IL Work Comp – Choosing A Voc Counselor

In most Illinois worker’ compensation cases, you get hurt at work, get medical care, eventually get better and return to your old job.

In some cases though, you don’t get better or your best is no longer good enough to allow you to do your old job. When you have permanent restrictions and your employer can’t cover them, you aren’t just kicked to the curb.

In a situation like this, you can either look for a job on your own (and while you do so you should continue to receive TTD benefits although at that point it’s called maintenance) or if you need assistance in finding a job or maximizing your earning potential, you can ask for vocational rehabilitation.

Vocational rehabilitation or voc rehab is the process in which a professional helps you in looking for work and figuring out what you can do for work. Let’s say you’ve been a heavy duty laborer for 25 years and have a high school degree.  You blew out your back at work and now can’t lift more than 10 pounds.  That prevents you from doing any job that you used to do in the past. You go from making $80,000 a year to now only finding minimum wage jobs.

A voc rehab counselor would help you in many ways: 1. They would help you prepare a resume which you likely have never had to do. 2. They would seek out jobs for you. 3. They would conduct practice interviews with you and give you job search tips. 4. They can arrange interviews for you. 5. They can suggest re-training that you’d be qualified for.

So if you did end up with a severe lifting restriction, but were in your 40’s, maybe you’ve had an interest in computers and could go back to school to learn graphic design or how to run an IT department.  It could be something that you’ve never thought of before, but if it’s realistic for you, the insurance company could be required to pay for your re-training which would include continuing your benefits until you are back to being employed.

So how do you find a voc rehab counselor?

I wrote this blog because I’ve seen a handful of cases where the insurance company or their attorney is picking the person who does voc rehab for the injured worker.  This is typically happening in cases where the worker does not have a lawyer or has a bad one.

Under Illinois law, just as you can choose your own doctor, you can choose your own voc rehab counselor.  And just as you would want an independent doctor who is looking out for you, not a hired gun of the insurance company, you want the person who helps you with your job search to have your best interests at heart as well.

Of course finding one isn’t like finding a doctor where you can just Google it and read reviews.  This is really where a good attorney comes in. You want a voc counselor that is credible, understands Illinois workers’ compensation law, has experience, understands medicine, has testified in court and is not seen as biased.  If your lawyer hasn’t handled thousands of work comp cases they likely wouldn’t have a good handle on who to recommend that you work with.

The importance of getting this right can literally mean the difference of a case worth $50,000 and a case worth $500,000.00.  The insurance company doesn’t have to show that you got a job, they have to show that either you didn’t cooperate (they say that a lot even when it’s not true) or that you can earn some magical number that limits their costs even if you can’t find a job making that much.

As always, if you have any questions about this process, we help with work injuries anywhere in Illinois.  You can contact us for a free consultation with an attorney  at (312) 346-5578.

Frozen Shoulder And Illinois Workers Compensation

So many Illinois workers lift things and that leads to a lot of injuries. The back is the most common problem, but a close second is an injury to your shoulder.

Not taking care of that shoulder injury could make your life much more difficult than it needs to be. The original injury may not heal properly, but also you could be causing further damage. If your shoulder hurts so badly it’s almost impossible to move at this point, you may have a condition called frozen shoulder which is also known as adhesive capulitis.

After an injury, slowly and over time, scar tissue starts to build up in the capsule that holds your shoulder bones together. As that scar tissue builds up, it makes it more difficult for you to move your arm correctly. It may even hinder you from preforming your job requirements. Typically, an injury like this will go through a few stages. You may develop pain in your shoulder that gets worse at night. Over time, this may go from pain to stiffness causing you to have a very hard time getting through your day. Eventually it maybe come impossible for you to move your shoulder at all.

Your doctor will be able to help you with anti-inflammatory medications and maybe something to help with the pain. They will also help you with physical therapy and stretching exercises. If these things don’t help, you may require surgery to fix the problem.  Surgery used to be risky for frozen shoulder, but lately we’ve seen it replaced by arthroscopic surgery in which tiny cuts are made in the shoulder to loosen it up.  This has lead to mostly good results for our clients and others who have had the procedure.

