No, Your Illinois Union Can’t Make You Hire Their Lawyer

I recently had a phone call from a suburban police officer who was injured when she was hit by a car on the job.  She has two potential claims. The first is obviously a workers’ compensation case. The second is a lawsuit against the driver that caused the accident which resulted in a severe head injury.

I assumed the office wanted to discuss the work comp case, but really they only wanted to talk about the car accident.  The insurance company for the other party was being very aggressive and wanted a recorded statement and this officer knew not to do that.

When I brought up the work comp which will provide compensation for their time off work and payment of medical bills, they didn’t want to discuss it. The officer said that under their union contract they had to work with a certain law firm so they couldn’t discuss that case with me.

In 24 years of being an attorney, I can tell you that this is the first time I heard this. And the reason that I never heard it is because that would be illegal. No union can make you hire a specific lawyer or anyone at all. Nobody can do this  They can certainly suggest or recommend, but can’t require it.

My suspicion is that the union heads are very forceful and whoever the law firm is that they want you to use are wining and dining them heavily. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if there were big financial payoffs, trips, gifts, etc to incentivize these union leaders to push these lawyers.  Those gifts are illegal which tells you about the moral compass of the attorneys they want you to hire.

Of course, that means you should ask yourself, why does someone want a certain lawyer (or doctor in some cases) to be involved in my case?  In almost every instance it’s not because it’s about what is best for you, but rather about what is best for them.  That is a huge red flag.

That doesn’t mean the lawyers they want you to use are bad at their job. They might not be.  But everyone is different just as every case is different. And if they were doing right by you, they’d tell you that you should hire whatever law firm you are most comfortable with.

One reason we created our state-wide network is because the one size fits all approach to lawyering is outdated.  You are unique and so is your case. Who you should work with depends on your needs and what is best for you.

If you want to speak to an attorney for free, you can call us any time at 312-346-5578.

Can An Illinois Work Comp Case Be Accepted And Then Denied?

A reader of our blog was injured on the job over a year ago. She sustained a knee injury and shoulder injury and since day one, all of her medical bills related to the case have been paid as has all of her time off of work.

Now a year later she got a letter in the mail from the insurance adjuster letting her know that due to newfound information, they were denying her shoulder injury but still accepting her knee injury. Apparently, they were told that she sought treatment for the shoulder problem a week before she said she got hurt at work.

The reader wanted to know if this was permissible. The answer unfortunately for her is yes.

Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, payment of benefits is not an admission of liability. In plain English, that means that just because they accept your case doesn’t mean they can’t fight it at a later point if new information comes available.

So even if they paid for surgery, physical therapy, or anything else, they can still fight the case. Even if they wrote a letter saying the case is accepted, they can go back on it.  That doesn’t mean they are right or that you can’t fight it at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. You can.  But while Illinois laws are very worker-friendly, that doesn’t mean that insurance companies and employers don’t have rights.

It may not sound like it, but if your case is first accepted, but then denied, that’s actually better than someone who gets denied at the outset for no good reason.

This happens all of the time quite honestly.  In most cases, it’s not like this one where it’s a year later and the denial is based on something that happens before the accident, but it can happen. Most of the time it occurs when an IME doctor gets involved and says what the insurance company wants to hear, giving them cover to deny your benefits.

In the big picture, if you are telling the truth about how you got hurt at work, you have to trust the process.  They have a right to a good faith denial and you have the right to have an arbitrator rule if that is a legitimate denial or not. So don’t stress, just educate yourself about your rights and go from there.

And as always, if you want to speak to a lawyer for free, you can contact us any time.

Your Boss Doesn’t Have To Let You File For Workers Compensation

I had a really upsetting call recently. A really nice paramedic sustained a very bad concussion after falling on ice at work. There is no dispute that he was injured on the job and while performing his job duties. He went to the hospital right away and was taken off works for two weeks. He was also told to follow up with a neurologist within two weeks.

He unfortunately works in a really small town. He went to his boss and asked about filing a workers compensation claim and was told that they don’t do that.  The worker persisted but the boss said that under no circumstances would he give permission for a workers comp case to be pursued.  So this EMT used the knowledge he had to treat himself, but hasn’t gotten any better after a few months. He has blurry vision, trouble focusing and light sensitivity.  These are classic signs of a serious concussion.

While we hopefully can help, serious damage has likely been done due to the long delay in treatment. And it shouldn’t be that way because under Illinois law you don’t need permission from your boss or anyone to file for workers’ comp. They don’t “let you” file, you just file.  If they are being difficult you get an attorney to formally file the case for you, but in no way should treatment be delayed or denied because some jerk boss has a god complex or cares more about the company than they do about your health.

