April 4, 2012

Illinois Workers' Compensation and FMLA (Family and Medical Leave Act)

When an employee is injured at work in Illinois there are a lot of fears that instantly arise: How will I earn an income? Who will pay my medical bills? What if I never return to 100%? Will I still have a job when I am done treating? While attorneys with experience in Illinois Workers' Compensation can help guide you and protect you from the fears associated with the first three, injured workers should be aware of a federal program in place to alleviate the final worry.

The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) was created to provide employees a way to balance their family responsibilities and their employment commitments. FMLA is a federal law requiring employers to have an understanding for employees who have outside issues and/or responsibilities that may interfere during their work hours. Under the law, employers are required to give employees that are eligible time off from work in specific situations.

Examples of situations of leave covered by FMLA:
- Birth of a child, and to take care of a newborn child
- Care for the employee's spouse, registered same sex partner, child or parent with a serious health condition
- A serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform certain functions of the employee's job - including when the health condition was caused by a work injury

In what manner is a FMLA leave taken? Employees have leave schedules that may be taken in part time periods, full time, and continuous basis. Qualified medical conditions may also call for a reduced schedule.

How is the amount of leave determined? For part time employees, the time allowed for leave is pro-rated based upon an employee's appointment. The FMLA covers "weeks" of leave depending on the pro-rata determination. Typically, the FMLA allows 12 weeks of leave time for eligible situations.

Is FMLA leave compensated? No. If an employee takes leave under the eligibility of the Family and Medical Leave Act, they take the leave without compensation. Some employers may apply paid leave (sick leave or vacation time) through the time of leave requested by the employee. However, if the leave is necessitated by a work injury, the employee may be entitled to benefits under Illinois Workers' Compensation law for time off work.

How do I request a leave? For an FMLA leave, an employee must request the proper paperwork from their employer. In some instances, a verbal leave is appropriate, but it is only pursuant to an employer's particular policy. All requests must be specific and be covered by one of the allowed situations.

Upon return, will I return to my prior job position? The FMLA requires an employer to return the absent employee to their same job or one of its equivalents. Unfortunately, in some cases exceptions arise because a job may have been eliminated or because one would have lost the position due to a layoff or dismissal.

Does FMLA apply during a workers' compensation work related injury time off?
Yes. Time off from a work related injury may be covered during FMLA absence if the injury or illness applies to the situation considered as a "serious health condition".

To learn more about the eligibility qualifications for an employee to request a leave covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, consult a workers' compensation attorney. A workers' compensation attorney may assist you in the process of how to request FMLA leave and whether an employer is adequately providing you the proper time off.

Time off of work sometimes becomes necessary to treat for your work related injury. Be sure to contact your employer to ensure the requisite paperwork is completed to secure your job. But more importantly, contact an experienced Illinois Workers' Compensation attorney today to make sure that your time off is compensated, and that the other benefits you are entitled to under Illinois Workers' Compensation law are protected.





February 23, 2012

Diskectomies and Spinal Fusions As Treatment of Illinois Work Injuries

Workers' Compensation benefits are often available for injured workers in Illinois who require surgery for back pain and back injuries resulting from work accidents. Conservative or non-invasive treatment is normally tried first in an effort to fix the problem without the need for surgery. We discussed the decision to continue conservative treatment or invest in surgery in a blog post available here. When conservative treatments do not manage the pain effectively, doctors can consider various types of surgery such as Diskectomies or Spinal Fusions.

Diskectomies work best against radiating pain in the legs, buttocks, arms and chest. Stationary and constant pain are usually managed through other courses of treatment. A diskectomy works by removing the pressure which a herniated disk places on a spinal nerve. Surgeons will usually remove only a fragment of the disc. They remove only the portion necessary to relieve the pressure on the nerve. That way, the majority of the spine is left intact. Some patients are able to go home the same day, and often are able to return to work in a few weeks. Physical therapy often helps to speed up the recovery process and achieve a more complete recovery. Lifting and sitting for extended periods of time is often limited after the surgery.