If the original injury was a result of an on the job injury or repetitive motions while you are working such as lifting, your injury and frozen shoulder maybe covered by workers compensation. It can happen in any industry, but we see it a lot with construction and warehouse jobs.  Amazon workers seem to be at great risk for this problem. Let your doctor know up front that you have a job that requires repetitive motion, or if you had another accident at work that caused the shoulder injury.

The recovery time can be a few months to a few years depending on how severe the problem is.  Our best advice is to do the following:

  1. Get medical treatment right away.
  2. Get referred to an orthopedic doctor who specializes in shoulder injuries (we can make a recommendation if needed).
  3. Be very aggressive in your therapy and don’t do things at work or in your spare time that can potentially aggravate the problem.
  4. Whether you had an accident at work or think the problem is developing due to all the repetitive lifting you do, make sure to report the problem to your employer right away.
  5. If you do get a lawyer make sure you talk to them about their experience handling frozen shoulder cases. It’s a somewhat unique injury, certainly not as common as rotator cuff tears.  You want a lawyer who understands the medicine to be in your corner.

And of course, if you want to talk to a lawyer about this, for free, contact us for a free consultation.  We cover work injuries for every part of Illinois.

Illinois Work Injuries When You Don’t Follow The Rules

A reader asks:

I was injured at work while transferring a resident, would I get covered by the workers comp even if I did not use a gait belt?

Good question. Generally speaking, you have to follow the rules set forth by your company.  But whether or not you have an Illinois work comp case if you get injured while not following the rules depends on what happened.

In this case, the CNA was injured while doing something that benefited her employer; lifting a patient.  Whether this was a situation where she forgot to wear the belt or chose not to or just didn’t have it on when she was asked to help, the fact of the matter is that she was doing her job when she got hurt.  Unless the employer can show that she intentionally hurt herself or decided to put herself at risk, I do think her case should be covered by work comp although you can anticipate a potential fight on your hands. That’s OK, we don’t mind a legal fight when our clients are in the right.

On the other hand, if an employee is goofing off or “engaging in horse play” (that term came from a famous case) then they wouldn’t get covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Let’s say this nurse had a job to wheel an elderly patient from one part of the building to another. If she decided to race the wheelchair and in doing so got injured, that wouldn’t be a case.  Doing so she would be taking an unnecessary risk that isn’t part of her job duties.

The bottom line in these cases is that you have to look at the unique facts of what happened to see if there is a case or not.  The best advice I can give you is that if the insurance company denies your case, don’t stress.  It happens all the time even when they are in the wrong.  Speak to an attorney who knows what they are doing and get an independent opinion.  If you’d like to talk with one of our lawyers for free, you can contact us at any time.

Does Your Employer Have To File Your Work Comp Case?

A caller asked a good question the other day that’s worth sharing.  The question was:

I was hurt at work two weeks ago.  I haven’t heard anything.  By law does my employer have to file the case?

Most employers who have insurance have a motivation to report work related injuries.  If they wait too long and cause an investigation to be delayed, the insurance company could deny coverage and not pay for your injuries.  If that happens the employer would have to pay for all of your bills.

There’s a big difference between notifying the insurance company that an employee has been hurt and a case actually being filed.  The insurance company can and often does, just ignore reports of injuries.  Some of them take the approach of “Why should we make the life of this injured worker easier?”  So they’ll make you chase down the phone number of an insurance adjuster and call them back while they “complete their investigation” which is often fancy talk for trying to frustrate you until you go away.

So technically yes the employer has to file the case with their insurance company and technically they are also supposed to notify the State of Illinois when an accident happens (that almost is never done). But neither of these things protects you or forces the insurance company to respond to you.

The way to look out for yourself and make the insurance company respond is to file an Application For Adjustment of Claim with the State of Illinois. It’s not a lawsuit, but the first step in you putting the State and employer on notice that you want benefits.  It’s typically filed by a lawyer although nothing prevents you from filing one either. After it’s filed your case will be assigned to an Arbitrator and given a status hearing. As lawyers, by filing this form it gives us the ability to demand payment of work comp benefits from the insurance company and get a court order for them to be paid if they continue to jerk you around.

