When An Illinois Work Injury Is Your Fault

I randomly got a call from a person who was in a car accident while driving their company vehicle.  They wanted to know if their employer could be made to pay their traffic ticket.  I asked if he was injured, and he said yes.  I then asked if he was getting work comp benefits, and he told me that he wasn’t eligible because he got a ticket for the accident.  I wondered where he got that info and he said his boss told him that.

I wanted to scream, “THAT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS!” because I hate it when workers in Illinois get lied to. Instead, I calmly said, “That’s not how Illinois workers’ compensation law works.”

Illinois is a “no fault” law when it comes to work related injuries.  That means that even though my caller turned left when oncoming traffic was going straight, he can still make a workers compensation claim.

It also means that if you are running down a flight of stairs and trip because you were going to fast to make a meeting, you can get benefits even though you were being a bit careless.

It means that if you drop a box on your foot and break it, you are eligible for Illinois work comp even though you have nobody to blame but yourself.

And if you are lifting a box and throw your back out because you used bad form, you still get your medical bills paid for as well as your time off work and a settlement.

So does fault never matter when it comes to an Illinois work injury?  You’d think it doesn’t but it’s really a no fault law with an asterisk*.

If you are drunk or high when you get hurt. that is a violation of your job duties and will likely prevent you from getting benefits unless you can show that being inebriated didn’t contribute to you having an accident.

If you are engaged in “horseplay” and get hurt then you won’t get work comp benefits in IL.  What does that mean? Let’s say you are a security guard and drive a golf cart around a property as part of your job.  If you and another security guard decide to drag race each other and you crash, your injuries wouldn’t be covered.  That’s because your accident wasn’t part of your job duties.

Another example where fault actually does matter is if you get in to a fight with a co-worker.  If you are the aggressor and then get hurt when they fight back, you will not get work comp benefits because you started the fight.

There are other exceptions, but these in my opinion are the big ones.  The bottom line is that in most cases fault does not matter when it comes to Illinois work comp law.  And unlike personal injury cases, if you are partially at fault, it doesn’t reduce the amount you will receive.  My caller in the car accident will get that same amount he would have been entitled to had he been rear-ended.

As always, if you have questions, you can speak with us for free at any time.

A Work Comp Attorney Who Will Talk To You For Free

We are experienced Chicago attorneys who help with cases all over Illinois. If you want to speak with a lawyer for free, call us any time at 312-346-5578 or fill out our contact form and we will reach out to you.

Every day is an opportunity to learn. One thing I’ve certainly tried to do more this year is see things from other people’s perspective and experiences.  While I’m doing this more and more in my personal life, this is something I’ve always tried to do as a lawyer.

When it comes to a lawyer seeing things from the perspective of others, it’s helpful that I’ve had injuries, worked some heavy labor jobs, am friends with nurses and worked in a grocery store and many restaurants.  There is another perspective of others that it’s beneficial for attorneys to have and that is realizing that not everyone knows an attorney, has talked to an attorney or has any idea what to expect when talking with a lawyer.

One of the common questions I get when someone calls is, “Is this call going to cost me anything?” For me or most people who have dealt with an attorney before, they know that the answer is no, the call is free.  But if you’ve never spoken to an attorney before and your perception of them is from TV, movies, friends opinions, etc., you might not know that.  You might be nervous.  Or worried. I’ve had countless people tell me that they were concerned about getting in trouble.  That doesn’t happen, but if you are a lawyer and don’t treat those concerns with respect then you are doing a bad job.

I’m here to tell you a few things:

1. Calling a work comp attorney, even the bad ones, is always free. In fact every lawyer I know in every other area of law will take your call for free.  Some will talk longer than others (I will talk as long as it takes), but you shouldn’t expect to have to pay anything for making an inquiry.

2. In no case can attorney charge you for their services if you don’t agree to it.

3. All calls are confidential. If you call me about your work injury and I go and call your boss, I should lose my license to practice law and would probably be guilty of legal malpractice.  We don’t do that and even the terrible law firms I come across don’t do that.

4. In general, most attorneys are like regular people.  Of the people you know in your life, some are smart, some are dumb, some are friendly, some are rude, some treat you well, others treat you like garbage.  That is my experience in getting to know lawyers too.  You should never be nervous to reach out to one and if they aren’t nice then hang up on them and call someone else.  One of the benefits of being in Illinois is that there are more than 70,000 attorneys in the State. The right one is out there somewhere for you.

