CTA Bus Driver Sees A Shootout, Gets Work Comp Benefits

To qualify for a mental stress injury under Illnois workers’ compensation law, if you aren’t physically injured or touched too, you have to show that you experienced a severe and sudden emotional shock.

Usually this means something happens to you like being robbed or something happens to a co-worker like seeing them get badly injured or killed while working. That can lead to PTSD and a real psychological problem about returning to work.

Other times though you can be minding your own business and see something awful and still have a good work case. This happened in 2009 to a Chicago Transit Authority (“CTA”) bus driver who finally had her case resolved in 2020.

I didn’t handle this one so I have no idea why it took 11 years, but it does seem justice prevailed in the end.  According to the case summary I read, she was driving her bus on her regular route when she saw two men engaged in a shootout.  She immediately felt scared which of course makes sense. She kept driving and her passengers hit the floor.  Two days later she began receiving counseling due to her anxiety and depression.

Video from the bus showed that she was really close to where this happened and the Judge felt it was reasonable that she felt that her life could be in danger.  She testified that being so close to the gunfire made her scared and nervous.  All of this was supported by the records of her treating psychologist.  The Arbitrator found in her favor because she had to drive this specific route which increased her risk of being exposed to trauma.

I honestly have no idea what the basis was for even fighting this case other than the CTA and City of Chicago in general tend to make odd decisions when it comes to work injuries. Sometimes it seems facts don’t matter as much as who the worker knows.  Perhaps they fought it because it happened outside the bus.  That really is ridiculous though because it’s not like she could do anything to prevent bullets from going through the windshield or really protect herself in any other way.

It also makes no sense that this case took 11 years as she was back to regular work within four months.  Cases against the government can take longer, but not usually this long. It was appealed after trial, but 11 years is still very unusual.

The bottom line is that if your job duties cause you to experience anxiety or stress from a one time, shocking event like seeing someone get shot, you likely can get medical treatment at your employer’s expense.  And if your doctor says you should be off work for that time, they have to compensate you for it. And when it’s all over you’d be eligible for a settlement. They aren’t physical injuries, but they are handled the exact same way when it comes to benefits.

11 Work Comp Tips For 11-11

It’s 11-11.  My wish would be that injured workers in Illinois don’t get jerked around when there is no good reason to deny or delay their benefits.  Since I can’t wish that away, here are 11 tips for injured workers in Illinois that will hopefully help you.

  1. If you are drug tested after a work injury and fail, that doesn’t mean you don’t have a case. It just means you have to prove you weren’t inebriated when you got in to the accident or that taking drugs didn’t contribute to the accident. In other words, if you smoke pot on Saturday and get hurt at work on Monday, you should win your case.
  2. You do not have to give a recorded statement to the insurance adjuster and should not give one.
  3. You also aren’t required to sign a medical release form that gives your employer or the insurance company the right to see medical records of any treatment you’ve ever had.  They only have a right to access medical records related to your actual injury.
  4. If you get Covid and work in the health care field or many other essential areas of work, it’s presumed you got Covid from the job and the insurance company would have to prove you didn’t.
  5. You are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits the minute you start working.  You don’t need to go through a waiting period and there is no difference in rights for part time workers vs full time workers. These are common insurance company lies.
  6. It’s against the law for a medical provider or collection agency to try and go after you for bills while you have an active Illinois work comp case.
  7. While the goal should be not to have to switch attorneys, it happens all the time and costs nothing.  Attorney fees can never exceed 20% of your settlement no matter how many lawyers you’ve had.
  8. The biggest factor in determining whether or not you will win a trial is credibility. That includes your testimony and that of the medical providers.
  9. The value of your settlement is based on a number of things including your wages, your injury, the treatment you’ve had, the treatment you will need, your age, what job you are able to return to and what continuing issues you have due to your injury.
  10. You have a right to choose your own medical provider. This is one of the biggest mistakes injured Illinois workers make. Your doctor will presumably look out for you.  The company doctor often looks out for them.  Exercise your rights and decide who you want to treat you.
  11. A dirty trick of insurance companies is to offer a settlement before you are done treating medically. We recommend you not even consider settling until you are all better. It’s dangerous for your health and will likely lead to you getting less than what you are entitled to.