Spinal Fusions
A spinal fusion attempts to alleviate back pain by fusing or joining two or more vertebrae together. If you picture a spine, made of individual vertebrae, someone who has had a spinal fusion has a sort of bridge between at least two of the vertebrae. This stops the vertebrae from pinching down on the nerve. It also keeps them from shifting or moving in a way which is painful. Some spinal fusions are done by taking bone from the pelvis or a bone bank and fusing it into the spine. This type of procedure is often called a bone graft. Another way a surgeon may decide to perform a spinal fusion, could be by using a metal implant between the vertebrae until new bone grows between them. Spinal fusions usually require a few days of observation in a hospital after surgery. Many doctors will require patients to wear a back brace during recovery. The brace will help to insure that bone growth remains straight and doesn't shift or break. Recovery will require some physical therapy which often includes riding a stationary bike, walking or even swimming.

No solution is right for everyone, and what works well for one of our clients may not help another. It is ultimately up to you and your doctor to determine what course of treatment is best for your situation. Regardless, if a work injury was the root cause of the pain that is leading to the need for surgery, you are entitled to benefits under Illinois law. An experienced attorney can fight to make sure that the medical bills and time off of work are covered, along with securing the other benefits you deserve. When dealing with your serious back injury, you shouldn't have to worry about money - Contact one of our attorneys today so that you can focus on your medical treatments.


January 27, 2012

Conservative Treatment and Surgery for Illinois Work Injuries

When a job related injury causes back pain or leg pain it can be difficult to know whether surgery is necessary or if a more conservative method of treatment will be the best option. Many of our clients, from all over the Chicagoland area, have to struggle with this decision on their path to recovery. In considering the options available, it is important to understand each option and how it differs from alternative methods of treatment.

Conservative treatment specifically means those treatment options which are less invasive than actually opening up your body and allowing a doctor to operate. Medication can be one form of treatment for back and leg pain. Medication can help to reduce the pain and sometimes even reduce swelling while the doctor works with you to determine a solution which will have the best outcome. Physical therapy can help the patient gain mobility when joints have stopped moving and may be recommended by a doctor as another conservative treatment method. Manual manipulation is also available as a method of treatment. During this type of treatment, a chiropractor will make physical adjustments to the alignment without opening your body up to surgery. Also, epidural injections, are yet another way to manage pain without surgery.

Surgery is often considered to be a last resort by patients who fear "going under the knife." While it is irreversible and poses a greater risk than most other forms of treatment, it can also be the best option to relieve pain and get you back on your feet. However, surgery is not typically available as an option until a doctor has determined an anatomical cause of your pain to correct with the surgery. If they don't know what's wrong, they won't be able to fix it in the operating room. Even when they do know what is wrong, doctors sometimes debate which treatment is best. A recent study which compared conservative treatment techniques to early surgery found that the one year outcomes were similar no matter which option the patient chose. However, the study did find that early surgery was able to relieve the pain faster for some patients. Deciding what option will be best for your situation is a conclusion that can only be made with the assistance of a qualified doctor.

Both conservative treatment and the more invasive surgical options can be covered under Illinois workers' compensation so long as it can be established that the treatment is reasonable and necessary to treat the condition. If your doctor is recommending a specific course of treatment that has been denied, contact one of our experienced attorneys today so we can begin fighting for you. Only your doctor can help you decide which treatment option is best, but we can help make sure you get that treatment - along with all other benefits you deserve - so you can focus on recovery from your work injury.


January 11, 2012

Illinois Workers Dealing With Low Back Pain and Injuries

As many injured workers in Illinois have discovered, living with lower back pain or sciatica can make even the simplest tasks difficult and painful. After being hurt at work, you shouldn't have to deal with low back pain on your own. As Illinois Workers' Compensation Attorneys, our firm has handled many cases on behalf of clients who suffered daily just by standing, bending or walking. Many of them saw their pain reduced as a result of Epidural Steroid Injections or aggressive physical therapy. While more of a temporary way to manage pain than a permanent solution to the problem, these injections often help when the pain is at its worst. Sometimes the injections will make rehabilitation therapy more bearable until the problem has been reduced to a manageable point.