I try to write in plain English because that’s how I talk.  I try to be approachable because I believe in karma and I like to treat others how I want to be treated.  If you have any questions or want to talk to a lawyer, please reach out to us any time.

Not The Best Workers’ Compensation Attorney In Chicago

I’m a huge believer in customer service in the legal profession.  It’s not taught in law school nor emphasized enough, but it should be. Too many attorneys have no idea how to be business people or even just decent human beings.

You see it a lot with work comp cases for sure.  I get around 20 calls a month from injured workers who have lawyers that won’t call them back, don’t respond to emails, yell at them etc. One recent caller to my office had a terrible experience.

He was told that he had hired the “Best workers compensation attorney in Chicago.”  What followed was six months of that lawyer refusing to speak to him and insisting he speak with his secretary or paralegal.  That just blows my mind. I put my direct line on my website and offer my cell phone to anyone who wants it.  I quite honestly don’t know how you can handle a case without talking to your client.  It stresses me out just thinking about it.

One day though, this worker did get a call from his lawyer.  There had already been a surgery one leg and he was waiting for approval for a surgery on the other leg.  His doctor agreed the need for this was work related.  The IME doctor said he needed surgery, but it wasn’t work related.  That is a very common thing to happen in a work comp case in Illinois.

Instead of discussing how he planned to help his client get the medical care he needed, this attorney lied and said it would take two years to get through court at least and then said they should settle the case.  Mind you this worker is out of work, receiving weekly checks and needs an expensive surgery.  There is no way to tell if he’ll ever get back to work.  All that said, the attorney recommended that he settle out for around $80,000.

That is not the best workers compensation attorney in Chicago.  It may be the worst.  No lawyer should be telling their client to settle when they are still in need of serious medical care and getting weekly benefit checks.  It’s pretty much malpractice to do so.

I will never get why some attorneys treat their clients like garbage.  And I certainly will never understand why you’d sell a client out.  The difference between what this attorney is recommending and what the actual value might be if he doesn’t make a good recovery is hundreds of thousands of dollars.  All I can think of is that some lawyers are hurting for money with a slow down in business from Covid and will go for an easy money grab if they can even if they client gets screwed. It’s pathetic.

If You Pass Out At Work Is It Workers Comp?

Many Illinois workers’ compensation laws are pretty black and white.  If you are traveling for your job and get injured in a car accident it’s a case. If you are drunk at work and fall down and hit your head, it’s not a case.  There are plenty of other examples that are pretty clear cut in determining if you have a case or not.

On the other hand, there are plenty of gray areas when it comes to job injuries in Illinois.  One such area is if you pass out at work.

Many people believe that if you are hurt while at your job that it’s a work comp claim.  That alone is not enough.  You have to show that something about the job, other than just being there, contributed to you getting hurt.

In general, if you faint while working and get hurt, we’d want to know why that happened.  If it was too hot, that would likely be a case. If you have a history of fainting, it most likely wouldn’t be a case.  If you were just standing and the next thing you know you were on the ground, it’s probably not a case.  If you are six feet off the ground on a ladder and faint, you’d probably have a good case if you were injured.

So why does someone who is on a ladder or scaffold or other elevated platform have a case if they faint and fall to the ground?  The answer is that being up high puts them at an increased risk of injury.  Their job duties make it more likely they will get hurt. If you faint in your chair, nothing is going to likely happen to you. On the other hand, if you pass out from ten feet in the air and can’t break your fall, it’s very likely you will suffer a serious injury.

When it comes to gray areas like this, facts matter. Fumes might make you fall over and that could be a case. Passing out from stress is probably not a claim.

Bottom line is that if you do faint at work, it might be a case and it might not be.  You can bet that if you do get hurt that way the insurance company will look to deny it.  Them denying it does not mean you don’t have a case.  It’s just standard practice.  We are happy to talk to you for free to see if you have a good case or not and help you make a decision from there.