I hope these tips help. As always, you can call us for free any time to speak with a lawyer or fill out our contact form and we’ll call you.

Illinois Work Comp And Bullying

Nobody likes bullies. You’d think that once you are out of high school they would be out of your lives.  Sadly they exist in marriages, social interactions and very often the work place.

If your boss or co-worker picks on you, belittles you, teases you, etc., it can make going to work a living hell. In my first lawyer job, I had a boss who could be considered a bully, as he got off on being in charge.  While my advice is to generally push back against those people, I know that is easier said than done, especially if you are worried about your job.

When it comes to Illinois workers’ compensation law, you unfortunately can not bring a case for bullying that takes place over time and causes a mental break down. More correctly stated, I think that if you brought that case, you’d likely lose. That’s because under Illinois law, mental stress injuries have to be sudden and shocking, not events that happen over time.

The big exception to this is if something physical happens. Your boss could bully you verbally, but one day scream at you and grab you by the shirt collar.  If that physical act leads to a mental break down, you’d likely have a case for work comp in Illinois.

In addition, if you got punched or otherwise injured physically by a bully, that would most likely be a case. You’d have to prove that what happened was related to your job and that you were not the aggressor.  If your boss or co-worker punched you because you don’t like the Bears for example, that would likely not be a case. But if they punched you because they were mad about your work, it would be.

While every case is different, if you are touched or have a reasonable fear of harm (e.g. someone gets in your face screaming), I’d consider calling the police.  You should also report them to HR which will hopefully lead to them being terminated.

One form of bullying that is unfortunately becoming more common is through social media.  Again, because that’s not usually a one time, sudden and shocking event (as compared to something like being robbed at gun point), it likely would not be a case.

Please note that these are of course general statements and every case should be decided on its own merits. We are happy to talk with you for free about what has happened to you.

Bonus tip.  You may or may not have a work comp case, but might need to talk to a labor lawyer if you are bullied. While it’s not illegal for a boss to be a jerk, if they are doing so in retaliation against you it could be.

Why Is An IME Doctor Telling Injured Workers What Lawyer To Hire?

There is a doctor with offices in the Champaign area who has made quite the living as an IME doctor for insurance companies and company doctor for some of the local big businesses down there.  He gets a ton of work and I assume makes a ton of money.  Some might even call him a hired gun.

I met him years ago at a deposition in his office and he’s a nice guy, but clearly favors the employer side of things in my opinion.  That, in of itself, is not highly unusual.  There are many physicians who have made millions operating in a similar manner. Most are in the Chicago area, but some are downstate like him.

I’m not posting because he’s a hired gun. I’m posting because now two people have told me something that I find shocking.  They said that when their company sent them to him for an examination, he said that they need a lawyer and then told them to hire a specific law firm out of Chicago. Even more crazy is that I looked up the woman he was recommending and while she is an injury attorney, her practice isn’t focused on just work comp and she lives in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

In other words, it’s not convenient for her to get to central Illinois and she doesn’t only handle work injury cases.  On top of that, she also represents the defense side of the practice.  She might be a great workers’ compensation attorney, but she certainly isn’t the best choice for an injured worker in central Illinois.  I’d never hire a lawyer who also defends insurance companies or employers and I certainly wouldn’t recommend you hire a lawyer who isn’t doing a ton of work in your area.

It’s a HUGE conflict of interest for an IME doctor or anyone connected to the employer or insurance company to recommend a lawyer for you.  It’s honestly close to something that should result in him losing his license.  And while I have no proof this is happening, you can’t help but wonder if there is some sort of a quid pro quo going on because it’s so bizarre that a central Illinois doctor would try to get injured workers to hire a Chicago area attorney.  Maybe they do work together on her defense cases.  Who knows, but it doesn’t pass the smell test in my opinion.

I can’t believe I even have to say this, but DON’T LET THE INSURANCE COMPANY OR IME DOCTOR OR YOUR EMPLOYER TELL YOU WHAT LAWYER TO HIRE!!! If they told you to hire me, I’d think that’s suspicious.  If they told you to hire someone I think is great I’d find it suspicious.  They have no motivation to help you.