The list of things which can cause lower back and leg pain is nearly endless. Injuries from bending, lifting, repeated sitting or leaning all can cause severe back pain. In some cases long hours of standing can be responsible for the pain. Lower back pain, which sometimes reaches into the legs, or sciatica, is most commonly caused by a Herniated Disc. However, other causes could be responsible for the pain.

Determining the source of the pain will require extensive work with a Doctor. Usually an MRI or CT Scan will be used to evaluate the spine. This will help the doctor identify stress spots and see if any discs have herniated. Once the doctor knows exactly what is causing the pain, it will be possible to determine what options for treatment are available.

While surgery is sometimes necessary, it is not always the most desirable option. Many doctors will prefer that certain types of pain be treated with rehabilitative therapy. But the therapy can be laborious and painful. In order to cope with the daily pain, Epidural Spinal Injections can help the doctor target the area causing the pain. These injections have been used by doctors since 1952. The injection allows a doctor to pinpoint the steroid treatment to the exact location of the pain. The steroid will also reduce the inflammation caused by the injury, helping make therapy easier. If the first injection works, a doctor may give up to three injections in a year. How long each injection is effective varies widely from case to case and sometimes even in the same patient.

Each one of our clients has come with a unique case and unique needs. Only a qualified doctor can determine exactly what will benefit your situation. That's why it is so important to ensure that your claim is handed correctly, so that the costs of your injury are not your chief concern as you recover. If you were injured on the job and suffer from low back pain, contact one of our experienced attorneys to ensure that your case will be handled properly and you receive the benefits you deserve.

Source: http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/injections/lumbar-epidural-steroid-injections-low-back-pain-and-sciatica

December 21, 2011

Why do I need a lawyer to handle my Illinois Workers' Compensation Claim?

Some employees hurt at work in Illinois take the risk of not hiring a lawyer to handle their Illinois workers' compensation claim because the employee feels that he or she can negotiate with their employer properly and receive full benefits. The problem with not hiring representation is not knowing what you potentially turned down, what benefits you could have received, what rights you could have protected, and how to avoid litigation. The goal is to receive the most benefits from your employer and hiring a lawyer is the best way to receive those benefits. Even if you are a lawyer, it is important to seek attorneys who specialize in workers' compensation claims in order to maximize your recovery.

It is important to understand that almost every company and employer has insurance coverage with a legal in-house counsel team evaluating your injury and trying to minimize the amount of benefits given to you. This legal team's only client is the company or employer and their job is to protect their rights, not yours. Since you do not want to be taken advantage of by the insurance company, it makes it even more important to hire your own lawyer to combat your employer. Handling a workers' compensation claim by yourself should not be considered and is not recommended. Without understanding the legalese, a misstep can cause total bar from compensation. This is why giving notice and contacting a workers' compensation attorney are important steps to take in order to maintain your rights to recover full benefits.

Whether you are in a newly minted job or weeks away from retirement, your future should not be in a state of flux. There should be a form of stability and peace of mind. It is common for injuries to happen at work, but what steps you take after that will determine your peace of mind. At Dworkin & Maciariello, we make sure that your peace of mind is taken care of and you have the ability to receive the benefits you deserve without worrying. Here, we aggressively enforce the Workers' Compensation Act. Our staff of Workers' Compensation attorneys have decades of experience in fighting for the maximum settlement amounts for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation.

December 13, 2011

Illinois Workers and Herniated Discs

As Illinois Workers' Compensation attorneys, we represent a lot of workers who develop back injuries on the job. Our clients worked hard in Chicago, Joliet, Wheaton, Waukegan, Rockford, Kankakee, and all across the state of Illinois, some of them for many years, and deserve to receive compensation for their missed work and medical expenses.

