheduling a MRI, surgery or taking you completely off of work.

They do all of this because for them they want to close your case as quickly as possible and spend as little as possible on it.  It’s math and a business decision for them.  People are literally compensated based on how well they screw you over.  They might not seem like terrible people and they might be nice in their regular life. But their job is to reduce the costs on your case even when it is to your detriment.

So they will constantly be looking for reasons to fight you. Every time you go to the doctor they get a copy of your medical records.  They are always reviewed to see if they give them any leverage.  When I used to work for an insurance defense law firm, we constantly got emails asking us if we thought they had enough reason to cut someone off.

And sometimes they’ll just deny you without reason and hope that you don’t do anything about it.  It must work because I often get calls from people who were hurt years ago and now realize they should have done something about it.

Because a denial can happen at any time, it’s best to be pro-active and prepared for it.  This means having a case officially on file and getting assigned to an Arbitrator.  That way if you are unjustly denied you can get a court hearing much faster.  So whether it’s through us or finding an attorney on your own, the safest thing you can do for your case is free. Hire an experienced, competent Illinois work comp attorney and have them in your corner for when something goes wrong.

Bonus tip.  It’s not fair, but many of the games that insurance companies play don’t happen when a lawyer is on the case because they know we’ll punish them for not following the law.  We’ve also saved many an injured worker by warning them about surveillance tricks, nurse case managers and other tactics used to harm you.

What Does Vocational Rehabilitation Pay For?

We are experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorneys who will talk to you for free about your case.  Call us any time at 888-705-1766.  We cover all of Illinois.

Vocational rehabilitation does not occur in most work comp cases.  It happens when injured workers have permanent restrictions that can not be accommodated by their employer.  A common scenario is someone in a heavy duty job like construction work or a union electrician who sustains a serious back injury. Often after a surgery such as a fusion their orthopedic doctor will place them through physical therapy and other treatment, only to determine that they’ll never get back to their pre-injury level.

When a doctor tells you “this is as good as you are going to get” you are at what’s called maximum medical improvement or MMI.  If you aren’t fully recovered and likely never will be, you might get a work restrictions such as no lifting more than 20 pounds, mandatory sitting for ten minutes every hour or no driving for more than 30 minutes without rest.  All of these types of restrictions can make your old job impossible to do.

For Illinois workers you aren’t left out in the cold. You can get vocational rehabilitation which is a process by which a vocational counselor will help you look for work within your restrictions as well as assess what type of work you can reasonably do and how much you will make.

This work is considered a medical benefit and should be paid for by the insurance company. And just as you get to choose your own doctor, you can and should choose your own vocational rehab counselor.  The ones that the insurance companies choose are often looking out for them, not you.

Part of what you will receive can include:

  • Meetings with the counselor.
  • Resume writing help.
  • A labor market survey to see what types of jobs exist within your restrictions.
  • Retraining for you to start a new career.
  • Potentially college or other classes if they can increase your earning potential and doing so makes sense.
  • Help on how to interview with employers as well as contact them.

While you are in this process you should continue to receive work comp benefits called maintenance. It’s essentially the same thing as TTD payments, e.g. 2/3 of your average weekly wage, tax free.  These benefits do not expire.

At some point the voc counselor will write a report which will state what you can reasonably earn or report what you are able to earn based on your job success. If it turns out you can only make much less in a new job, you don’t have to take it, but that will be used to show that you are entitled to a wage differential payment which is 2/3 of what you could make if you were able to work your old job vs what you can make now.

Bottom line is that this a great benefit that hopefully you don’t ever need. But it’s good to know that Illinois workers aren’t left to fend for themselves if their injuries are this serious. It sadly does happen in other states.

IL Work Comp, Need A Knee Replacement But Have Arthritis

We are Chicago attorneys who help with workers’ compensation cases throughout Illinois.  Call us at 888-705-1766 any time for a free consultation.

As I approach 50, I can attest that even in a relatively fit person, your body breaks down as it gets older.  I used to stay out until 2 a.m. when I was 23 and then wake up five hours later and run 20 miles.  Now I’m in bed at 9:30 p.m. most nights and it takes me about 30 minutes to get loose in the morning. Even when I have a good run, I feel it the next day.

For most people, this phenomenon is called arthritis.  Whatever you refer to it as, it happens.

Illinois workers are of course not immune to getting arthritis. And it causes some insurance companies to try and deny their work comp benefits in bad faith.

For example, a while back I talked to a guy who has been working a heavy-duty labor job for quite some time.  He bends.  He crawls in tight spaces.  He is on his knees a lot. He carries heavy equipment. He works on uneven ground. His job often places him in tight spaces. And he’s been doing this for over 20 years.

If it isn’t clear, all the work he does puts a lot of stress on his knees. He needs a knee replacement and his doctor says it’s due to the repetitive nature of his job. It should be approved, right?