While I can’t say for certain that this doctor is trying to screw over injured workers, the most recent caller did tell me that the lawyer did a terrible job and the IME doctor called his treating doctor to try and get him to say that the problems are not work related.  It’s all fishy and if true, despicable.

That’s my rant for the day. As always, if you have any questions about Illinois work comp law, please contact us.

 

I Can’t Believe This Terrible Chicago Work Comp Law Firm

While most of our callers don’t already have lawyers, since we will talk to anyone for free, we get contacted a lot by injured Illinois workers who are already represented.  Some want to get a new lawyer.  Some just have questions. Others want to vent. Whatever the situation we are happy to speak with you and help you figure out if what is going on with your case is normal or not.

This was the situation recently when I was contacted by someone who was very seriously injured many years ago on the job.  This is what she had to say about her lawyer.

Was in a car accident going to work in a company car.  My attorney has his assistant talk with me most of the time. They keep saying they are negotiating. I’ve actually only spoken to my attorney make 3 or 4 times since 2015.

Now I’m not saying you should talk to your attorney every month, but to almost exclusively have your clients speak with your assistant is absurd.  This is some of the worst customer service I’ve heard about, and it comes from what is a well regarded Chicago workers’ compensation law firm.  It’s one thing to have your law clerk or secretary call to follow up on some issues.  It’s a completely different story for them to be the ones you talk to when you need legal guidance or have questions.

On top of all of that, the alleged “negotiating” has been taking place for almost two years and there has not been a settlement offer. It seems like a good case, so I’m beyond confused as to why the lawyer hasn’t motioned the case for trial at some point in order to get things moving.  It’s the opposite of aggressive lawyering.

You are the client. You have a right to demand customer service from your attorney. They don’t have to do whatever you want, but they should return phone calls, let you talk to an attorney and be an advocate for you. If they don’t think you have a case or think you might lose at trial they should explain why.

And if you don’t get the service you deserve and have tried to work it out, but can’t or realize you hired the wrong firm, you have the right to get a new attorney. The last thing you want to do is wake up one day and realize your case was a disaster because you picked the wrong attorney and know that you didn’t do anything about it.

Some Great Illinois Work Comp Questions

We get a lot of questions about Illinois work comp law that we don’t turn in to a full blog post.  We like to group those questions every few months in to one post with relevant info.  If you have any questions you can call us any time for free.  In the meantime, in no particular order, here are some good questions we’ve gotten over the last few months.

If I faint at work and hit my head, is that a work comp claim?

It could be if your work conditions caused you to faint (e.g. it was really hot) or if your injury was made worse by something related to the job such as falling from a ladder or scaffold. Otherwise, if you’re like me and can get light headed when you get up too fast, that’s not a case.

Can I apply for short term disability if I’m hurt at work?

One of the first questions on any short term disability (“STD”) application is “How did you injure yourself?” If the answer is that it’s work related, they won’t give you benefits. I’ve seen impatient workers lie on their STD papers which then gets used against them in their work comp case. Always tell the truth is my advice.

Can a small law firm win a case against Walmart?

I’ve actually blogged about cases against them.  The reality is that even though they tend to not be great to their workers, the size of their company doesn’t really matter.  The law firms they hire to defend them are the same ones attorneys for injured workers deal with on all of their cases.  If your attorney is experienced and a fighter it shouldn’t matter.

I was injured making a delivery for Amazon, but actually work for a different company.  Who is my claim against?

While we have handled a ton of cases against Amazon, it’s likely your case is against whatever company you truly work for.  We’d determine that by speaking with you.

How long after an IME exam until my case settles?

That depends on if you are done treating first off. After that, assuming it’s the right time to settle it comes down to are you getting a fair offer or not. If you aren’t you might want to go to trial. So the answer could be a few days or many months.

I’m working really long hours, my boss sucks and I’m generally stressed out. Can I go out on work comp?

Unfortunately under Illinois law that does not sound like a case.  Illinois law doesn’t cover continuous mental stress in most cases.

Is Broadspire fair to injured workers?

They are like any other insurance company.  Their number one goal is to look out for their own bottom line, not your health or finances.

What is an open claim?