Long and Short Term Disability And IL Work Comp

An injured worker called our office after a serious injury to her neck.  She was freaking out a bit because her employer hadn’t turned in the accident to their insurance carrier.  She was also worried because the employer doesn’t offer short or long term disability (“STD”, “LTD”) and she doesn’t have medical insurance.  So basically in her mind she has a life altering injury with no income coming in and no way to pay for medical care.

It sounds like a nightmare and it would be if she wasn’t hurt at work.  Nobody wants to get injured, but if it does happen to you, having it be work related is a silver lining.

What I did for this worker is explain how the Illinois work comp system works and why there being no long or short term disability benefits is irrelevant.

When you are hurt on the job and can’t work, your employer is obligated to pay you 2/3 of your average weekly wage, tax free.  In a case like this where this isn’t happening because the employer won’t report it to the insurance company, there is a simple solution. By formally filing the case with the State via an Application For Adjustment of Claim, it forces the employer to report it.  If they don’t they’d lose their insurance and be personally responsible.

When we get involved in these situations, we not only file the case right away, but we look up who the insurance company is at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.  By doing that we can call them and speed up the process  Often they are actually happy to hear from us because their client doesn’t give the information they need.

But even if you are being delayed, applying for long or short term disability benefits doesn’t make sense if your job offers it.  That’s because one of the questions on the application for those benefits is “Was your injury work related?” If you answer honestly and say yes, you won’t get LTD or STD.  If you lie, you will blow up your work comp case and you might not get LTD or STD benefits anyway once they see your medical records and discover you were hurt at work.

So what you should do is just tell the truth. If it’s a work related injury those are the best benefits you can get.  All of your medical care gets paid for, your time off work is compensated, there is no cap on benefits and you get a settlement when you are all better.

The bottom line is that we understand people are beyond anxious when they have no money coming in.  A short term solution isn’t the way to go.  Get with someone who knows the IL work comp system and protect yourself.  Your employer not offering these other benefits or you not having health insurance should not be a factor.

And as always, if you want a free consultation with an honest, experienced and blunt attorney, call us any time. We help everywhere in Illinois via our state wide network of like minded lawyers.

Lies Workers’ Compensation Adjusters Tell

I don’t want to paint a picture that everything Illinois work comp adjusters say isn’t true.  I do, however, want you to realize that their goals aren’t the same as yours and it’s their job to try and not pay money on your case.  So you should be wary of them even when they seem nice.  Often they lie or stretch the truth.  Here are the top lies we see all the time.

1. You have to give me a recorded statement- You absolutely don’t have to do this and you absolutely should not do this.  The old saying that anything you say can and will be used against you applies here.  Their questions may seem innocent, but if they ask how are you doing and you say “great” that could be interpreted that you don’t need any more medical care.  Sounds crazy but it’s true.  Never agree to have a conversation recorded, even if it’s one of those b.s. messages that it’s for “training purposes.”

2. We have accepted your case as compensable- This makes it seem like there is nothing to worry about.  This decision can be reversed at any time and they can also dispute certain benefits or pay a percentage of what you are actually owed.  Sometimes you realize this has happened and it’s too late such as when you settle the case and discover unpaid medical bills.

3. Your case is under investigation- It doesn’t take a long time to look in to most work injury claims.  This is often double talk for “we are going to deny your case for no reason.”

4. That medical treatment isn’t necessary- I’m not a doctor. You’re not a doctor.  And insurance adjusters aren’t doctors either.  They shouldn’t give you medical advice and if they tell you that a certain medical procedure isn’t required that isn’t their place.

5. Workers’ comp doesn’t cover that- We’ve heard of adjusters saying that certain benefits aren’t available.  The most common one is telling new or part time workers that they are not eligible to make a claim.  You are covered the moment you start working no matter who you are.

6. We have a right to all of your medical records- The insurance company can access records related to your injury and prior treatment to a similar body part.  What they can’t do is get every medical record you’ve ever had.  If you hurt your knee, your pregnancy records are irrelevant.  If you have a back injury, it’s none of their business that you saw a psychologist.  Never sign a general medical release form.

7. If you don’t sign a release form, we can’t pay you- This kind of goes with the last lie, but it’s all b.s.  If you get hurt at work and send them an off work slip from a doctor, they have to pay you.