This case is especially sickening because it’s clearly a legitimate case and it involves a brain injury. The boss in this case understands science and knows the importance of timely medical care. His lying to his employee is gross and dangerous behavior.

What the boss should have done is completed an incident report as required by law and reported the claim to their insurance company. After that he should have nothing to do with anything related to this case or this person’s medical care.

The bottom line for you or any other Illinois worker is that you don’t need to seek permission to get the benefits you are entitled to under Illinois workers’ compensation law. The law grants you rights including payment for all medical bills at a doctor of your choice and compensation for your time off of work. If you need assistance with those rights or have any questions about the law, call us for free at (312) 346-5320 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.

Interesting Theory Why Chicago Work Comp Lawyer’s Clients Hate Him

Usually, when someone calls our office and doesn’t like their Illinois workers compensation attorney, it’s a firm we know of and have seen in action.  The majority of firms that people don’t like do a terrible job on their cases in our opinion. And that is why their clients get unhappy and look around for another attorney.

There is one lawyer though who is a big part of a historically good firm and he is very respected by attorneys and Judges alike. He’s very smart and definitely knows his stuff. Yet over the last two years, I’ve probably have 15 calls from his clients who all have said the same type of thing. They said he’s rude, short with them, impatient, doesn’t explain things, etc.  Basically they all feel he isn’t giving good service or being respectful to them.  You shouldn’t feel that way as a client.

I was talking to another attorney who knows this guy well and asked if it was Covid that had some how changed this attorney that I used to respect a lot.  The more I thought about it though, I realized I’ve been hearing bad things since 2019 so that couldn’t be it.  My lawyer friend told me that this attorney is so smart that he just has lost patience for people who can’t understand things that are simple to him.

I get what my friend was trying to say and he certainly wasn’t trying to excuse this lawyer, but rather explain it away.  Whatever your take on it, if you are an attorney who thinks they are so smart that you can’t take a couple of minutes to explain things to your clients, it might be time to hang things up and retire.  It’s literally the job of every attorney to be able to explain what is happening with a case and what the client’s options are.

If the client doesn’t get it, that doesn’t mean you are so smart and understand something that they never could. It actually means that you aren’t smart enough to explain things in a plain English way that makes sense.  It’s a skill and while it requires some patience at times, it’s what the job is.

Nobody is perfect at it, but when that many clients are not happy with you, it’s time to look in the mirror.  It’s kind of sad to me because this is someone I looked up to.  But the reality is that just because someone was a great attorney 10-20 years ago does not mean that they are good at their job now.

Why Did A Chicago Divorce And Criminal Lawyer Take A Workers Compensation Case?

Recently an injured Illinois worker contacted me and said that after being on the case for two years, he got a letter from his lawyer saying he will not handle the case anymore. It’s a case that needs to be taken to trial and this lawyer doesn’t want to do it.

My initial instinct was that it must be a terrible case.  Illinois work comp attorneys don’t withdraw from cases where they can make money, especially not after two years.  The way the worker described the injury made it seem like he was severely hurt and while he did test positive for marijuana, there were no other defenses to the case. Since it’s a repetitive trauma claim, the marijuana test really isn’t a worry. So I tried to figure out what was wrong with the case.

He gave me the name of his lawyer. I had never heard of this person which was a red flag. I don’t know everyone, but if you regularly handle work comp cases and have done so for a while, odds are that I’ve heard of you or seen you around. That doesn’t say anything about me other than work comp is my area of focus.  There are probably 500 other lawyers who could say the same thing.

That was a red flag and so was the fact that I learned that not only has this attorney been licensed to practice for less than five years, but he also appears to be practicing on his own after taking over his Dad’s practice.  But the biggest red flag was that when I went to his website, he listed his two main practice areas as family law and criminal law.  He also lists employment discrimination, business litigation and personal injury.

So why would this guy take a workers compensation case, especially one that is not straight forward if you don’t have experience?

