Your Illinois Work Comp Attorney Gets The Best Settlement This Way

There are some things that lawyers do to benefit your case that require a brain or experience or the willingness to really grind.  Those qualities are really important in a lawyer.  In some cases though, the way to get the biggest settlement possible is to do something simple.

So what should your work comp attorney do whether they are in Chicago or Belleville or somewhere in between?

The simple solution is to get in front of the Arbitrator and talk about the case. Now they can’t do that without the other side there.  That would be against the law. But they can motion the case for trial and discuss the issues with the other lawyer and the Arbitrator.

The most common way to do that is through a pre-trial. It’s an informal hearing where each attorney lays out their version of the facts and then the Arbitrator offers a recommendation as to how the case should resolve. In most Illinois work comp cases both attorneys agree on the facts as to what happened but disagree on what a case is worth or what treatment is needed. This is usually done without the client, company or any witnesses present.

A pre-trial is not binding in any way, but can often push two sides much closer to getting the case done. In the alternative a pre-trial may tell you that the only way to resolve the case is through trial.  Both of these outcomes are good.

In a recent case we were involved in, the defense attorney wouldn’t budge off of a $75,000 offer for our seriously injured client.  After a pre-trial, the Arbitrator said he felt the case was worth closer to $200,000.00.  This allows the defense attorney to go back to the insurance company and get them to move significantly.

So a good chunk of getting value on a case is the simple act of getting out of your office and in front of the Arbitrator. As long as you come prepared, you give your case and client the greatest chance for a good result. In a lot of cases, the defense attorney isn’t as prepared as you are and you can sometimes use that to leverage an even better result.

Bonus tip. Some injured workers understandably get frustrated that they can’t be in the room when a pre-trial happens. I’ve heard some allege that their attorneys are somehow on the take from the insurance company.  I can’t promise you a result on a case, but do promise this never happens.  Not even by the worst lawyers.  The reason the clients aren’t in is the Arbitrator wants the chance to speak freely and bluntly.  But if you don’t believe your lawyer, ask them to take you before the Arbitrator when it’s done. Usually the Judges will tell you what they were thinking.

Illinois Workers Comp Attorney Fees Aren’t Always 20%

Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, lawyer fees are set by state law and through the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  In general, if you ask any lawyer what they charge, the answer will be 20%.

A recent case of ours that is on the verge of being complete is going to settle for $300,000.00.  If we charged 20%, the fee would be $60,000.00 but in this case the fee will be a little over $34,000.00 which comes out to around 11.5%.  That’s still a good fee for an attorney, but we aren’t reducing our fee.  It’s the most allowed under law.  How is that so?

Per Illinois law on attorney fees in job accidents, there is a maximum amount lawyers can receive. Our fees are limited to 20% of 364 weeks of permanent disability benefits. So in a case like this, the client made around $660 a week which put their permanent disability rate at $473.03.  If you crunch the numbers that puts our total fee at a little over 11% and puts more money in the client’s pocket.

In fact, in negotiations to get the offer from $200,000 to $300,000, all of that extra money goes straight in to the pocket of the client.

This doesn’t happen in every six figure work comp case, but it happens in a lot of them.  Some injured workers make more money per week which raises their permanent disability rate and in turn raises the amount the lawyer can receive in the end. In general though, for most cases above $400,000 it does seem like the cap comes in to play.

This is all good news for you, the injured worker and also a huge reason why getting an attorney makes sense and puts more money in your pocket.  The insurance company would never tell you about this law, but would make you think that getting an attorney would take more from your bottom line that it will.

Bonus tip. Law firms are allowed to petition the Arbitrator and say that the maximum shouldn’t apply to them because they put in extraordinary work and efforts.  That can be true in some cases that take years and require many depositions, a trial and some appeals. There are some lawyers who will do this even when all they did was negotiate.  You have a right to contest this request and shouldn’t be afraid of offending your lawyer by fighting them on it.  It’s your money and they are still getting a ton anyway if it comes to that point.

Foot Drop And Illinois Workers Compensation Law

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Your feet work tirelessly day in and day out and are often times one of the most under-appreciated parts of the human body. The foot, with help from the ankle, is a strong and mechanical structure that contains 26 bones, 33 joints, more than 100 muscles, tendons & ligaments, and has over 8,000 nerves.