In the big scheme of things, you must remember that nobody can be more invested in your case and you getting healthy than you.  If you expect the employer or insurance company to do the right thing, you are fooling yourself.  If you expect a lazy, rude lawyer to change their ways, you are fooling yourself.

In general there is the way things are supposed to work and the way they really work.  You need to be proactive and look out for yourself and not wait for others to help you.

Questions? Disagree?  Want a free consultation?  Call us any time for a free consultation.

Chicago Carpenter Proves He’s Not An Independent Contractor

It’s not unusual for an employer to call employees independent contractors when they are really employees.  They typically do it to avoid payroll taxes and to try to get out of work comp claims.

We see this mostly with truck drivers, but it’s not limited to that profession.  Recently a Chicago carpenter went through nonsense of trying to receive work comp benefits.  He was called a contractor when clearly he was an employee.  But because the employer called him a contractor the case had to go to trial.

The company did what most companies do.  They had their employees sign agreements saying that they were independent contractors.  The belief is that this will discourage claims or show that the employee agreed they weren’t an employee.

The reality though is that the “contract” is one sided because the employer has all the leverage and if they actually treat you like an employee, you are one.  In this case, the employer assigned the contractor to a job site and went over the work he had to perform. They dictated his schedule to the point of where and when he would work.  They could fire him if they wanted to.  They provided most of the tools for the job.

The bottom line is that they had control over him.  If you have control, you are an employer.  Compare that to what a real independent contractor is. I had a leak at my house and called a plumber.  They weren’t prevented from taking jobs other than mine.  They provided all the tools.  I asked them to show up at 9 a.m. and they told me they couldn’t make it until 2 p.m.  They had to cut a hole in our wall to repair a pipe and even though I wanted them to fix the hole on a Friday, they had another job to work on and decided to come on a Tuesday.

An independent contractor works for themselves.  Being called one or signing a document that says you are one does not make it so.  The more control someone has over you, the more likely it is that you are an employee.  This is true no matter what line of work you are in.

You can bet that if you did sign one of these documents and you get hurt while working, your case will be fought. That’s alright.  We have the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission so these disputes can be resolved.  If otherwise the facts are on your side and you have a good attorney in your corner, it will be a delay that will ultimately work in your favor.

Temp Worker Injuries In Illinois

We get contacted all the time by workers who were placed on a job site by a staffing agency and sustained an injury.  They are often told that temp workers aren’t covered under the Illinois Work Comp Act.  That simply is not true. The minute you start working, you are covered under the law.

There are approximately 3 million temporary workers in the United States, the most in any time in history.  In fact almost 10% of American workers find a job through a temp agency.  Sadly many of these works face a big disadvantage because they are not considered employees of the companies that they perform work for since the temp agency pays their wages. So they are more likely than “regular” workers to be injured on the job due to often being placed in unsafe working conditions or having to do grunt work that nobody else wants to do.

The other reason that temp workers get injured a lot is because they are often asked to perform work that is typically done by full time employees who have years of experience and training.  Being forced to learn as they go because of seasonal work or special projects often leads to injuries.

If you are one of the many thousands of temp workers in Illinois, know that if you are hurt on the job you have the exact same rights as any other employee.  You get medical benefits, lost time payments and a settlement for any injuries related to your job duties.  Your limited time on the job doesn’t force you to waive any rights and if you get hurt because you didn’t know what you are doing, you won’t be punished and unable to file a case.

In the big picture for you if you are a temp worker, while there might be a contract that determines if the staffing agency or hiring company has to pay your benefits, what you need to do is not worry about that.  If you get hurt, report your injury, get medical attention and then call us to tell us about your case.  We will tell you how we can help once we learn the facts of what happened to you.  There are no up front fees and we only get paid if we get you a settlement.  If we do, like in every case, our fees are 20% of what we recover.

And like in any case, if you are a temp worker with questions about Illinois work comp law or just want to find the best attorney for your case, call us at (312) 346-5578 for a free consultation with a lawyer.