In a normal world, the surgery would have been paid for by work comp. But of course, the insurance company found a hired gun IME doctor to state that the real problem is arthritis and the fact that he’s a bit overweight.  Well, where do they think the arthritis came from?  Perhaps it’s from the bending, kneeling, uneven ground, etc.

Common sense tells you that it’s a work comp case but that doesn’t stop some insurance companies from trying to screw you over.  It works enough that they keep doing it, but usually, it only works when legitimately injured workers roll over.  The good news is that in most cases similar to this one we are able to eventually prevail and get all of your bills paid, all of your time off paid, and significant compensation due to how serious of an injury a knee replacement is.  This includes compensation in the likely event you have to change careers.

It all comes down to the fact that pre-existing problems do not strip away your rights to work comp benefits in Illinois.  And your employer “takes you as they find you” which means that even if you are heavy, if your job contributed to your problems, then you still get benefits.

It can be frustrating, but I promise that we will try to help and make sure you have an attorney in your corner who will fight for you and only gets paid if they win.

Settling Your Illinois Workers’ Comp Case – 40 Things To Know

We are experienced Illinois work comp attorneys who care about our clients. If you would like a a free consultation, call us at 888-705-1766 or fill out our contact form and we will call you

By far the most popular questions we get from injured Illinois workers have to do with settling their case.  Whether it’s wanting to know how much a case is worth or when the right time to settle is, we hear a lot of similar questions.  We thought it would be a good idea to put together a list of tips relating to settlement of work comp cases.  In no particular order, here are 40 things we think you should know:

  1. In almost every instance, once you settle a case, it’s over.  That means no more medical care or time off work at their expense.  So don’t settle until you are all better.
  2. Work comp settlements in Illinois are tax free.
  3. There is no requirement that a settlement offer be made at all, but an attorney can force the issue to make one happen.
  4. Once a settlement agreement is reached, each party has to sign pink settlement contracts and have them approved by an Arbitrator at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
  5. After a settlement has been approved, you typically get paid within 30 days.
  6. If you have a work comp case that can be filed in Illinois and another state, if you settle the case in that other state, you still might be able to get a settlement in Illinois.
  7. Any attorney who tells you what your case is worth right after an accident is lying. Nobody can say what a case is worth until they see what recovery you make.
  8. If it’s anticipated you will need future medical care (e.g. you had screws put in to your wrist that might have to come out someday), you can still settle and can compensated separately for the medical bills through a Medicare Set Aside.
  9. In every case there isn’t a hard figure of what a case is worth, but instead a high end and low end of what it could be worth.
  10. If you don’t like what the insurance company is offering, but don’t want to go to trial, having a pre-trial before the Arbitrator is a great idea. That is a conference with the lawyers where they say what they think the evidence will show and the Arbitrator makes a non-binding recommendation of how they’d likely rule.
  11. The two most important factors in what a case is worth are your medical care and the recovery you make.
  12. Those aren’t the only factors though. Some others include whether or not there are any defenses by the insurance company, your wages, age, subjective complaints of pain and if a job is still available for you.
  13. The first settlement offer is almost never the best one.
  14. Before settling you should call every medical provider to make sure there are no outstanding medical bills.
  15. If you go to trial that doesn’t mean you can’t someday still settle and sometime winning a trial gives you leverage to get more money some day.
  16. If there is a settlement, your lawyer will likely ask you to sign a power of attorney form so they can endorse your name to the check.  Assuming they aren’t a crook, this is very common and is just a way for them to pay you faster.
  17. Benefits for a settlement are called permanent partial disability or PPD.
  18. 60% of your average weekly wage is called your PPD rate.
  19. Each body part is assigned a certain value and your settlement is determined by multiplying your PPD rate and the value of your loss of use of that body part.
  20. If you have a large loss of what you could make in your old job compared to what you are able to make now, you are eligible to wage differential benefits.
  21. Wage differential is payment for 2/3 of what you’d be making currently in the old job vs what you now make.
  22. Payments for a wage differential continue for five years or until you reach age 65, whichever is longer.
  23. It’s possible to have a settlement for injuries to more than one body part in the same case.
  24. If you are permanently disabled from working, you can receive payments for that for the rest of your life.  Those cases usually have the highest value.
  25. There is a cap on attorney fees in settlements which is essentially 20% of seven years of permanent disability benefits.  Basically if your case is worth in the mid six figures it’s likely this cap will kick in.
  26. Lawyer fees generally are 20% less and they get reimbursed for expenses.  So if your attorney gets you a $50,000.00 settlement and spent $300.00 on your case for getting medical records, you’d receive $39,700.00.
  27. Most work comp cases have less than $100 in expenses.  The biggest one is if they have to pay a doctor for a deposition which can cost a couple thousand.
  28. Money for expenses is your money, even when the lawyer advances the costs.  So they shouldn’t spend that money without telling you first.
  29. Ending one case doesn’t prevent you from bringing a new claim for a new accident.
  30. There is no “pain and suffering” compensation in IL work comp cases.
  31. If there is a personal injury case that goes along with your work comp case (such as a car accident on the job), work comp insurance might be entitled to a partial reimbursement of what they’ve paid you.
  32. If you have an amputation from a work injury, you should be automatically paid when you return to work and don’t have to wait until you sign a settlement contract. You might still get more in the end but there is a minimum they have to pay you by law.
  33. If someone dies from a work injury, the minimum their dependents would get if they didn’t settle is $500,000.00.  Those cases essentially get negotiated the same way a permanent disability case would.
  34. Death benefits should also include payment of medical bills and $10,000 for burial expenses.
  35. Sometimes insurance companies will try to get you to take an annuity which pays you your settlement over a period of years.  We almost never recommend that. It’s your money, you can manage it.
  36. Comparing your case  to what someone else got is not realistic.  Every case is different because your facts are different even if the injury is the same.
  37. Working for a big company like Walmart or Amazon doesn’t make your case worth more just because they are worth billions.  And your case isn’t worth less because you work for a small company.
  38. If you used vacation pay during a time when you were taken off work by your doctor for the work injury, you can get that paid time off reinstated as part of a settlement.
  39. No attorney should try to settle your case without discussing it with you first.
  40. Most important of all, the choice to settle or not is yours.  Your lawyer should make a recommendation and then you make an educated decision about what you want to do.  Don’t feel rushed or pressured.

