COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients

Articles Posted in Medical Malpractice

As we continue to wage the fight against COVID-19, the news has regrettably been full of numerous instances of doctors and nurses tragically losing their fight to Coronavirus after getting sick at work. A nurse who worked at the University of Illinois Hospital for more than ten years passed away from COVID, leaving a husband and two children1. A nurse who worked at Community First Medical Center in Chicago passed away after initially testing negative and then having her symptoms return and worsen2. A 35 year-old nurse at Meadowbrook Manor in Bolingbrook lost her battle with the virus, leaving behind a husband and three young children3. With more than 2,500 healthcare workers infected across the state, there is a likelihood that there will be additional tragedies. COVID does not limit itself to a particular geography, and these tragedies can affect any healthcare worker across the state – whether they are in Springfield, Peoria, Bloomington, East St. Louis, Waukegan, Rockford, Aurora, or Chicago.

The survivors of healthcare workers who lose a loved one from workplace exposure can fight back. Through the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act and the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, there are several benefits to the families and survivors of workers who lose their lives due to work accidents or occupational diseases. At a base level, the Act provides a burial benefit of $8,0004. The Act also provides a survivor’s benefit that consists of two-thirds of the employee’s gross average weekly wage during the 52 weeks preceding their injury, subject to minimum and maximum limits. Payment of these benefits is the lesser of 25 years or $500,0005.

The main beneficiaries of the survivors’ benefit are children under the age of 18 and the employee’s spouse. If the employee’s children are enrolled as a full time student in an accredited educational institution, payments shall continue until the child reaches age 256. If an employee’s spouse remarries and there are eligible children at the time of the remarriage, benefits shall continue 7. If an employee had no children and the employee’s spouse remarries, the surviving spouse shall be paid a final lump sum equal to two years of compensation benefits8.

When Governor Pritzker ordered the public to shelter at home to “flatten the curve” of rising infections from the Covid 19 virus, he also exempted a number of workers from this order, deeming these workers essential to the machinery of fighting the disease and required to keep others fed, clothed, protected and safe. These essential workers are out in the work place every day. Each and every one of us have seen these workers in action, whether witnessing the heroism of our nurses, physicians and medical personnel or the bravery of delivery workers, food and grocery store workers as well as trade workers. There has been a great deal of concern for the health and well being of each and every one of these brave souls. Clearly, these are the very workers at greatest risk of contracting the Covid 19 virus. Governor J.B. Pritzker has called upon the Workers’ Compensation Commission to address the concerns of the union officials who represent these workers that the Rules for receiving workers’ compensation benefits be relaxed to enable these front line workers to recover workers’ compensation temporary total disability, medical benefits and benefits for permanent partial disability or death. On April 13, 2020, the Workers’ Compensation Commission filed an Emergency Rule to deal with these concerns. See: https://wcla.info/resources/Documents/COVID-19%20Page/Notice_of_Emergency_Amendments–2020-04-13.pdf.

What this rule means is that first responders and essential workers will have a somewhat easier time of proving that they contracted the coronavirus as a consequence of an exposure to the virus in the work place. This is a rebuttable presumption, but this presumption goes a long way to helping us prove your claim for benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act was the result of the workplace exposure to the virus and not simply a disease which is common to the general public. A rebuttable presumption is not a guarantee your case is a winner, the burden of proof can easily be defeated and force the worker bringing the claim to undertake litigation to prove all the elements of any claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Rest assured Illinois employers will likely contest and fight vigorously to defeat any claim that a case of Covid 19 is the result of a work exposure. We still expect substantial litigation and fighting by the attorneys who represent the insurance companies to attempt to avoid responsibility for the employer’s obligations under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

If you have any questions or concerns over COVID-19 exposure or any other issue concerning the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Laws or benefits, please do not hesitate to call us anytime at 1-800-444-1525 or 1-312-263-6330.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 virus has left us all in unprecedented and uncertain times. On March 20, Governor J.B. Pritzker issued a statewide “shelter-in-place” order which requires all non-essential businesses to close and all non-essential employees to stay home. However, employees in many of the “essential businesses” are exempt from that order including nurses, hospital employees and first responders. Unfortunately, such medical professionals are the ones most at risk of contracting the virus while they continue to work and treat those suffering from COVID-19. Understandably, those individuals must have questions and concerns about what happens if they contract the virus through their work.