It means you haven’t settled your case or are still eligible to receive benefits for your work injury.

Habla Espanol?

Si.

 

I hope these help.  Call us any time about anything. It’s always our pleasure to help when we can.

 

What Are My Chances Of Winning My Work Comp Case?

We offer to speak to anyone about their Illinois work comp case for free.  When we do that we want to be able to answer your questions and fortunately, more often than not we are able to do just that.  Sometimes though the honest answer is “depends” or “we don’t have enough information to answer.” That can be frustrating to hear, but we expect you to always be honest with us and we are always truthful with you.

This happens when people call and want to know their chances of winning their workers’ compensation case. The answer to that of course depends on the facts of your case.  If you are on a ladder for your job and fall 20 feet off of it because someone bumps in to the ladder, I think your chances of proving you were hurt at work are close to 100%.  But a case like that doesn’t go to trial because you fell off a ladder. It goes to trial because the insurance company is disputing at some point your need for medical care or says you can return to work or something else.

To tell you if you are going to win in that situation, it will come down to your credibility and that of your doctor and any doctor the insurance company has chosen for you. If you are treating with a chiropractor and he insurance company sent you to an orthopedic doctor for an exam, I’d not be confident in your chances of prevailing at trial. If you have a well regarded doctor in your corner and come off as honest when testifying, I’d think your chances are pretty good.

To make a real honest assessment of whether or not you are going to win your case, we often need to see your medical records.  That gives us more information than we can get from you over the phone.

If you’ve only been injured recently and want to know if your case would qualify for Illinois work comp benefits, we can usually give you an opinion based on your description of what happened.  Even then though, it may come down to hearing what your employer will say or getting a credible opinion from a doctor.  For example, if you slipped on the stairs at work and fractured your ankle, we need some indication as to what you slipped on. If your employer is going to say you were goofing off when it happened, it’s ultimately going to come down to witness testimony.  If you are alleging that your back is injured from lifting a lot at work, your chances of winning depend on your treating doctor supporting that opinion.

If you’ve worked a job for 25 years and have never claimed a work related injury, your chances might be better than someone who has filed ten times in four years.

I could go through 100 different scenarios, but the bottom line is that your chances of winning are unique to you and what your situation is.  The good news is that if you want to get our opinion, for free, we’ll talk to you whenever you want.  Call us, fill out our contact form or start a live chat. We cover all of Illinois and usually you’ll speak with a lawyer right away.

Illinois Staffing Agency Injuries

If you are employed by a staffing agency in Illinois and want to learn about 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.

One common call we get, especially since Covid has hit, is from employees injured while working at staffing agencies in Illinois.  I have found that these employees get lied to more than just about any other worker because they really are seen as disposable. Probably the biggest lie they are told is that they aren’t eligible for work comp benefits.  That is, of course, not true. The second you start working in Illinois, you are considered an employee under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

Another disturbing trend we’ve seen this year is these employers trying to make all of their hires independent contractors.  They think that by doing so they will magically not have to cover any work related injuries. The truth is that you can’t just call an employee a contractor if you maintain control over them. One company we came across went as far to take money out of the paychecks of their former hourly workers as a work comp fee every shift they worked. That is all illegal and since they were truly employees under the law, these staffers are eligible for work comp benefits.

A lot of staffing agency workers tend to get injured for a variety of reasons.  The most common is because they are placed in dangerous jobs without proper training.  Employers don’t want to spend the time to train someone who might not be there for long.  As a result they tend to get injured more easily.  Probably the most common injury is hurting your back from lifting when you either aren’t conditioned for it or don’t have proper lifting technique.

We also see temp workers getting hurt because some companies feel it’s alright to place them in unsafe working conditions doing grunt work that nobody else has to do.  Imagine being asked to carry vats of hot grease when you’ve barely been given a safety briefing and don’t have anyone with experience helping you out.  That happens far too often.  Sadly, there are many employers who just don’t value workers that come and go.

A final reason for staffing agency injuries is just the fact that they are often temporary assignments.  If you are called in to a project that is on a deadline or only going to last a few weeks, it can get rushed.  When workers rush, accidents tend to follow.  Again, to me it comes down to employers who don’t look at the workers as human.

