Welcome to Illinois Workers Compensation Law blog by Michael J. Helfand. He started his own law firm because he recognized that the way injured workers were hiring attorneys did not make sense. They deliver customer service and straight talk.
When you get hurt at work in Illinois, sometimes you are so disabled that you can’t do anything. Other times you are injured and maybe can’t do your normal job, but can do some work. When you can’t work at all you receive workers’ compensation benefits. One caller to my office wanted to know if they could work while getting those benefits.
It’s a question I’ve heard a few times so I thought it was worth a post.
The most common scenario where you can work while getting work comp benefits would be when you had two jobs before your accident. Let’s say you have a job in a factory that requires a lot of lifting and you hurt your shoulder. To make extra money, you also work as a security guard. You get a 20 pound lifting restriction that prevents you from doing the factory job, but the security job is mostly standing and watching. You could do that job while still getting compensated for the time you are missing from your main job.
Another common scenario these days involves people who do ride share for Uber or Lyft. As long as driving doesn’t put you at risk for making your injury worse or go against your restrictions, you are usually alright to keep doing that.
What you can’t do is receive TTD benefits for your time off of work and then go get a full time job or new work you weren’t doing before. That would be double dipping. If you do this then you shouldn’t keep receiving TTD benefits to the full extent and potentially could be charged with fraud if you do.
You can also actually be permanently disabled and receive those benefits, but have the ability to do a small job here or there. It seems odd, but if you are unable to hold a real, full time job that doesn’t mean you can’t on occasion do something. It actually works the same way for social security benefits.
Bottom line is that for most people you have one job and you can either work it or you get hurt and can’t work it. But if you want to work a different job or had two jobs before you got hurt or want to freelance, it’s worth talking to someone about it before you do so just to make sure you don’t put your benefits at risk. If you have any questions call us at 312-346-5578 or fill out our contact form and we will call you.
Lyme disease is no joke. It can take an otherwise healthy and active person and make them lethargic. Most start with a simple rash, but some suffer from severe headaches, neck stiffness, muscle pain, facial palsy, heart palpitations, dizziness and shortness of breath. In the worst cases you can have a brain injury that could cause permanent memory loss.
Most people get bitten by a tick while camping or spending time in the woods or on a farm. The question I got from a recent caller is, can Lyme disease ever be a workers’ compensation case?
For that caller, her husband climbs trees all day at work, clearing brush. In other words, his job requires him to be in a place where he’s more exposed to ticks than the general public. He can’t prove the tick bite happened there, but he can prove it’s more likely than not that it did and that his employer benefited by him being exposed to ticks. So unless he’s been spending a lot of time in the woods or around ticks outside of work, I think under Illinois work comp law he has a strong case. If so they’d have to pay all of his medical bills, all his time off work and give him a settlement based on his recovery.
While this doesn’t happen a lot in Illinois, infected deer ticks, which carry Lyme disease, can be found in Illinois.
So in general I’d say if you work for the Cook County Forest Preserve or other similar organization that has you near a wooded area, tall grass or brush, and you get Lyme disease, looking in to a case is worthwhile. On the other hand, if you sit at a desk in an office building and get bit by a tick, it would be harder to prove you have a case.
The key element is showing increased exposure as compared to the general public while on your job. It’s similar to how if you get stung by a bee at work you probably don’t have a case, unless you are a bee keeper or in some other job that puts you around a lot of bees.
I hope this makes sense. Lyme disease is brutal and if you can’t work or have bills coming in it becomes even harder. If you have any questions or want to see if you have a case, please contact us at any time.
We are experienced Illinois work injury attorneys who give direct, honest advice. If you have any questions please call us at 312-346-5578 or fill out our contact form.
Under Illinois workers’ compensation law, your employer or their insurance company has a right to medical records related to your injury. As a result, it’s very common after you get hurt for you to get a letter that asks you to sign a “medical release form” that authorizes them to have access to your medical records.