8. Accept our settlement within 30 days or it will expire- Could this be true? Sure.  Have I ever in 23 years seen it happen.  No.  It’s a bogus threat by people who think they are smart negotiators.  The only time I’ve seen a settlement offer go away is when new facts came to light.

If you suspect the adjuster isn’t being honest you are probably right.  We are happy to give a free assessment of your case any time you want even if you don’t hire us.  We cover all of Illinois and are available at 312-346-5578 any time.

Supraspinatus Injuries And Illinois Workers Comp Law

One thing that happens from handling workers comp cases for 23 years is that you learn medical terms and injuries you had never heard of.  Some you start to hear about once you learn they exist.  I never thought of the ulnar nerve until I became a lawyer and now I hear about ulnar injuries to pitchers in baseball all the time.  Others you never hear about except when you see them in a case.  Supraspinatus injuries definitely only come up in my life when it comes to work.

The supraspinatus is a small muscle in the upper back that starts in the scapula.  It’s one of four muscles that exist in the rotator cuff and its job is to stabilize the shoulder joint.

When it comes to Illinois workers comp, we see supraspinatus problems in two ways:  The first is a sudden tear, usually from lifting or a fall.  The second and more common way it happens is through repetitive activity.  Constructions workers, painters, assembly line workers and laborers tend to do the same type of work over and over.  In time the muscles degenerate, quite often in jobs when you are doing a lot of overhead activity.

Many of these tears are fixed with surgery, but it’s possible to try and treat them with physical therapy, steroid injections and pain medications.  On average it seems that most of these cases take six months to heal if there is no surgery. If you do have an operation it of course depends on how well the procedure goes, but it’s not uncommon for the post surgery recovery to be six to nine months even though the surgery itself takes about an hour.

Under Illinois law you can’t be forced to have surgery.  That said, in some cases if you wait too long, a surgery won’t do anything for you.  Whether or not to have the procedure is a conversation to have with your orthopedic doctor.

The number one question we get is how much is a rotator cuff tear worth?  The answer depends on many things including your wages, age, the medical care you have and your ultimate recovery. Many workers with a supraspinatus tear can only go back to jobs that pose a big risk of re-injury.  That can affect what the case is worth and if you are unable to get back to your old job and suffer a wage loss, it will dramatically increase what your case is ultimately worth.

If you have any questions about a shoulder injury or any other claim, we are happy to consult with you for free any time.

New Marijuana Laws And Illinois Workers Comp Claims

Back in 2015 the idea of the Cubs winning the World Series was a pipe dream.  It was unimaginable that a global health pandemic could exist.  And nobody thought that marijuana would be legal in Illinois.  Yet here we are.

Now that we are six months in to the new marijuana laws in IL, it’s a good time to reflect on how they are impacting Illinois workers’ compensation cases.  There were a lot of predictions about what would happen, but the reality is that not much has changed.

You can eat a gummy or smoke a joint and not get arrested.  But if you get hurt while working, you still can be compelled to take a drug test and if you refuse you may lose your right to get benefits.

And while you can get high in your spare time, if you are high while working and it contributes to you getting injured, you won’t have a case. It’s no different than the fact that alcohol has been legal forever, but if you are drunk at work and get hurt, you’ll lose your case.

The difference with marijuana vs. alcohol is how long it stays in your system, causing a test to be positive. If that happens, under Illinois law the insurance company can deny your claim and the burden shifts to you to prove that you were not impaired when you got hurt.

The problem that has developed is that so many people are taking edibles or otherwise using marijuana in a way that leads to positive test results that insurance companies are able to, temporarily at least, not pay benefits.  It’s not a huge issue in most cases, but it discourages some people from going forward.  The people who are getting hurt by this are those with minor injuries.  Let’s say you fall at work and hit your head.  You got to the ER, get checked for a concussion and have no further medical care.

A case like that doesn’t have much settlement value.  The goal is to get the bill paid so you don’t have any personal expense.  But if you test positive, the insurance company won’t pay the ER bill.  Getting a lawyer to solve your problem will be really hard because there is no money to be made since the injury is so minor.  That is how people are getting screwed by this law.

The bottom line though is that while we are seeing more positive tests, the way the law is being implemented hasn’t really changed at all.  If anything, workers are more comfortable saying that they smoked marijuana since the illegal stigma is now gone.  And insurance adjusters are more likely to accept that someone used recreationally.