One back injury we see frequently is the herniated disc. A herniated disc, also called a slipped disc or ruptured disc can be extremely painful. The actual injury occurs to a disc in the client's spine. The discs are small cushions between each of the vertebrae in the spine. When they are functioning properly, the discs act as small shock-absorbers but with the added feature of flexibility to allow the spine to bend. Discs from any portion of the spine can be damaged, but herniated discs most frequently occur in the lower back. These injuries are often caused by a single injury, such as while bending to pick something up or lift a heavy object. While standing or sitting straight, the pressure is equal across all discs. But when the spine bends, certain discs receive much more of the pressure. Herniated discs, especially when they occur in the lower back, can cause pain all the way down to the feet. These injuries often affect the sciatic nerve, causing sciatica to occur. This can cause pain in the thigh, buttocks, legs and feet. These aren't necessarily the result of a second injury, but occur because of the way a single nerve runs from the spine down to the lower leg.

Symptoms frequently only occur on one side of the body because the nerve runs separately down each leg. As with any injury, diagnosis from a trained physician is imperative. The doctor may decide to conduct x-rays, a CT scan or MRI in order to determine if the pain is being caused by a herniated disc. Narrowed space between the vertebrae will often show the doctor that the cause of the pain is a ruptured disc. Herniated discs can occur as the result of a single injury, or over time as the result of repeated work. It is important to alert a doctor to any pain or discomfort in the back, as even minor pain can become worse over time if not properly attended to. Some studies have shown that even people with no symptoms can have herniated discs when evaluated by a doctor. Since no one can simply look into a spine the way they can see a wound or rash, it is necessary to report pain as soon as it starts. Once diagnosed, physical therapy and possibly surgery can help to alleviate the problem.

If you or someone you know suffers with pain from a herniated disc as the result of a work activity, call one of the experienced attorneys in our office. We will fight to make sure that you get the treatment you deserve, and the time off you need to get your life back to normal.



November 29, 2011

Can My Employer Make Me See Another Doctor For My Work Injury?

Many times a hurt or injured worker in Illinois will reach a point in their treatment where the insurance company will want them to see what's called an Independent Medical Examiner. Many workers are scared of what may happen if they see these "company doctors." But as an injured employee, you need to attend such a medical examination at the request of your employer if you are receiving disability payments from a work-related injury.

According to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, for the purpose of inquiring more information about an employee work injury, medical examinations by employers may be requested. The expense incurred from these examinations is to be paid by the employer. Reasons vary for the request but may include inquiries as to the nature of an employees injury, extent of time needed to recover, and other information necessary for calculating the disability benefits to be paid and compensated to the employee.

How will an employer notify me of their requested medical examination? The request made by an employer within Illinois needs to be a delivered notice including the proper facts surrounding the examination to the employee. This notice should include the time and place (if at an employer's physicians choosing) of the examination.

What if the medical examination requires me to travel? An employer is to cover a sufficient amount of money to cover the cost if travel is involved. Expenses may include travel through the most convenient and reasonable means to and from the place of the medical examination. Meals may also be included if they are within the time of travel to and from the location.

Can they schedule the medical examination during my working hours? Yes, an examination can be assigned during the workweek. However, if the employee has returned to work in some capacity, the employer is then obligated to reimburse the employee for loss of wages.

How will my employer know if I went to the examination? In the presence of a physician or surgeon chosen by the employer, the doctor or surgeon must deliver a statement regarding the injured employee's condition to (1) the injured employee or his representative, (2) to the employer or his representative, and (3) delivered within 48 hours before the case is set for hearing. If the physician refuses to send a copy to the employee or said copy is different from the copy delivered to the employer, the physician will be denied from testifying at the hearing.

Can I refuse to undergo the medical examination? If an employee chooses to not take part in the medical examination, that employee is obstructing his own right to Workers' Compensation benefits temporarily. An employee is required to attend the employer's requested examination.

While it may seem intimidating to have a different doctor examine you at the request of the insurance company or your employer, it is important you attend the scheduled appointment. It is also important that you are straight-forward and honest with the independent medical examiner. No matter what "their" doctor says, an experienced Illinois Workers' Compensation attorney can fight for you to ensure that you continue to receive the benefits you deserve.