Illinois Workers Comp Rotator Cuff Injuries

I will never forget when I tore my rotator cuff in my right shoulder.  I had represented scores of people who had this injury, but never truly understood it until then. It happened while playing goalie for an adult soccer team. Like many of the injured workers I’ve helped over the years, I didn’t realize at first that I had done anything.  It wasn’t until my adrenaline had warn off and I showered at home that I discovered that I had trouble putting my arm above my head.

Soon after I was at a doctor’s office and holding my right arm with my left hand which I later learned is a tell tale sign of a rotator cuff tear (or as my young son kept saying, rotator cup tear which is what I thought it was called before I became a lawyer).  I had a cortisone injection that briefly relieved the pain followed by some physical therapy. The choice then became have surgery and not use the arm for six months (even though surgery takes only 45 minutes) or give up soccer and do strengthening exercises.

I chose no surgery and truly my arm feels great.  If I had a heavy duty job surgery would have had to happen.  This whole experience has definitely helped me help my clients with all sorts of injuries.  So let’s talk about what we see when it comes to hurting your rotator cuff at work in Illinois.

Weak shoulder, issues raising your arm, pain and clicking or popping in your shoulder, unable to lift things like you used to do… these are all symptoms that you may have a torn rotator cuff. This is a very common injury in the workplace. The injury usually worsens over time if it’s not treated well and can come from both single incidents like lifting a heavy object or catching yourself when falling or from the daily wear and tear of your job duties.

If you are having symptoms of a torn rotator cuff, you should go to the doctor immediately, preferably an orthopedic one. You should also let your doctor know up front how your shoulder was injured.  If you suspect it’s from doing your job over a period of time, make sure the doctor has a detailed description of what you do at work. In most cases this shoulder injury can be diagnosed in the exam room and then is confirmed via a MRI.

Following confirmation of the injury, it’s typical to start with physical therapy and pain medication and go from there.  If it doesn’t resolve itself or the pain keeps coming back, it’s likely that surgery will be recommended.

This is the type of injury that occurs in almost every industry although we see it most with carpenters and other laborers as well as professional athletes.  But it also happens to office workers or others who slip and then put their arm out to catch themselves.

We understand rotator cuff tears and can help you if you were hurt at work.  If you have questions or want to talk to a lawyer for free, call us any time at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you.  We help everywhere in Illinois and while we can’t promise a result, we do promise to answer your questions and fight for you if we are hired.

How A Knee Injury Case Was Worth $415,000.00 In About Two Years

When someone is so severely injured that they can’t work again or can’t return to their old job, it’s usually from a back or neck injury.  In some occasions it can be other body parts though.  These permanent disability or wage differential cases are the most valuable under Illinois workers’ compensation law and bring the highest settlement.  But how did a 43 year old guy end up with a $415,000.00 settlement so quickly?

The injured worker came to us after injuring his knee working for a construction company.  By the time he came to us he was facing his third knee surgery and was starting to become suspicious of the insurance company. A lawyer in our network who deals with a lot of construction outfits began helping him out.

What we quickly realized was that the client would never be in a position to safely return to a construction job where he’s walking on a lot of uneven pavement and do a lot of lifting.  He’s only in his early 40’s but his knee might as well be 80.

The bottom line is that once it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to make it back to the old job and that they didn’t have a light duty job for him, it became time to see how much money he could make in a new job.  The sad reality is that while he made a really high wage at his old work, his injury, job history and education is going to prevent him from making that much right now.

So he became a wage differential case and since his work life expectancy and wage loss is so high and there was no argument that: 1. He was hurt at work. 2. The injury is severe. 3. That he suffered a big wage loss.  This lead to what was a really quick settlement for such a big dollar amount.  And when I had spoken to the client for the first time in August of 2016 (he was hurt in 2015) he told me that some lawyers told him that leg injuries pretty much never end up as wage differentials.  Usually it’s lawyers promising too much.  In this case it was lawyers not knowing what they are talking about.

Of course every case is different, but when an attorney is aggressive and knows what they are doing, a great result can happen in relatively quick time.