With this complexity, it’s no wonder that 75% of Americans will experience some type of serious foot problems in their life.  Today I want to talk about a more common, yet less understood, foot injury: Foot drop, also known as drop foot.

Foot drop is not a black and white injury like a fracture or a break. It is a symptom of an underlying problem and can be temporary or permanent.  Foot drop describes the inability to lift the foot at the ankle due to the weakness or paralysis of the muscle, the tibialis anterior muscle, that lifts the foot. So as simple as it may sound, its actually very life altering.

The symptoms of drop foot are pretty obvious. While walking, people suffering from this condition drag their toes along the ground or bend their knees to lift their foot higher than usual to avoid the dragging. In some cases, the skin on the top of the foot and toes will feel numb.

There are several causes of drop foot. Most commonly, it is caused by an injury to the peroneal nerve, a branch of the sciatic nerve. Nerve impingement of the sciatic nerve as it leaves the low back can result in symptoms down in the peroneal nerve resulting in drop foot. The most common cause of damage to the peroneal nerve include trauma or injury to the knees.  This can happen from working or a surgery.

Even degenerative conditions of the lumbar spine such as disc herniation or spinal stenosis have been linked with foot drop. As you may know, discs act as a pillow between bones, absorbing shocks and preventing the bones from touching or pinching the nerves that run between them. When a disc is herniated, or abnormally protruded, it can impinge on a nerve root and may cause the functional impairment of drop foot.

The opposite of disc herniation is spinal stenosis. This refers to the narrowing of a body channel in a way that is not normal. When the spinal cord starts to get compressed by the bones intended to protect it, the nerves, and ultimately you, will feel it and it is not pleasant.

Lastly, cases of drop foot have been a result of surgeries when done incorrectly or prolonged. We see this often in lower back surgeries, or even from hip or knee replacement surgeries.

There are ever-day activities that can increase your risk of foot drop. Crossing your legs or prolonged kneeling can continually compress the peroneal nerve. Many lines of work require these daily tasks such as office jobs or skilled trade jobs.

There are other situations that can be tied to work related injuries. Let’s say you were involved in a slip and fall accident, not of your fault, and the nerve was damaged. Maybe you had an injury to the knee while at work. Or perhaps you were in a car accident and suffer multiple fractures to the leg which damages a section of the nerve. The list could go on, but if you were injured on the job as no fault your own, you may have a claim for compensation.

The truth is that drop foot cases don’t come up in Illinois workers comp every day.  So it’s really important to make sure your lawyer understands the medicine behind this problem. If you’d like to talk with us for free you can contact us any time.

Your Lawyer Didn’t Write The Illinois Work Comp Laws

Some Illinois work comp attorneys will say anything in order to get a client to hire them.  There’s one that tells you the value of your case right away even though they are making it up and say outrageous numbers that will never happen.  There is another who likes to talk about how they’ve never lost a case which is not true and misleading.

The one I heard recently really takes the cake for deception. A very badly injured worker called me looking for a second opinion.  He told me that he believes he has a great lawyer, but he’s not happy with how his attorney has treated him lately.  That of course didn’t make sense to me so I asked what makes him think that the lawyer is great.

His response was that he was told that his attorney “literally wrote the Illinois workers comp laws.”  That would be amazing if true, but would also make that attorney the oldest living person in the history of the world.

Illinois work comp laws were created in 1911.  They have evolved over the years from the Industrial Board, to the Industrial Commission to what is now know as the Workers’ Compensation Commission.  Every year there are changes to the laws and every now and then (most recently in 2006 and 2011) there are major overhauls in how the law works.

It’s true that work comp attorneys play a role in shaping these laws.  So do insurance companies, the Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association and many other groups.

It’s accurate for some attorneys to say that they played a role in some of the law changes.  For any one to claim that they wrote the Illinois work comp laws is nuts. It’s a flat out lie and very deceitful in my opinion.

Not all of these changes have been favorable to injured workers.  If your lawyer tells you that he wrote Illinois work comp laws, ask him why he put in damage caps on carpal tunnel claims, the only injury capped by law?  They of course don’t want to take credit for bad things that have happened as of late, they just want you to think they are really smart, important and give you a better chance of winning.