I have three theories. Let’s discuss them in order of how likely they are:

  1. He’s a young lawyer who can’t afford to turn away business. I see this a lot. When I graduated law school, a very successful lawyer told me that he started his own practice right out of law school and the first day someone asked if he specialized in car accidents. He said yes even though he had never handles any case before. That is the kind of scummy thing attorneys do all the time.
  2. He assumed it would be easier than it is. We see this more often with car accident cases than work injuries, but there are some lawyers who think they are so smart that they’ll just figure things out. I get called all of the time by attorneys asking my advice on how to handle a case. My best advice is don’t take advantage of a worker by trying to handle a case you know nothing about just to try and make an extra couple bucks.
  3. His dad had probably handled some of these cases in the past. Maybe he thought his Dad could guide him or that if his Dad had done it so could he. Again that is looking out for his best interests, not the client.

Whatever the reason, this is the type of unethical lawyer behavior I come across all of the time. These lawyers can justify their actions in their head, but at the end of the day they are not doing what is best for their clients.

I might not be the right place for you to find a lawyer. You need to find the best fit for you. And while I do know plenty of really bad attorneys who only handle workers comp cases, most of the ones out there will do a decent enough job. Whatever you do, you are taking a huge risk by hiring a young lawyer who doesn’t have a track record of handling Illinois work comp cases. Every attorney these days should have a website. If that doesn’t talk about all of their work comp success and experience then it should be an indisputable sign that you shouldn’t hire them.

Don’t File For Work Comp In Illinois If This Happened

Under something called the exclusive remedy provision, workers in Illinois are not generally allowed to sue their employer for injuries sustained while working. It doesn’t matter if your employer was negligent or not. You are able to receive workers’ compensation benefits, but a lawsuit for negligence or even recklessness will likely get thrown out. This is not exclusive to Illinois and as far as I know exists in every other state.

The flip side is that you don’t have to prove fault when bringing a work comp case in Illinois.

For 99.99% of injured workers, that ends that.  That’s alright as Illinois has the best employee benefits in the country and you can get significant compensation for serious injuries.

But every now and then a worker in Illinois is hurt due to intentional actions by a co-worker or employer. If that happens you can sue.  The most common example is when someone assaults you, but we’ve been involved in cases where employers knew a machine was faulty and made a worker use it any way and they got hurt.

So this is where you need to make sure you don’t screw up.

If you are hurt while working, you will of course want to get medical care and compensation for your time off of work. But if you formally file a case with the State and willfully receive benefits for your work injury, you can be barred from bringing a lawsuit against your employer. There is case law that essentially says you can not in one court allege a work related accident and in another argue that you were hurt by an intentional act. If you do, the personal injury lawsuit could be dismissed, even if you otherwise would have won.

Basically, you don’t want to lose a case on a technicality so you need to be really careful. This is especially true if a catastrophic injury happened like brain damage, life altering injury, death, etc.  Those cases could be worth millions which is more than you’d likely get through a normal work comp case.

So again, while this does not apply to most cases, it’s certainly something to be aware of. You absolutely have to consult with an experienced attorney to make sure you make the right decision and don’t do anything that could cause you to lose your rights.

We are happy to consult with anyone for free on any Illinois work injury issue. If you’d like to speak with an attorney, please contact us at 888-705-1766 for help anywhere in Illinois.

The Work Comp Insurance Adjuster Might Not Know What They Are Doing

One of the most important things for any injured Illinois worker to know is that insurance companies are nothing but businesses trying to maximize profits. In many ways this can hurt you as they will look for reasons to deny your case or cut off benefits and in many cases they will illegally not pay benefits without a reason at all.

They aren’t just a business when it comes to how they handle your case. They also are a business in terms of how they treat their employees.  They don’t want to pay huge wages, don’t want to spend a lot on office space and don’t want to pay too much for their adjusters to have training. This can all work to your advantage.  The lower wages mean some companies don’t attract the best talent or have happy employees.  The trend to work from home prevents inner office communication that can often aid people in learning their job. And the lack of training means you might be dealing with an adjuster that doesn’t know Illinois law or really what they are doing.

I’ve had an uptick of insurance adjusters reaching out to me to try and learn particulars about the law. I will do this if it can help an existing client, but generally speaking I say no as I’m for injured workers only and don’t want to help a billion dollar corporation, especially if this knowledge can be used to hurt a worker. Take for example a recent chat I had online:

[11:38:52 am] Michael: Thank you for contacting our work injury law firm. My name is Michael, may I have your name please?
[11:39:07 am] Visitor: sam
[11:39:18 am] Michael: Hi Sam, how can I help you?
[11:40:11 am] Visitor: I am a adjuster
[11:40:20 am] Michael: What can I do for you?
[11:41:08 am] Visitor: Trying to learn Illonois WC. Can you reference a training atty and not the State
[11:41:20 am] Michael: No. We are for injured workers only

This was from a guy who doesn’t know how to spell “Illinois” and I’d bet that he’s never handled an Illinois work comp case. It still wouldn’t be surprising if due to staffing shortages or budget cuts if “Sam” was asked to process a case in Illinois.