November 22, 2011

Social Worker Lauded as "Hero," then Denied Workers' Compensation

Workers' Compensation is available for those who are hurt as the result of a work-related injury. The system allows workers to recover for lost wages and medical costs. The systems in each state vary, and while we practice exclusively in the state of Illinois representing Illinois injured workers, we found the following story exceptionally compelling and couldn't pass up the opportunity to share it:

In the time leading up to the tragic tornado in Joplin Missouri, it would have been easy for Mark Lindquist to stay home and wait it out. He could have called in sick or just not shown up at all. Instead, he got ready for work and went to the group home where he worked. As a social worker, Mark Lindquist was responsible for working with adults who have mental disabilities. But on May 22nd, a job which was likely never easy required much more of Mark than usual. With no basement available and a tornado moving in fast, Mark and co-worker Ryan Tackett placed mattresses over the residents to shield them as much as possible. Of course with tornado-force winds moving through the area, the mattresses would have shifted without additional weight to hold them down. Putting their patients and their work ahead of even their own personal safety, Mark and Ryan climbed on the mattress to hold them down.

The tornado would go on to kill 162 people, making it the deadliest tornado in over 50 years. Incredibly, Mark Lindquist was not among those lost. He had crushed bones and several pieces of his skin were missing, but he had survived the storm. Doctors informed the family that even if Mark survived, they believed it would be in a vegetative state. The doctors were nearly certain that he would be blind in one eye, use the loss of an arm, and never be able to speak effectively. If that news was not devastating enough, they soon found that debris which fell onto Mark had caused a fungal infection. This infection had already claimed the lives of 5 other tornado survivors.

When Mark finally came out of his coma, he amazed the doctors with his recovery. He now has full sight in both eyes, a sling affords him the use of both hands, and while he may move a little slower, he is able to speak well.

Unfortunately, this amazing recovery comes with a price tag. Mark has already received $2.5 Million in medical bills, requires daily medication and likely needs additional surgery. The Workers' Compensation claim he was relying on to cover the expenses was denied. Mark had no medical insurance coverage to cover the cost. Mark is still weighing his legal options, and hasn't told the press how he plans to proceed.

The reasoning behind the denial of his Workers' Compensation claim was that his injuries did not arise out of his employment - he was not exposed to a risk any greater than the public due to his employment. Like in Missouri, this is a touchstone requirement for Workers' Compensation claims in Illinois as well. While Mark's case may be extreme, many of the injured Illinois workers we represent have also had their claims initially denied based on this requirement. However, our experienced attorneys have been fighting these denials for years in order to ensure that Illinois injured workers get the benefits they deserve.


'Miracle' Tornado Survivor Denied Workers' Comp by Associated Press (10/24/11)
A Rush to Protect Patients, Then Bloody Chaos by A. G. Sulzberger and
Brian Stelter for New York Times (5/23/11)

November 18, 2011

Illinois Workers' Compensation Relief: Fatal Injuries

When in the process of filing a claim, Illinois employees and/or their families want to know what compensation will be provided from an employer for work-related injuries. The compensation of injuries is dependent upon numerous circumstances. One tragic circumstance that warrants special attention under Illinois law is fatal work injuries - where an Illinois worker dies or is killed while working.

The Illinois Workers' Compensation Act , recently reformed, specifically discusses the compensation to be awarded for fatal injuries. Under the law, when an Illinois worker dies, their surviving widow, widower, child/children or other related dependents may be entitled to benefits on behalf of the deceased worker.

Who is entitled to the fatally injured employee's compensation? Surviving family is to receive payment in different capacities. The compensation rate may be payable through the life of the widow or widower. If any children are included in that family, the payment shall be either until the death of the widow or widower or until the youngest child reaches the age of 18. These terms depend on whether the child or children are not physically or mentally incapacitated and are enrolled in a full time accredited educational institution. If these terms are met, the child may receive payment until the age of 25.

Children of deceased: To be a child of the deceased employee, the child or children must be left surviving the deceased. This child must have been the legal responsibility of the deceased and may include child or children legally adopted or such that the deceased employee was legally obligated to support.

If there are children surviving under the age of 18 whom at the time of the employees death qualify under the above terms of ยง7(a) of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, they will be entitled to compensation. Weekly compensation payments will continue for a period no less than six years.