These release forms are written by insurance companies in a way that favors insurance companies. If they could, they’d see every medical record of your life since you were a baby. It’s a fishing expedition for them to look for something that might possibly give them a reason to deny your case.
The good news is that while they are entitled to medical records that relate to your injury, they have no right to look at any and all medical records from your life. So if you don’t want them to know you had cancer or are bi-polar or see what happened when you were pregnant or anything that doesn’t relate to the body part hurt on the job, you can restrict them from seeing that.
So how do you do it?
When we get these requests, we strike out any language that says “any and all medical records” and replace it with language that limits their request to the accident and treatment that relates to the same body part. They have a right to see records from a car accident that hurt your back five years ago if you are claiming back pain now. They don’t have a right to records from a car accident that hurt your back if you are now claiming carpal tunnel.
People assume that they have no right to push back against these forms or make amendments. They are wrong and we don’t let anyone we represent get pushed around.
Illinois workers’ compensation law is mostly common sense and protects the rights of workers. If you don’t want someone to access your medical history, you should not stress. You need not be embarrassed about the treatment you’ve had because it’s supposed to be kept confidential.
Bonus tip. Lawyers can subpoena medical records in these cases. Medical providers are supposed to limit what they disclose, but aren’t always careful. Nothing stops you from contacting those providers, letting them know you were hurt at work and instructing them that they do not have your permission to release any records that aren’t related to your accident claim.
Happy 4th! Hopefully you don’t have to work today. We are open via our answering service or contact form if you want to talk to an attorney. In the meantime, here are the top 10 4th of July injuries I’ve seen in my 20+ years as a work comp lawyer.
Fireworks accidents. You’d expect this. Sadly, someone, somewhere is going to blow off their fingers or burn themselves. It’s usually a result of a job where you didn’t get enough training.
Car accidents. The craziest one I heard was from someone who was walking in a parade and got hit by another car.
Slip andfalls. Tons of restaurants and bars are open and the crowds can be massive. That leads to a lot spilled drinks and wet floors.
Fights. Another big one for restaurant workers. It can be amateur hour at some bars, especially with all of the college kids home for summer. This leads to people flexing their beer muscles and punches being thrown. We’ve seen plenty of workers get caught in the middle.
Back injuries fromlifting. There are a lot of quick setups for stages and other areas that are being put in to place temporarily. Hurried work often means you are being overworked which is a time bomb for your back.
DUI victims. Not many people have to drive for their job on the 4th, but if you do, you are at huge risk of drunk party hoppers. Be careful out there and if you don’t have to drive we recommend avoiding it.
Gun shot wounds. This is an odd one, but for whatever reason, people like to shoot off guns on the 4th. If a stray bullet catches you while you are working, you may have a case.
Police officer injuries. A cop can have any injury on this list at any time, but they sure do seem to go up on the 4th, probably to all of the crowds.
Torn rotator cuffs. Grocery stores are open and workers are doing lots of lifting of beer and water cases. That will lead to torn rotator cuffs and other arm injuries.
Nurse injuries. Nursing homes in Illinois are already woefully understaffed and some hospitals are too. It’s at its worst on major holidays because they don’t want to pay OT. You can bet some CNA or nurse will have to lift a patient by themselves tonight, absorb all of that weight and hurt their back. All because their employer tried to save a few bucks.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us today or any other day if you have questions or need help. It’s always free and a pleasure.
I was recently talking to top car accident attorney at another law firm about a case I sent him. It was a driver of a Lyft who had been broadsided and injured. He hurt his leg and went to the hospital.
He had told the attorney I recommended that he wanted to sign up, but didn’t pull the trigger. That lawyer followed up and the client said he was stressed because “all of these law firms have been calling me out of the blue” and he didn’t know what to think. For the record, he called me and any attorney who calls you unsolicited is a scumbag and probably breaking the law.