If you’d like to discuss your case or have any questions about anything related to Illinois work injury law, fill out our contact form or call us for a free consultation with an attorney.  We cover all of Illinois.

IL Work Injury – I’m A CNA And I Walk All Day?

We represent anyone with an Illinois work injury in any part of the state.  We’ve represented athletes, Fortune 500 executives, janitors, teachers, all sorts of laborers, flight attendants, UPS workers, Amazon employees, etc.  I can’t think of a profession that we haven’t helped in 20+ years of being a lawyer.

But we’ve probably helped more nurses and CNA’s than anyone else.  This is partly because there are so many of them and partly because the nature of the work leads to many injuries.

The most common injury CNA’s have is back injuries from catching falling patients or from lifting them. It can be a lot of dead weight.  This activity also leads to many arm and actually ankle injuries from patients falling on to them.

A not as common, but still frequent injury we see is knee problems.  This doesn’t come from one specific activity, but rather the repetitive nature of the job which tends to involve a ton of walking all day, every day.

One woman came to us for help letting us know that she needs knee surgery.  She’s been doing the same CNA job for 25 years and is on her feet all day. You can’t take breaks when you have more patients than you know what to do with.  They constantly need your help and if you sit down they could be in danger.

In a case like this, to win, she will need her orthopedic doctor to state that her job caused, aggravated or accelerated or in some way contributed to her knee problems.  It doesn’t have to be the primary or only cause, just a contributing factor.  Do you think being on her feet and walking for about half of every 8-10 hour shift over 25 years played a role in her knee problems?  I think most people would agree that it did.  You still need a doctor, but it’s usually a common sense type claim.

Despite this being hopefully obvious, you can bet that the insurance company will fight it.  That’s OK, that’s what we are here for.  We don’t take on bogus claims.  We help hard working people who were legitimately injured while on their job.

If you have any questions about this or would like a FREE consultation, call us any time at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our contact form.  We help everywhere in Illinois.

“If Bozo The Clown Was A Chicago Work Comp Lawyer”

Normally when an Illinois work comp attorney does something terrible, it makes me frustrated and I write a blog post as a therapeutic way to vent about while hopefully helping readers learn more about Illinois workers compensation law and how things really work.  I had a unique experience recently when a very dumb Chicago workers’ compensation attorney put his client at risk of getting $1 on a case that is probably worth a few hundred thousand dollars.

The caller to my office was questioning his attorney who has recommended he settle his big injury case for $1.00.  The reason this was recommended was because the work injury also happened due to a serious car accident while on the job.  In those cases, work comp is entitled to recover up to 75% of what it paid out in the work comp case from the personal injury lawsuit.  So in some cases, attorneys will recommend that their client settle the work comp case for $1.00 and a waiver from the work comp insurance company of any right to recover from the personal injury case.

So if they paid $100,000 in medical bills and TTD benefits, they could recover $75,000.  If they paid you a settlement, they could get back 75% of that too.  Some savvy attorneys will settle the work comp case for a $1.00 and a waiver of the recovery because they know how much the PI case is going to settle for and realize they can put more money in their client’s pocket this way.  The insurance company goes along with it because they want the case closed.

The problem in this case was that when I asked the caller what the settlement offer was in the PI case he told me that there wasn’t one and there’s a question as to whether or not the owner of the commercial vehicle that hit him is insured. In other words, there’s a chance that the case could be worth nothing which would mean the caller would get nothing from the PI or work comp case if he took the deal.

I explained how dumb this was and the caller said this is like “If Bozo The Clown Was A Chicago Work Comp Lawyer” on the side.  It made me genuinely LOL.  What I think happened is that he has a young attorney who is not well supervised and the lawyer for the insurance company is trying to pull a fast one on him because it’s so dumb that it just might work.

You can agree to this type of deal, but would only think about it when you know for sure what is happening in the PI case or know that it’s a slam dunk situation.  I honestly think that half the Arbitrators at the Work Comp Commission wouldn’t approve this contract, but it’s still terrible and a huge risk.  And thanks to my caller, really funny.