Some of these lawyers are great and some are terrible.  One who is heavily involved seems to have lost his desire to practice law because we get calls from his unhappy clients all of the time.

I get why someone saying these things would seem impressive and if you “literally wrote the Illinois workers comp laws” if would be a big deal.  The truth is that there’s not one lawyer who can honestly say that and when they say it to trick you in to hiring them it’s a bad thing.  And it’s even worse when they trick you and then do a terrible job for you.

The IME Doctor Says I Can Work, But I Can’t

I checked the search terms that lead to clicks on my blog. The most popular search from the last month was something along the lines of “The IME says I can work, but I don’t feel I can.”

It’s not surprising that people want to learn about how to handle that.  We get a variation of that question from callers all of the time. I have a few thoughts on this subject.

1. This happens all the time.  IME doctors are quite often hired guns or willing to say what the insurance company wants to say.  So don’t panic if your doctor says you can’t work and the IME doctor says you can.

2. If the IME doctor says you can work and your doctor says you can’t, you have two choices.  You can either try to go back to work and hope you don’t get injured worse or take your case to Arbitration.

3. If you go back and get hurt worse or can’t do the work after a good faith effort, you should end up back on TTD. That doesn’t mean it will happen.  It really varies case to case.  You still might have to go to trial.

4. If you are going to trial, it’s likely your lawyer will have to take the deposition of your doctor and the IME doctor. How quickly those things can get scheduled determines when you will get your day in court.

5. The trial comes down to your credibility and that of the doctors.  In most cases, if the Arbitrator thinks you are honest and the law is otherwise on your side, if your doctor is also credible they will choose their opinion over that of the IME.  There is no guarantee of that of course.

6. You can get depositions scheduled and in to court much faster if you have a case on file with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission before the IME goes against you.

7. If the IME is clearly a hack, the insurance company can be punished for denying benefits through a penalties and fees petition.

In the end I always tell people to think of their health first.  I do get that some people can’t survive without a TTD check, but I also don’t want to see a back injury turn in to a permanent disability.  We go through options with people on a case by case basis to make sure we help them figure out what’s best for them.

Bottom line is this happens all of the time.  Don’t panic if it happens to you.  Educate yourself and find out your options and a good strategy.  If you would like to discuss an IME issue, call us for free any time or fill out our contact form and we will call you ASAP, usually within minutes.

IL Work Comp, Being A Traveling Employee Is A Big Deal

There’s a famous Illinois workers comp case where an employee from Illinois went to Hawaii on business.  During that business trip they went on a bike ride through a volcano and were injured.  Nothing about that bike ride was part of the job duties of this worker.  It was purely a side trip and had nothing to do with the conference they were there to attend.

The case is famous because the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled that as a traveling employee they were at an increased risk of injury and it was reasonably foreseeable that they’d take a side trip that involved going to a volcano.  So getting hurt at the volcano was ruled to be a work related injury.

In plain English this ruling means that when you travel for business, you aren’t expected to only do work the whole time.  It’s expected you will go out for a meal or do touristy things. Your employer benefits by you being there so if you get hurt at any point while away on business, it’s usually a good Illinois work comp claim. The big exception is if you get drunk or high and that’s why you get hurt.

We usually think of traveling for business to mean going out of town.  It also means traveling around town.  If you have a central office, but go off site for meetings or to see patients/clients or even to run a work errand, you are a traveling employee.

When you do travel, you are given greater protections under IL work comp law.  A recent case shows how this is true.

Under the law, typically if you are hurt in a volunteer, recreational activity, it’s not a case.  The best example is a teacher who gets hurt in a teacher/student basketball game at school. This exact scenario recently happened and the Courts ruled that it was in fact a case.  A woman worked as a counselor for a college access program. Her job involved going to public schools and putting on work shops and providing support through engagement activities.

She was at one of her schools when someone asked her to join in a basketball game. Her leg got fractured and she ended up with surgery. She didn’t have to play in the game, but because she traveled for her job it was ruled that it’s expected she’d be involved in activities that aren’t directly involved in her normal duties.

It was foreseeable that she’d try to play in a game and reasonable to do so.  So it was a win for the good guys.