One of the things confusing him is that he was hearing different things from different law firms. He has no money coming in and wanted to know if he could file for work comp. I told him know because he’s with Lyft and so did the attorney I suggested. But an ambulance chaser said sure you can file for work comp even though they must know it’s not true. It’s either that or it’s a “runner” for the firm who isn’t a lawyer, but gets paid to act like one and chase down these clients.
This happens a lot where a lawyer tells you what you want to hear. We’ll never do that. We always tell the truth. And it has cost us business. That’s OK.
Some attorneys though figure that the best thing to do is get you signed and then deal with their lies later. Instead of saying, “We lied, we knew you can’t get work comp if you drive for Lyft or Uber” they will say some b.s. like “After we signed you up the law changed.”
The biggest tell them what they want to hear lie we encounter is when someone gets hurt on the job and immediately wants to know how much the attorney can get them. One Chicago work comp law firm is infamous for telling people their case is worth at least 100 grand no matter what the injury is or if they know that there’s no way to tell yet what it’s worth. They end up with pissed off clients down the road, but that moral dilemma doesn’t seem to bother them at all because I keep hearing about them doing it over and over.
The bottom line is that you don’t want an attorney who tells you what you want to hear. These firms will sell you out in the end and aren’t the types that fight for you. If you talk to five lawyers and four say your case is worth at most 40k and another says 100k, you can bet the 100k firm is full of it.
You’ve worked the same heavy duty job for 20 years, but have never missed a day of work. You’ve had aches and pains, but don’t complain and take Tylenol when you are feeling especially sore. You get promotions and raises and the owner of the company says he loves you. One day you pull on a jammed machine and you feel a pop in your shoulder and instant pain. You’ve never gone to the doctor in your life for shoulder pain.
You get treatment, the doctor says your shoulder popped out of place and puts it back in. After that your arm strength is bad and you have trouble doing your normal job. Work comp paid all of your medical bills and lost time, but then they sent you to an IME doctor.
That hired gun tells the insurance company and the injured worker that he doubts that the shoulder was really popped out of the socket and says any problems are probably “degenerative arthritis.” Next thing you know is you are told that you don’t need any more treatment even though your doctor is discussing surgery and you aren’t working, but don’t get paid.
How does this happen?
Insurance companies in Illinois work comp claims try to fight cases any way they can. One way is to say that even if you are hurt, the job had nothing to do with it. If you are older they will find a doctor to state that any problems you have are “degenerative” and will throw out terms like degenerative arthritis to make it sound as if this is something that has happened over time because you are older.
The problem with this defense is it ignores the fact that you were fine before the job issues. In this case, a really loyal worker didn’t ever have shoulder trouble until he did something to hurt it while working. This is a slam dunk, definite case.
So the good news is that if something like this happens to you, I think you will win and often a good Illinois work comp attorney can get benefits going with a trial motion or a phone call. The bad news is that they are fighting it at all and delaying your recovery.
Everyone has degenerative conditions, but if your job aggravates or accelerates those problems it’s a valid work comp case. It’s a pretty settled Illinois law. So don’t panic, don’t get frustrated, just get someone in your corner who knows how to push back and deal with this nonsense.
And as always, if you want to talk with one of our lawyers for free, contact us any time. We help all over IL.
I’m a fairly casual NFL fan. I know most of the Bears players and many of the “star” players on other teams, but certainly don’t know of most of the role players.
I’d never heard of Michael Roberts before the other day. Last year he was a tight end with the Detroit Lions. I became aware of him after reading a blurb on ESPN.com that he’s failed two physicals this off season due to a shoulder injury. It sounds to me like his career is likely over. He should file an Illinois workers’ compensation claim.
Why would a Detroit player file a case in Illinois? As far as I can tell, Roberts hurt his shoulder in a November game at the Bears. He played a little bit after that, but never fully recovered.