For you as an injured worker, this demonstrates why you can’t listen to the adjuster when they tell you that your case is being denied. They might just be making stuff up or hoping you will go away. They might assume the law they know in some other state is the same in Illinois.  Whatever the situation, they aren’t looking out for you.

Beyond that, I’ve also seen cases where an adjuster wrongly approved benefits when they didn’t know the law. For example, if you fall down stairs at work and get hurt, you have to show there was some defect in the stairs in order to win your case. A defect could be it was slippery, there was a crack, there was something on the stairs that you tripped on, etc.  Plenty of newbie adjusters don’t know this and have awarded benefits to workers who literally were day dreaming and missed a step.

The bottom line is that their ignorance can be used to your advantage and it’s one reason that even when we are fighting for you, a good attorney won’t act like an asshole to the adjuster.  If they like us, they will often listen to us when we tell them what should happen on a case without seeking outside counsel. Many of them just want to get through their day and don’t want to feel like they are asking a stupid question to their boss.

So while this isn’t every adjuster or even the majority of them, I’d estimate around 1 in 20 fall in to this category and it’s certainly something to look out for.

Lazy Insurance Adjuster Causes Work Injury To Get Worse

I’ve written a lot about lazy Illinois work comp attorneys, but there are also some work comp insurance adjusters who really are slackers.  It’s often a low paying and not very rewarding job. I’ve spoken to many over the years that really just wish to be doing something else. The turnover rate at a lot of these companies is really high.

Of course that shouldn’t be your problem. But it can be if you aren’t careful.  Take for example what happened to an injured worker who recently contacted us:

I got hurt at work an I have a neck injury I have been trying to get treated I was referred to a physical therapist but have had 3 appointments canceled because they can’t get hold of my adjuster.

The longer the problem goes untreated, the greater the chance that the injury can get worse. In some cases, it’s possible to end up needing surgery because the initial physical therapy was delayed.

In some cases it’s not laziness, but an actual strategy that some insurance companies deploy. If they don’t call you back or health care providers back, they are hoping you will get frustrated and try to use your own insurance or just give up.

Unfortunately not every medical provider understands that they don’t need the permission of the insurance company to provide treatment and others don’t care. So what do you do if this happens to you?

It’s a situation where if you don’t have an attorney you are likely do get screwed over.  Without the ability to file a court motion, there’s really no way to counter pressure the lazy or manipulative insurance adjuster.  But they can’t play games or ignore cases when a petition for immediate hearing under Section 19(b) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act comes across their desk. At that point you will discover that they can be made attentive.

What typically happens in those situations is one of two things: 1. They send the case out to an attorney and we deal with them and solve the problem. 2. They suddenly take our calls and respond to emails because they don’t want the additional costs of hiring an attorney.  Typically they will make an excuse at that point, but roll over and start authorizing treatment.

In some ways it’s like dealing with children. They want to know what they can and can’t get away with. You have to be willing to let them know that you aren’t going to put up with nonsense. It’s almost dumb that you have to get an attorney when there should be no dispute to your case, but the reality is that it’s what you have to do to protect yourself.

As always, please contact us for free with any questions or to discuss your case. We can be reached at 888-705-1766. We cover all of Illinois.

Illinois Carpal Tunnel Lawyer Tips – 20 Things To Know

I’ve had a big interest in carpal tunnel cases during my legal career. My first trial involved a carpal tunnel claim.  And these cases in general can be interesting because they are often fought by the insurance company but usually winnable. Here are 20 facts, in no particular order, about Illinois work comp carpal tunnel claims. If you have any questions or want to speak with a lawyer for free, call us at 888-705-1766.