Under the Illinois Workers Compensation and Occupational Disease Acts, employees who suffer from an accident/injury or illness which “arises out of” and “in the course of” their employment are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Contracting conditions, such as COVID-19, while performing your nursing/medical duties satisfies those requirements and should entitle nurses and medical professionals to the benefits under the law. These benefits include full payment of your medical bills, weekly workers’ compensation pay equal to 2/3 of your weekly pay and potentially a permanency recovery. There is a 3 day waiting period before receiving the weekly pay but if you are off 14 or more days the waiting period is waived and you are entitled to workers’ compensation pay from day one. You must establish, more likely than not, that you contracted the condition from work as opposed to at home (or some other location outside of work). Your entitlement to benefits is determined on a case-by-case basis. However, employees in the medical field such as nurses, medical professionals, as well as first responders who, by the very nature of their employment, are at a higher risk of exposure than the general public should still complete an accident report/incident if they develop symptomology and seek treatment. Obtaining the necessary paperwork with the diagnosis, work ability and treatment plan is important.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Laws were enacted to protect employees, such as nurses, medical professionals and first responders, who are trained and employed to protect society. These laws not only apply to you, but are necessary for you to utilize in order to get you back healthy and able so you can continue to help others. We need these workers’ compensation laws now more than ever during these uncertain times.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission announced a suspension of business to limit the effect of the COVID-19 virus. This suspension of operations is in effect until 3/31/2020 when the situation will be re-evaluated. Here is the link to the Commission’s announcement:  ⁣

http://www.iwcc.il.gov/ ⁣

Unfortunately, no hearings nor docket calls will take place during this period.  In order to comply with the order of Governor Pritzker, the law firm will not be traveling to the union halls for interviewing at least through the end of March.  However, your Katz Friedman lawyers are working hard for you and remain available to take telephone calls.  Our office is open with a reduced non-lawyer staff to insure we make progress on each and every case.⁣

One of the biggest issues affecting many sports leagues today, from youth leagues to the big leagues, is concussions and concussion-related safety. Interscholastic sports in Illinois are no exception. A recent case from the First Appellate District Court involving a high school football player from Cook County offers important clarity regarding what is (and is not) required in a student’s injury case.

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Hospitals and doctors, according to a recent study, rarely admit their mistakes. Deflecting responsibility and avoiding blame are traits that society associates with schoolchildren but not with accomplished professionals, like doctors, or respected institutions, like hospitals.

Unfortunately, a study conducted by ProPublica found that only 20 percent of patients and their families received notice from a hospital or doctor that an error occurred. Furthermore in about half of those families that did receive a disclosure, only received the disclosure after some form of pressure was applied – like a lawsuit.

The Study

The attorneys of Katz Friedman are proud of our reputation for providing consistent legal representation to clients throughout Illinois. We’re proud to announce that Best Lawyers has recognized three of our lawyers for their accomplishments. Being chosen for inclusion in Best Lawyers rankings is an honor bestowed upon a select group of lawyers. This year, Best Lawyers has recognized the efforts of Richard Johnson, Phil Bareck, and Stanley Eisenstein with these distinguished awards.

Richard Johnson has been honored as 2016’s Lawyer of the Year for Workers’ Compensation Law for claimants. Mr. Johnson joined Katz Friedman in 1983. Since then, he’s worked to establish the rights of injured workers in many precedent setting cases before the Illinois Supreme Court. Mr. Johnson’s knowledge and efforts are highly regarded by his peers.

“Workers have rights, and they need a strong advocate to help protect those rights. I’ve dedicated my career to enhancing employee protections within the workplace and I look forward to continuing my efforts,” commented Chicago workers’ compensation attorney Richard Johnson.

A patient visits their physician in a time of great need. Whether for treating a back injury, or removing a cancerous tumor, a patient must be able to trust their physician with their health. In some cases, their very lives are at stake. It’s a great responsibility that is increasingly being neglected and ignored.

According to statistics compiled by the Institute of Medicine in 1999, it was estimated that 98,000 Americans died as the result of medical malpractice every year. In a follow-up study conducted in 2010 by the Office of the Inspector General for Health & Human Services, that number had risen to 188,000. While these statistics are troubling, the bombshell report came in 2013 when the Journal of Patient Safety estimated that the actual number is between 210,000 and 440,000.

Malpractice Leading to Lawsuits

Medical doctors have a great deal of responsibility placed upon them. After years of training and practice, they are expected to have the skill and ability to identify symptoms and translate that into a diagnosis. That doesn’t always happen and the rates of medical misdiagnosis are happening at an alarming rate.

A study conducted by Baylor University last year indicated that up to 5% of patients are misdiagnosed every year. That’s roughly 12 million patients leaving their physicians office with bad information and inappropriate medication. Not only does this leave the medical condition untreated, it can create additional medical problems for the patient.

“The number of patients being misdiagnosed is quite alarming. Patients rely on the advice and expertise of their medical professional. When a patient knows there’s a medical problem, reports the problem and seeks out answers, there’s an expectation that the medical advise is correct. When that is not the case and the patient is misdiagnosed, the results can be catastrophic. The numbers showing the high percentage of misdiagnoses among medical professionals is a very serious medical and legal concern,” commented Chicago medical malpractice attorney Philip Bareck.

Debbie Plank didn’t have to die. That’s what jurors said as they awarded her husband, Timothy Plank, $8 million in damages. He filed a wrongful death suit against the hospital his high school sweetheart went to for treatment. The mother of three died because of diagnostic error, what her husband called a “senseless mistake.”

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Wife made several visits to hospital

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