If he can prove he was hurt in Illinois, which it seems like he can, Illinois has jurisdiction over the case. In plain English that means he has a right to file the case here. I’m sure he could also file the case in Michigan, but from everything I know about the law in both states, the benefits in IL would be much greater.
In a case like this in Illinois, Roberts would be entitled to have all of his medical care related to his shoulder problems paid for, likely for his life and he most certainly, assuming he can’t play in the NFL anymore, would be entitled to wage differential benefits of over $1,100.00 per week until he turns 65. Essentially he could count on around $58,000 tax free for the next 40 or so years unless he somehow found a job that made close to what he makes as a player.
So why should any of this matter to you?
The reason it matters is Illinois has some of the strongest laws on the books for protecting workers who suffer career altering injuries. If you work out of another state, but are hurt while on the job in Illinois, you can bring a case here. That’s true whether you are a football player, salesperson, traveling nurse or anyone else.
Over the last 22 years of being an attorney I’ve seen far too many people not file Illinois claims simply because they didn’t know they had a right to. I assume Roberts’ agent or union is making him wise to his rights, but my goal is for everyone to know and exercise their rights. You know the Lions would use every legal right against him. He should do the same.
A very nice woman contacted our office via chat and shared that she had severely fractured her arm and is scheduled for an MRI. Depending on what the MRI says, she might need surgery. This had all happened in the six weeks before she reached out to us. What happened next is a really shady move by the insurance company that you need to look out for.
There is no dispute that she got hurt at work and that she needs more medical treatment. In other words, the case is nowhere close to being ready to settle. Despite that, the insurance adjuster offered her $10,000 to resolve the case now, telling her that half would go for her medical bills and the other half would go in her pocket. The injured worker didn’t realize that this isn’t how Illinois workers’ compensation law works and was worried that the adjuster was low balling her. She also relayed the following:
The comp adjuster told me that the longer I wait to settle that takes away from the money that I would get paid. The more I go to the Dr. and have MRI’s or x-rays they would take it away from my settlement.
To paraphrase a television commercial, THIS IS NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS!!!
Under Illinois work comp law, 100% of your medical bills are paid for. There isn’t a certain amount of money that goes to you and the more that goes to the bills, the less you get. In fact in many cases, the more medical treatment you have, the more your case is worth in the end.
In a case like this, the medical treatment would certainly exceed $10,000 which means that the worker would be stuck with the rest out of her pocket and wouldn’t get compensated for her time off work or for her injury.
This strategy is one that insurance companies have used for a long time in car accident cases, but are now using in work comp. They know your case is worth more than they offer you, usually much more, but they hope if they dangle some cash in front of you, you will take it. It’s highly unethical.
You should never consider a settlement until you are done with your medical care. Doing so won’t cause you to lose out on anything. There is no cap on settlements or anything even remotely like that.
Bottom line is that insurance companies look out for themselves and as shown in cases like this, will sometimes lie even when it can greatly hurt you.
As always, if you have any questions about a case, call, click to chat or fill out our contact form. We help everywhere in Illinois and it’s always free to talk with us.
One of the rights employers and insurance companies have under Illinois workers’ compensation law is requiring that you see a doctor of your choosing. You might get a letter asking you to go to a Section 12 exam or independent medical examination (“IME”). It’s a one time exam with a doctor who is supposed to be independent, but often is not. Their purpose is to look at you, your medical records and answer whatever questions the insurance company has. These questions usually include whether or not you had a work related injury, what your diagnosis is, what treatment you need, is that treatment related to a work injury, what is your prognosis and what restrictions, if any, do you need at work.
You’d be surprised (or maybe not) at how often they say either you are hurt, but it’s not work related or despite what the treating doctor says, you are fine.
Clients can be anxious about these exams and understandably so. Here are some frequently asked questions about going to an IME in Illinois and some tips:
1. Do I have to go? You do, and if you don’t, your benefits can be suspended. That said, they can’t send you to a second one unless it’s for a different reason.