  1. Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is an injury to a passage way in your wrists that houses the main nerve to your hand.  When tissues in that passage way get inflamed, it causes pressure on the nerves.  The nerve that gets damaged is called the median nerve and is responsible for feeling in the palm side of the thumb and most fingers.
  2. The main symptoms of CTS are numbness, tingling, and pain in your hand and/or thumb, and pain that goes from the hand up the arm. Over time, it can lead to weakness in your hand if not treated properly.
  3. Most work related carpal tunnel claims are a result of repetitive actions like typing, frequent use of hands on assembly line or other heavy use activities.
  4. Some CTS injuries are caused by one time incidents, usually involving blunt force to your hand or wrist.
  5. To win an Illinois work comp case for an injury like this, you don’t have to show that your job was the only factor or even major factor. You just have to prove your employment activities were a contributing factor.
  6. Proof is typically provided by an orthopedic doctor. They will state in writing that your job caused, aggravated or accelerated your condition.
  7. To make the opinion of a doctor more credible, it’s important that they have a detailed description of your job duties including how often you work, how long you’ve been doing your job, the specific activities you perform, how many minutes in a row you do them, the force applied on your wrists while working, the weight lifted, etc.
  8. Carpal tunnel can be hereditary or present in people who are obese, diabetic, pregnant or have thyroid issues. It is also more common in women than in men.
  9. Treatment for carpal tunnel can include rest, a brace, physical therapy or surgery.
  10. The success rate for CTS surgery is very high and usually the recovery time is four weeks or less.
  11. If left untreated, carpal tunnel can lead to permanent damage in your thumbs and wrist.
  12. In 2011, Illinois workers’ compensation laws were amended to limit the amount a worker can recover for a carpal tunnel injury if they make a complete recovery.
  13. The new laws were in response to claims brought by southern Illinois prison workers that they had wrist injuries from continually pulling heavy doors. Someone wrote a news article alleging abuse of the system and the law was enacted as a compromise when reforms were put in to place.
  14. Carpal tunnel is typically diagnosed with a simple study called an EMG which is a nerve conduction study.
  15. The EMG can be noraml and CTS can still be there although usually the study is pretty accurate.
  16. The best way to prevent carpal tunnel is frequent breaks, proper positioning of the wrists and rotating jobs.
  17. Of course saying it can be prevented is easier said than done. If your employer isn’t supportive then most prevention steps won’t work in reality.
  18. If your carpal tunnel isn’t fixed with surgery and you have permanent restrictions, your employer will have to provide work within your restrictions.
  19. Insurance companies will hire IME doctors to examine you and discuss if your condition is work related. There is one notorious doctor who almost always says that the CTS isn’t from work and leads to the insurance company denying benefits.
  20. Because of these hired gun doctors, these cases often go to trial. They are very winnable in most cases, but it’s important that you have an aggressive attorney in your corner who is experienced with taking cases to trial. Any lawyer with less than ten years experience is not the right law firm for you in our opinion.

I hope these tips are helpful. If you have any questions or want to speak with an attorney, please contact us any time.

Diabetes And Illinois Workers Compensation Claims

We have been helping injured workers in Illinois since 1997. If you would like to speak with a lawyer for free, please call us at 312-346-5320. We cover all of Illinois.

One of the first things I was taught about Illinois workers’ compensation law is that “employers take you as they find you.”  In other words, if a company hired a person who has a history of back trouble, if the job makes the condition worse, they can’t get out of paying workers’ compensation benefits just because there was some pre-existing condition.  If a worker could get healed by a surgery, but can’t have it because they have a heart condition, if this prevents them from ever returning to work again, the insurance company can’t get out of paying benefits.  Workers in Illinois aren’t presumed to be in perfect condition nor are they expected to be.

In the same way, if a personal condition makes a minor injury a major one, you will be compensated by work comp for a major injury, not a minor one. This happens all of the time to Illinois workers who have diabetes.

The biggest way we see this is in a worker who hurts their foot.  Maybe the types of boots you have to wear cause a blister on your foot.  For most people this would recover quickly and not even lead to a work injury case.  You’d put on a band-aid and maybe some Neosporin and move on with your life. But if you are diabetic, blisters can be harder to recover from and lead to prolonged medical care. In the worst case scenario it could lead to a foot amputation. If that were to happen, work comp insurance would be on the hook for everything.

We also see diabetic workers with foot contusions that don’t heal and lead to fractures when non-diabetic people would recover rather quickly. Again, they must take you as they find you so if your diabetes or any other underlying condition makes your situation worse, that won’t be punished.

Unfortunately, of course, some insurance companies are less than honest about how the law actually works and will deny treatment that they shouldn’t or say something isn’t covered when it is.  Like any other case, you can’t assume that the insurance company is being truthful nor can you expect them to look out for you and your well being.  Never assume that they know the law or that they aren’t ignoring it. You should get a free consultation with an experienced attorney whether that is us or someone else you find that you feel comfortable with.

And the bottom line is that having diabetes is not something that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is going to punish you for. And if it ends up making your case more valuable, that is how that law was intended to work.

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