I hope these tips help.  If you have any questions please get in touch.

Tips For When Your Lawyer Leaves Their Firm

There is no law that requires your attorney to have any amount of experience to handle your case. If you have an Illinois law license, you can sign up an Illinois workers’ compensation case.

Now if you are an injured worker, while you can hire anyone you want, you’d certainly want an attorney that has some experience and focuses on work comp law. It’s no different than wanting to have an experienced doctor for your surgery instead of someone who has only done a handful. The price in both situations is the same, but the results and your confidence in them would likely be different.

This is one big reason why we don’t recommend newly licensed attorneys or ever work with them. It’s not that they can’t do a good job, especially if they are under supervision.  It’s that they really don’t know what they don’t know so the chances of them screwing up your case are much greater than someone with at least ten years of experience handling it.

Some Chicago workers’ compensation law firms like to hire brand new attorneys and assign them to handle cases right away.  They’ll tell them that they should expect to be in court within a week of being sworn in to practice law. Some brag that these new attorneys will try a case within their first month. It all sounds great for the lawyer who wants to build a resume, but it’s terrible for the clients.  The bigger the injury, the worse it is.  A new lawyer isn’t going to know anything about Medicare or nurse case managers or fair settlements or how to conduct an evidence deposition or about 100 other things. And even as they learn, they’ll still have a lot to learn.

One caller to my office hired one of these notorious firms that hires a lot of young lawyers and throws them in to the fire.  They do this because you don’t have to pay a young attorney very much money.  This worker has a very serious injury that resulted in a back fusion. In the few years his case has been open, he’s been re-assigned to six (SIX!) new lawyers at the firm.  They hire new ones who get frustrated because they get no training and quit.  Then they hire another and the cycle continues.

So here is a guy whose case might be worth a few hundred thousand dollars and he keeps on getting recycled to young, inexperienced lawyers. Now one of them is recommending a settlement in the low five figures and telling him that any unpaid bills are his responsibility.

This is madness, but unfortunately it’s not a unique story. So here are some things I think you should know.

  1. You have a right to ask who will be handling your case. If it’s a young attorney, you can tell them you don’t want that and certainly in my opinion should go elsewhere if they tell you too bad.
  2. In almost every Illinois work comp case, you hire an attorney and are with them beginning to end. Occasionally your lawyer will leave their firm or die and it will be necessary for a new attorney at the firm to pick it up. This shouldn’t happen multiple times. If it does it’s a red flag.
  3. If your lawyer does change, I highly recommend that you get together with the new attorney ASAP. What typically happens is a lawyer will leave a bunch of cases behind and either the remaining lawyers divide them up or a new attorney gets hired to take over.  Whatever happens, no matter what they tell you, that new attorney can’t just pick up your case and know what they need to know.
  4. Aside from getting together with the new lawyer, you should be your own biggest advocate.  To me that means putting together, in writing, a summary of everything that’s happened so far. When you were hurt, how it happened, who saw it, who you reported it to, what medical treatment you’ve received, etc.  Not every lawyer does a good job of writing down conversations with their clients and whoever is taking over these cases is likely to be overwhelmed.  Any help you give them helps you.
  5. If it happens more than once that a new lawyer takes over, it’s a bad sign for that law firm and I’d think about getting a whole new law firm altogether.

This is probably one of the most important posts I’ve written because it happens a lot, but isn’t talked about a lot.  If you have any questions, you can call or email us any time. We help with work injuries everywhere in Illinois via our state wide network.