It would be bad enough if this happened to only a few workers, but the reality is that there are tens of thousands of temporary workers in Illinois.  They are entitled to the same work comp benefits as any full time employee and they can not be forced to waive their rights or made to sit through an eligibility period. That is not legal.

If you are one of these workers, we’d be happy to talk to you for free any time about a work injury. Fill out our contact form or give us a call. We cover all of Illinois.

 

Physical Therapy Is Making My Injury Worse, Do I Have To Go?

We are Illinois workers’ compensation attorneys who will talk to you for free about your case. Fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578 to speak with an experienced lawyer in confidence.  We cover all of Illinois.

When you get hurt on the job, you should go to the doctor. I don’t think many people would argue with that statement. You do it to find out what’s wrong with you and to get better.

A common thing for a doctor to recommend in Illinois work comp cases is physical therapy. It’s not expensive, it usually works and it’s not a surgery which is invasive.  In fact, if your doctor recommends physical therapy and you don’t go, the insurance company can terminate your benefits. Under Illinois work comp law you have to follow doctor recommendations that aren’t invasive. They can’t make you have surgery, but can require therapy.

But what happens if you are going to physical therapy and it’s making your condition worse? Can you just stop going?

While you should of course avoid activities that injure you, I wouldn’t recommend that you just stop going.  Here’s what you should do instead:

  1. Talk to the therapist and let them know which activities are hurting you and ask if there are alternative ones they could do.  You don’t want to ever appear uncooperative with your health care if you can avoid.  Most physical therapists are reasonable.  It’s also good to have your concerns documented.
  2. Talk to your orthopedic doctor and let them know the concerns. They might stop the therapy for you or suggest something else like an epidural shot or a surgery. While physical therapy usually helps, it doesn’t always work. If it fails then the doctor knows a new plan of attack must happen.

The important thing to remember is that you are not a doctor and can’t make medical decisions on your own if you want to keep getting work comp benefits.  So show up and be an advocate for yourself.

This issue also shows why it’s important to not let the insurance company or employer choose your treating doctor or therapist.  You want someone independent to handle your case as they are more likely to listen to you and act based on your best interests, not that of the insurance company.

Above all, don’t panic.  Use your voice, ask questions and make an educated decision from there.  And of course if you want to talk to a lawyer about this you can contact us any time.

A Jewish Workers’ Compensation Lawyer In Chicago

I am a workers’ compensation attorney for the state of Illinois. I’m also Jewish.

For some, this will be a weird post, but there are others that need some education.

I get calls all the time from people who are looking for my recommendation of a good attorney.  That’s why I created a state wide network, so you can get the best work comp attorney for your case.

But some of these people will tell me they want a Jewish attorney or ask if the person I’m recommending is Jewish.  I try not to jump to conclusions so I’ll ask the caller why they want that.  I usually here something along the lines of “Jewish attorneys are really aggressive” or “Jewish attorneys like to get the most money.”

Most of this comes from ignorance or inexperience in dealing with people from other religions. If all you know is the antisemitism you were taught or from what you read on the internet, you might not know any better.  But usually it’s bigotry and I find it shocking how many people feel this way.

I grew up in the Chicago area, but went to college in a small town in Ohio.  I still remember my freshman orientation meeting someone who told me that they “never met a real live Jew before.” That guy turned out to be a super nice person, but was a victim of his upbringing.

My response when I get these questions is to let the caller know that what they are saying is offensive and to explain why.  It’s no different than making a racist statement based on stereotypes about Asians, African Americans, Christians, Muslims or any other group.

I can tell you from 23 years of experience that there are great and terrible lawyers of every religion, race, gender, etc.  Some embody the best stereotypes, some the worst.  This is not like saying you want a female attorney or Spanish speaker because you would be more comfortable with them or it would be easier to communicate.  The request for a Jewish attorney is usually offensive whether well intentioned or not.

That’s my rant for the day.  One thing I’ve learned as a person in 2020 is that it’s not enough to not just be against racism and bigotry, but you must also be anti-racist and anti-bigotry. I’ll be back to talking about every day work comp issues in my next post.  As always, feel free to contact us with any questions.

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