2. Do the IME doctor and I have patient confidentiality? No, you don’t because he’s not your doctor. They are expected to share everything you say with the insurance carrier.
3. How long will the exam last? There’s no set time, but I’ve seen cases where a doctor is in the room for only two minutes. They will say that they are more so relying on your medical records to make their opinion, but that seems like b.s. to me. On average I’d say the exams take 10-15 minutes from beginning to end. Sometimes they order x-rays or other diagnostic tests. If you can, I’d suggest slyly starting a timer from the moment they walk in the room to the moment they leave.
4. Will they ask me questions? They will. We suggest you answer honestly and completely. Be cooperative. But don’t volunteer info they don’t ask about and be concise. Less is more.
5. Since they are trying to figure out if my injuries are work related, should I play it up a little so they know how hurt I am? No! Be honest. Don’t exaggerate in any way. If they think you are exaggerating it will be in the report and it will hurt you.
6. Is it true I get paid to attend this exam? Not paid, but they have to provide you a mileage reimbursement check before you go. If they don’t, you don’t have to attend.
7. Do I have to pay for this exam? No, you’ll never get a bill for it no matter what happens in the case.
8. Will I get a copy of their report? They won’t send you one, but we can get a copy of it for you.
9. Is it true that some of these doctors do hundreds of these exams a year? It is true for some. The good news is that most Arbitrators know who the hired guns are because they see them over and over on their cases. That doesn’t guarantee anything, but certainly hurts the credibility of these doctors.
10. What’s one thing about IME’s that most people don’t know? For some exams, nurses are instructed to watch you as you get out of your car or head back to your car. Sometimes doctors even do it themselves. They are checking to see if your movements are consistent with what you say in the office. It happens a lot with back and leg injuries.
Hope this helps. Be calm. Be honest. An IME is just part of the process. And as always, if you have any questions or need help with a case, you can contact us for free at any time.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (“IDOT”) employees over 4,800 workers and while some of them are paper pushers, most are working to make sure that our bridges and roads are safe. Their work can be as simple as removing roadway debris to as serious as making repairs.
Because these are often heavy labor jobs there are a lot of injuries. Working on a roadway maintenance crew is dangerous. A lot of work is done within a few feet of speeding motorists. While the most worrisome safety threat is being hit by a speeding car or truck, the reality is that most IDOT employee injuries are from their other daily activities. We see a lot of back injuries from moving materials, slip and falls from working on wet or uneven pavement, shoulder injuries from overhead work, lots of bad cuts, ankle and leg injuries from stepping in holes and even psychological injuries from seeing victims of bad crashes.
Because your employer is the State, you are not dealing with an insurance company when you are hurt while working for them. The Illinois Attorney General defends these cases and it’s not like being in a case with a regular law firm. A private law firm is worried about getting fired by an insurance company if they do a bad job, so you can expect they will return phone calls, be prepared and be working on the case. Attorneys that defend these cases don’t have those worries and often we find they are overwhelmed with work and uninterested in many of their cases.
The point of saying all of this is that if you work for IDOT and are hurt on the job, you better hire a law firm that has a track record of going to trial. Often that is the only reason to make the State pay or at least get their attention. If you have a lazy lawyer you could get punished by having to wait for them to get their act together and get the case ready for a hearing. We find that when you are ready to try the case, the State pays attention.
Another issue is that years ago there was a phony “crisis” where some downstate newspaper noticed the State was paying out a lot in work comp benefits to State workers. As a result, some higher ups try to fight some of these cases without good reason. The reality is that when you are an IDOT worker you are putting your life on the line every day and risking great bodily harm from most activities. It’s not unusual for you to have a serious injury. If the State wants to play a game with it, it’s just one more reason why you need someone in your corner who can protect you.
Via our Illinois wide network of lawyers, we have tremendous experience and success with helping injured IDOT employees. If you would like to speak to one of our attorneys for free, fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578.