Bottom line is that if you are injured while away from your normal work location, you most likely have a good case even if it wouldn’t have been a case if it happened at your normal work place.

99 Basics Of Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law

Happy new year! I thought to start off the year I’d write down a lot of tips and legal advice for people who may have an Illinois workers’ compensation claim.  In no particular order here are 99 things we think you should know:

1. Illinois work comp is a no fault law. You don’t have to show anyone was negligent if you get hurt on the job.

2. It’s a felony for an employer not to have workers comp insurance if they do business in Illinois and have employees.

3. You are eligible for work comp the moment you start working.

4. If you need medical treatment, 100% of your care needs to be paid for. No co-pays or out of pocket expenses.

5. You get to choose your own doctor for treatment.

6. Lawyer fees in almost every case can not exceed 20% of what is recovered for you.

7. Almost every case is worth something.

8. What your case is worth depends on how severe your injury is, the treatment you have, your wages, your recovery, your age, the future treatment you might need and many other things.

9. Once you settle, you typically lose your right to more medical care.

10. If you go to trial and win, you get medical benefits as relates to that injury for life.

11. Trials under Illinois Work Comp laws are arbitration. There is an Arbitrator but no jury.

12. Most trials take just a few hours.

13. There is no discovery in IL work comp.

14. Doctors typically testify by deposition instead of showing up to the Arbitration.

15. Attorneys should advance all costs involved in handling your case.

16. There is no fee to file a work comp case since it’s not a lawsuit.

17. In most cases, the expenses are less than $100.

18. The most common case expense is for medical record subpoenas.

19. The most costly expense is if you have to pay a doctor for their deposition time.  Even then, it’s very unusual if total costs exceed $2,500.

20. It’s legal for the insurance company to conduct surveillance on you.

21. Very often insurance companies will assign a nurse case manager to monitor your case.

22. It’s illegal for these nurse managers to talk to your doctor without your permission.

23. We do not recommend that you give permission for them to talk with your doctor.

24. Some nurse case mangers will try to enter the exam room with you. Don’t let them.

25. The insurance company has a right to your medical records as relates to the work injury, but not all of your medical records from all of your life.

26. If you are unable to work due to the job injury, you are entitled to 2/3 of your average weekly wage. This is a called temporary total disability benefits or TTD.

27. There are caps on the maximum TTD you can receive per week depending on when you were hurt.

28. There are no caps on the total amount you can receive under work comp laws.

29. TTD benefits as well as any settlement are tax free.

30. You are eligible for TTD once you miss three calendar days of work.  Pay starts on the 4th day.

31. If you have two jobs and can’t work either, you are typically compensated for your total loss.

32. If you have restrictions from your accident that your employer can’t accommodate, they have to pay you TTD.

33. If the company closes or you get fired and have any work restrictions, they have to pay you TTD.

34. Your attorney should be expected to call you back in a reasonable period of time.  For us that means same day.

35. If you think you’ve hired the wrong attorney you have the right to switch firms at no cost.

36. No attorney can honestly tell you what your case is worth if you ask them that right after you are injured.

37. We suggest that you don’t think about settlement value until you are healthy and back to work.

38. There is no compensation for pain and suffering under Illinois work comp law.

39. You can’t sue your employer or co-workers for negligence.

40. If you are injured on the job due to negligence of someone who doesn’t work for your company, you can sue them.

41. Under IL law you have to report an injury to your employer within 45 days of it happening.

42. We highly recommend that you report a work injury right away.

43. Formally filing a case with the State must happen within three years of the accident date or two years from the last payment of compensation related to your claim.

44. To file a case you complete what is called an Application For Adjustment Of Claim.

45. When a case is filed it gets assigned to an Arbitrator in the area near where the accident took place.

46. If you are injured in IL, you can file your case here even if you work out of state.

47. From what we’ve seen, Illinois has the best work comp benefits in the country.

48. If you primarily work out of IL, but are hurt in another state, you can file your case here

49. If your contract for hire took place here, you can file here.

50. You can’t get short or long term disability while getting work comp.

51. You can get social security benefits while getting work comp.

52. In our opinion, it’s sketchy if your lawyer insists you treat with a doctor they recommend.

53. If you have a back, neck, arm, leg, hand or foot injury, you should get referred to an orthopedic doctor.

54. Injuries due to repetitive activity on the job are covered under Illinois workers’ comp laws.

55. Part time workers, temp workers, undocumented workers and any other worker have the same rights.

56. If your employer asks you to lie and say you weren’t hurt while working it’s a terrible idea that will usually come back to bite you.