No surviving children: If no surviving children of the deceased employee exist in the situation of a remarriage of a widow or widower, the compensation changes. This surviving spouse is entitled to benefits according to the Workers' Compensation Act. Compensation to the surviving spouse will be in the form of a lump sum equal to two years compensation, after which all other benefits and rights will be terminated.

Compensation may also be available to family members other than spouses or children who were dependent on the income of the deceased worker.

Other supplemental benefits as well as payment for any medical costs incurred in treatment for the injury prior to death may be included in the deceased workers compensation relief. Our firm has handled numerous fatal work injuries. Contact us today for more information, and get an experienced attorney on your side to fight for you to ensure you receive the compensation to which you are entitled after such a tragic occurrence.

November 16, 2011

Can I Be Fired For Filing An Illinois Workers' Compensation Claim?

Many injured Illinois workers fear that they will lose their job if they exercise their right to bring a Workers' Compensation claim. However, this is far from the truth. Under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, it is unlawful for any employer or insurance company to interfere with, restrain, coerce, discharge, or threaten to discharge an employee in any manner because that employee decides to exercise his or her right to bring a claim. It is important to note that if you do feel that you fall into one or more of these categories, then you have the right to bring a second claim against your employer for wrongful termination. Due to this, employers feel compelled to obey the law and respect their employees' claims.

Once you have been injured, it is easy not to say anything to your boss because you are afraid of the consequences. In Illinois, you have 45 days to notify your boss of your injury. If you do not notify your boss within those 45 days, you could potentially lose your right to receive Workers' Compensation benefits. The fact is that the earlier you notify your boss, the less problems you will incur in the long run. It is, however, important to keep in mind that notice is different from filing a proper claim, and it is necessary to do both for a successful Workers' Compensation claim. While an experienced Workers' Compensation attorney can handle the process of filing a claim for you, it is up to you to notify your employer within the 45 day window.

In order for an Illinois Workers' Compensation claim to be filed properly, the statute of limitations requires it to be filed within three years of the date of the accident or within two years of the last payment of compensation. The statute will apply to the later of the time frame. The statute of limitations is a time frame for when a claim can be filed. If it is not filed within the time frame, then you may lose your right to the benefits you are entitled to. This is why it is important to retain prominent and competent Workers' Compensation attorneys to ensure that you have the ability to bring a successful claim without having to worry about getting fired. Peace of mind is what is most important. At Dworkin & Maciariello, we make sure that you have the ability to receive your benefits without worrying about losing your job. Here, we aggressively enforce the Workers' Compensation Act so that you are not fired from your job or are treated differently for trying to obtain benefits that you deserve. Our staff of Workers' Compensation attorneys have decades of experience in fighting for the maximum settlement amounts for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation.

November 11, 2011

Injury and Re-Injury: What is Eligible for Workers' Compensation in Illinois

In Illinois, Workers' Compensation is available to cover a wide variety of work-related injuries. But what if the work-related accident resulted in the re-injury of an old condition? Would a pre-existing condition or injury mean that a worker can't get the compensation they deserve simply because they had been injured before? The answer is No. If you are injured on the job, that injury is considered a new accident, even if you had a pre-existing condition. Eligibility for Workers' Compensation doesn't end there. Workers can also receive compensation for conditions which are the result of a repeated work-related activity such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Any job or work-related injury is seen as distinct, so it isn't necessary to prove that a prior injury didn't have an impact on the worker's current condition. From shoveling snow to playing high school football, everyday activities often leave lasting injuries. Even after surgery or other forms of treatment a later sprain, strain or fracture at work can re-injure an old wound. So does that old injury work as a get out of jail free card for an employer looking to avoid paying Workers' Compensation benefits? No, it does not. Illinois law recognizes that workers deserve to be compensated for their injuries and shouldn't be forced to pay their own medical expenses simply because the accident aggravated an old injury. The worker only needs to be able to establish that some aspect of their employment establish a connection - whether it be repetitive trauma or a single, identifiable incident - aggravated or accelerated the pre-existing condition.