Our advice is don’t get frustrated by a denied case for a positive drug test. And as always, if you want to talk to an attorney for free about a case, call us any time.

 

What Is Your Work Comp Case Worth Before Surgery

I feel that usually when someone calls with a question and gets an honest answer from us, they leave satisfied.  They might not like what we have to say, but usually appreciate that we told them the truth and explained what our legal opinion is and did it all for free.  We do that for everyone who contacts us.

You can’t please everyone though.  I certainly did not please a recent guy that contacted me and really wanted to know what his case was worth.  He had hurt his knee and back on the job and was in physical therapy.  He was scheduled for surgery and frustrated because he was not making the same amount of money he used to because he couldn’t work overtime or get performance bonuses.  Those are reasonable frustrations.

The only thing he wanted to know was what is his case worth.  I explained that it was an impossible question to answer since he didn’t have the surgery yet.  We don’t know what his ultimate outcome will be.  He currently has severe physical restrictions and his surgeon has told him that there’s no guarantee his condition will get any better.  He’s a high wage earner and if he can never go back to work or find a job making close to what he used to, his case would be worth a lot more than if he made a full recovery.

A lying attorney would make up some number to make him feel good and hopefully sign him up as a client.  If you promise that a case is going to worth 100k and then you can only get 40k for a settlement, you have to explain that.  Some attorneys are fine making up a new lie to cover their old lie.  We don’t do that.

You might be able to get a range of what your case might be worth before you have your operation or know what your recovery might be. If that makes you feel good I guess that’s fine, but it’s not realistic or helpful to you in the long run.  We are happy to give you a range, but will also always give you the honest truth when it’s too soon to say.  Making predictions without facts is not a good idea.

The other issue we told this worker about is that if he doesn’t make a good recovery, he might be entitled to future medical care as well.  Sometimes that money is worth more than the injury is worth.  If you are going to need future surgeries, it’s possible the insurance company will have to fund six figures to you in advance just for that.

Bonus tip.  I get that people are having money troubles right now more than ever.  There is a temptation to try and settle before you are done with your medical care.  Some people are refusing surgery just to settle now.  It can literally be the difference between hundreds of thousands of dollars in your pocket in the end not to mention a huge risk to your health.

When You Are Hurt At Work And Then Get Hurt Outside Of Work

When you are injured on the job in Illinois and need ongoing medical care, you aren’t expected to wrap yourself in bubble wrap and live the life of a hermit until you all better.  You live your life within your medical restrictions.  If you have a knee injury you don’t play flag football.  But you can of course walk at the store. If your back is injured you shouldn’t be doing any heavy lifting.  But if your child needs to be physically picked up so you can comfort them, you do it.

Along the same lines, there was a recent case involving an industrial equipment repair technician that shows that if you are hurt at work and then get hurt outside of work, it doesn’t mean the end of your work comp case.

In this claim, the worker hurt his back while lifting a 90 pound box and herniated a disc in his back at L4-5.  He had surgery and after a period of physical therapy was able to return to his job on a full duty basis without restrictions. His work comp case was still pending when he went to a family member’s house.  While there, he bent down to pick something up and felt his back lock up.  His old symptoms returned and were even more severe than before.  A new MRI showed a renewed disc herniation at L4-5.

Predictably, the insurance company pounced and denied any further medical benefits.  The case went to trial and the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission found in favor of the injured worker.

The basic reason why he won is because under Illinois law you have to determine if the second injury would have occurred without the first.  In this case, his back was in such a weakened state that bending over would not have otherwise hurt him if he wasn’t originally injured when lifting the box.

You prove this by taking the deposition of your surgeon.  A treating doctor who knows your condition is the most credible person to state what happened.  In this case, the surgeon said that after the type of back surgery he had, this worker was more susceptible to a re-injury within the two years following the surgery.

It was a big win as in the end he was awarded off work benefits for 97 weeks and more than $80,000 in medical bills. And he still has to settle his case.

Bottom line is if you re-injure yourself and it’s not at work, that doesn’t mean you can’t still claim it as part of a work comp case.  If that’s confusing or you have any questions, feel free to contact us any time at 312-346-5578.  We have a state wide network that covers all of Illinois.

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