57. The insurance company has a right to send you to a doctor of their choosing. This is called an independent medical examination or IME.

58. The IME doctor is often a hired gun.

59. It’s not unusual for the exam by this doctor to take less than five minutes.

60. When the IME is over they will write a report that discusses whether or not your injury is work related and what treatment you need

61. You have a right to a copy of the IME report.

62. You usually can’t get workers’ compensation if you are injured while driving to your office.

63. You can get work comp if you are injured while driving to an off site meeting or location.

64. When the case settles, the insurance company has to pay you in advance if it’s anticipated you will need a lot of future medical care.

65. At the end of your treatment, if your doctor is trying to determine what restrictions you need, they will send you for a functional capacity examination or FCE.

66. If you are injured while on assignment from a temp agency, your case is usually filed against the temp agency.

67. If at all possible, you should not resign your job without speaking to an experienced lawyer first.

68. If you do resign, you can still get medical benefits, but put your TTD at risk and your settlement could end up being much lower.

69. The longer you wait to get treatment after an injury, the harder it becomes to prove that the treatment is related to the accident.

70. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have health insurance. If you are hurt while working the bills should get paid.

71. You can file a case after you get fired, but it looks suspicious if you do and could cause the insurance company to fight you.

72. If your job causes, aggravates OR accelerates an injury then you should get benefits.

73. A pre-existing condition does not always prevent you from winning.

74. Settlements for injuries to your body are called permanent partial disability or PPD.

75. If you suffer a permanent wage loss from an injury you are entitled to wage differential benefits.

76. Wage differential benefits are 2/3 of the difference between what you would be making now in your old job and what you can now earn.

77. If you can never return to work, you get permanent disability benefits.

78. If someone is killed due to a job accident, their spouse or dependents can get death benefits.

79. Under Illinois work comp law, death benefits include medical costs, funeral expenses up to $10,000.00 and weekly compensation for up to 25 years.

80. Psychological injuries are covered if they are the result of something sudden and shocking like being robbed at gun point.

81. You usually can’t get work comp benefits for being stressed due to the day in and day out job duties.

82. If you are physically injured while working and then have a psychological problem like depression as a result, you get benefits for both the physical and mental injury.

83. Before you sign a settlement contract, we recommend that you call every medical provider you’ve seen to make sure that there are no outstanding bills.

84. Every case takes a different amount of time.  How long it should last depends on how bad your injury is, when you can stop seeing the doctor and your return to work.

85. If the insurance company unreasonably denies payment of bills or TTD you can get penalties and fees against them.

86. You can receive compensation for scars related to work injuries.

87. The value of a scar injury has to do with how much you make, how big the scar is and where on your body it’s located.

88. If you are an independent contractor you have no employer so you shouldn’t get work comp benefits.

89. It’s very common for an employer to call you an independent contractor when you aren’t one.

90. If you can show that you are truly an employee (usually by showing they control your activities), you can get benefits no matter what your employer calls you.

91. The insurance company isn’t required to make a settlement offer.

92. If an offer isn’t made, your lawyer will file for an Arbitration hearing and you will get compensated that way.

93. Nobody can force you to have surgery if you don’t want to have it.

94. If you don’t participate in physical therapy or other non-invasive treatment that your doctor orders, you put your case at risk.

95. It’s common for the insurance company to ask you to give a recorded statement. You don’t have to and shouldn’t.

96. Once you hire a lawyer, the insurance company shouldn’t talk to you.

97. It’s very common for cases to get denied for no reason by the insurance company.  They just hope you go away.

98. To win benefits if you are injured in a physical fight at work, you have to show the fight was about work and you weren’t the aggressor.

99. It should always be free to talk to a lawyer about your work injury. If you want to talk to us, you can fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578.