But what if the old injury was one for which Worker's Compensation was received? Can the same person receive Workers' Compensation again for the re-injury? The answer is usually yes. The new accident is still a new incident for which Workers' Compensation is available. So a work related re-injury would be its own new Workers' Compensation claim. Workers who repeat the same task frequently are often injured and re-injured in similar ways. The worker has the same rights to compensation for the re-injury that they received for the original injury.

In fact, many of our clients have a medical condition that wasn't even the result of a single injury. Conditions such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome often arise when a worker repeats the same task frequently. There's no single accident or injury that causes this type of condition like there would be for a sprain or a strain, but the law still recognizes it as an injury deserving of Workers' Compensation Benefits. Illinois law doesn't always require a single event or injury to be proved in order to collect Workers' Compensation Benefits, only that the injury suffered was the result of a work-related activity.

If you have been injured at work, re-injured at work, or developed a work related condition such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, contact us today, and get one of our skilled attorneys on your side to fight to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.

October 13, 2011

Illinois Workers' Compensation Settlements

"What's my case worth?" That's a question we hear all the time from injured Illinois workers involved in Workers' Compensation claims. It may seem easy enough, but the answer to that question is really quite complex - especially under the most recent changes to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act.

There are three main types of benefits available to injured workers in Illinois: payment for reasonable and necessary medical expenses, compensation for missed time from work, and some sort of permanency award.

One way in which the amount of the permanency award can be determined is by calculating Permanent Partial Disability, or "PPD." This settlement award comes in the form of a percentage representing some permanent lasting effect that the injury and/or treatment has. It is then multiplied against a schedule value depending on which part of the body the injury affects.

Under the new law, there are five factors considered in determining the extent of loss for the purposes of a PPD settlement percentage:

Physician's Rating. This is a rating given pursuant to AMA guidelines that seeks to quantify your level of impairment using objective criteria.

Occupation. This factor takes into account the physical and educational requirements of the occupation you were engaged in when you were injured.

Age. Your age may play a part in determining the extent of your permanent partial disability.

Future Earning Capacity. Frequently determined by a Vocational expert, a drop in your earning potential can contribute to a determination of the extent of your permanent partial disability.

Evidence of disability corroborated by treatment records. The history of your injury and progress through treatment, as well as the lasting effects as observed by your physicians can also factor into your permanent partial disability amount.

The interplay of these factors and assignment of a percentage value can be a very confusing and complex formula. Moreover, insurance companies may try to convince you that their physician's rating is the exact percentage you will be able to retrieve. Before considering any settlement for your work injury, you should talk to someone with experience. Our team of Workers' Compensation Attorneys have decades of combined experience in fighting for the maximum settlement amounts for our clients. Contact us today for a free consultation and case evaluation.

August 18, 2011

Illinois Workers' Compensation Law Changes Affecting Injured Workers' Rights

If you are hurt at work in Illinois you should be aware that on June 28, 2011, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law a number of changes to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act (HB 1698). Many of these changes take effect beginning September 1, 2011, and will have an immediate impact on your rights regarding recovery for work-related injuries. Included among these changes are provisions about the general compensability of injuries, the type and extent of benefits available, and employers' available methods to dispute treatment.

So what does this mean for you - the injured worker?

Many of the changes are fairly incidental and will not drastically affect your basic right to recover. Benefits are still provided for missed time from work, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and permanent effects of your work injury. However, there are provisions that have materially changed certain aspects of the law that can directly affect the injured worker:

Choice of Doctors
In the past, an injured worker was entitled to two doctors of their choice, and their employer was responsible for payment of all of those doctors' medical bills for reasonable and necessary care, as well as for the bills of any other treaters to whom either of those two doctors referred the worker.
In many cases now that will still be the situation. However, under the new law employers have been granted the right to create a "Preferred Provider Program." Such a program would consist of a list of doctors and care providers, and must be approved by the state. If an employer chooses to institute such a program, the worker must first use one of the employer's Preferred Providers or forfeit their first choice of doctor. In that case, the worker will only be entitled to one choice of doctor and any other care providers to whom that one doctor refers the worker. You should be extremely careful before agreeing to treat with one of the employer's chosen doctors - the doctors on an employer's Preferred Provider list may be biased in favor of the employer and should not be seen. Because declining to treat with the employer's doctors will leave the you with only one choice of doctor, it is important that you contact an Illinois Workers' Compensation Attorney before beginning treatment to review with you your doctors and make the best use of your choice.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Under the new law there is a cap on the amount you can recover for permanency following treatment of carpal tunnel syndrome. However, this does not change the fact that carpal tunnel syndrome can still be recognized as a work-related injury caused by repetitive trauma. Moreover, your employer may still be held responsible for the cost of treatment as well as compensating you for periods in which you are unable to work.

Wage Differential
Wage Differential is an award to compensate an injured worker for a reduction in earning capacity due to their work injury. Under the new law, you may only recover for reduced wages until you reach the age of 67, or for a period of 5 years after the award of such benefits, whichever comes later.

These are just some of the changes in the new Illinois Workers' Compensation law. The legislation itself is long and complex; however, experienced Illinois Workers' Compensation Attorneys are familiar with both the old law and the new law.

If you have been hurt at work, you should contact one of these attorneys today so they can help you to understand your rights and fight to get you the maximum benefits you may be entitled to.

May 12, 2011

Illinois Work Injury Spotlight: Back Fusion

Your back was hurt at work, and your doctor says you need a back fusion or a spinal fusion. This is a serious surgical procedure, and you should be aware of what it is, and how an Illinois workers' compensation attorney can help you.

Usually back surgery is a method of last resort or emergency, as doctors will attempt other conservative methods such as physical therapy and chiropractic care to encourage a disc to heal naturally before resorting to surgery. Similarly, a doctor or pain management specialist may try to alleviate the pain associated with spinal injuries with steroid injections. However, when these courses of treatment fail to provide adequate relief, surgery may be recommended.

Fusions are one of the many different types of surgery used to treat back injuries and the pain associated with them. They are commonly prescribed to treat degenerative disc disease or recurrent disc herniations. The procedure involves joining two or more vertebrae together (fusing them) in order to decrease abnormal motion between the bones, and reduce or eliminate the pain associated with such motion.

However, different doctors may diagnose the underlying back injury differently, or determine that it is not severe enough to warrant major surgery. This differing of opinions can lead to disputes and delays in your care and treatment. If your doctor believes that a spinal fusion is necessary for your recovery from a work injury, a workers' compensation attorney can fight to make sure that you receive it. Furthermore, they can fight to ensure that you receive all other benefits you are entitled to under Illinois Workers' Compensation law, including compensation for the time you miss from work while recovering from your surgery. It is important when dealing with any work injury to have a knowledgeable advocate on your side.

May 4, 2011

Illinois Injured Workers and Video Surveillance

Often when an Illinois worker is hurt his or her doctor will impose medical restrictions during treatment that require the worker to stay off work for a period of time. Similarly, the doctor may impose restrictions limiting the type of work the injured worker may due. If this happens, a workers' compensation attorney can help insure that you are afforded compensation for the time you may be forced to miss, among other benefits you are entitled to under Illinois workers' compensation law.

However, when a doctor makes recommendations regarding your ability to handle physically demanding activity, it is not just a free pass to stay off work. The doctor's diagnosis and restrictions should be taken seriously and applied to everyday life as well. Ignoring the doctor's directions may not only be detrimental to your recovery, but also may have negative repercussions on your eligibility for workers' compensation benefits.

In order to avoid paying workers' compensation benefits to their injured workers, employers may use surveillance techniques to try and prove the worker is not actually hurt, or that they are not as hurt as they claim they are. Even if the worker has a note from his or her doctor, if the employer can produce surveillance evidence that the worker is capable of physically demanding work, the courts may agree to cut off benefits. In recent cases in and around Chicago, workers' benefits have been discontinued due to video evidence of participation in activities such as raking gravel, dumping trash, or even carrying bags of groceries.

These instances make it clear that it is important to follow your doctor's instructions. Even though you may feel capable of typical daily household chores, if your doctor has placed restrictions on your physical exertions, you should heed his or her advice. Not only is it important for your recovery from whatever condition you may be suffering from, but also to ensure your employer doesn't find a way to get out of providing you the benefits you deserve.