IL Work Comp – Great Case On Pre-Existing Problems And MRSA

One of the biggest reasons insurance companies deny Illinois workers’ compensation claims is by saying that your problem is “pre-existing.”  If you hurt your back ten years ago and haven’t been to a doctor in five years, they’ll still say your back problems aren’t from lifting heavy boxes all day at work.

The bad news is that these arguments are used to delay work comp benefits.  The good news is that they are easily defeated if you can show your job aggravated or accelerated your condition then you should win the case.  This can even be true when you’ve had a chronic problem.

This was shown to be true in a recent case at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  A housekeeper at a State of Illinois facility was hanging curtains when she felt pain in her arm.  An MRI revealed a large effusion in her shoulder joint.  She reported to her doctors that she had a long history of MRSA which is a dangerous infection that is hard to rid the body of.

This worker had to have a shoulder surgery and after it was over she had a unique diagnosis.  Her doctor said she had septic arthritis.

She filed a case and the insurance company of course denied her benefits.  Fortunately she didn’t give up and hired a lawyer who took the case to trial.  On appeal the Commission awarded her benefits even though she was working with the MRSA issue before all of this happened. Her doctor was found to credibly testify that the work injury caused a joint effusion that then got infected with the bacteria.  His opinion was based on the fact that she was fine before the accident and had symptoms after.

Even though her prior problems made it likely this would have happened sooner or later, that doesn’t matter under Illinois law.  What matters is that the accident caused the symptoms to appear and eventually need surgery.

We hear about this type of issue probably more than any other that causes cases to be denied. The reason insurance companies do it is because they are able to convince enough injured workers not to pursue a case at all.

Our advice is always to get medical treatment and then just ask an experienced attorney if you have a case. Don’t take the insurance company at their word.  It’s always free to talk to us and you are welcome to contact us any time about any legal issue.

Two Illinois Work Comp Lawyers Didn’t Do A Good Job It Appears

Every month or so I get the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin. This is a must have publication for any Illinois work comp attorney.  It provides an update on the law as well as noteworthy cases decided at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

In one of the recent publications it highlighted two cases where injured workers went to trial and lost. In one case, a worker was trying to get TTD benefits after he refused a job assignment that would allow him to work within his restrictions.  In the second case, the injured worker wanted to get a wage differential payment, but never looked for a job.

Now I don’t claim to be the smartest lawyer in the world, but I’m certainly not the dumbest.  And while I wasn’t a part of either of these cases, they both appear to be slam dunk losers.  For me, a lot of that appears to be partly the fault of the lawyer.

As attorneys, it’s our job to tell you the truth, not what you want to hear.  If you want wage differential benefits, you need to do a job search to prove what you can actually earn. If you don’t then your chances of success are almost none. If you want TTD, you can’t turn down a reasonable job offer that’s in your restrictions even if you don’t want to do that job.  These are just facts.

For me, these lawyers should have had the “come to Jesus” talk with their clients and gotten control of the situation.  Why they would take these terrible facts to trial is beyond me.  Maybe there’s more to the story.  Maybe these lawyers don’t know what they are doing.  Maybe the client bullied them in to trying it.  Whatever the reason, in my opinion it reflects bad on the lawyers and probably doesn’t help their other clients either.

Part of doing a good job as an attorney is telling your client when they are wrong.  You can’t be a yes man as that doesn’t help the client in the long run.  This is way different than saying I think we will lose, but there’s a chance we will win.  These cases appear to be situations where they will absolutely lose but could win if the attorney gives the right advice and the client follows it.

To me these cases show the risks of hiring an attorney who doesn’t really take cases to trial on a regular basis or doesn’t mostly handle job injury claims.  The wage differential case is the worst one of the two losses because simple advice would likely have resulted in tens of thousands of dollars more going to the client in the end.

Bonus tip, both of these employees are able to get a settlement.  So their lawyers will say “we won the case” because their client got money.  Calling this a win though is utter nonsense and reflective of lawyers who lie in their marketing materials.

Merry Christmas, We Are Open

I hope everyone has a safe and fun holiday.  While nobody is in our office today, we return calls and answer emails right away every day of the year.

So if you have a question about Illinois workers’ compensation law, and want an answer today or New Year’s Day or any other day, just call us or fill out our contact form, and we will call you.

We thank all of our clients and readers who have made this a great year and look forward to another great year in 2020.

Cheers!

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