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

Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Anytime you set out on Illinois’ roadways and expressways, there is an element of danger. That’s especially true if your vehicle comes into contact with a “big rig.” These truck accidents, due to trucks’ size and weight, have an elevated tendency to cause major damage, injuries and death. Getting the full amount you deserve in this type of situation may involve many different types of evidence to establish all the damage for which you are entitled to receive compensation, so be sure you have an experienced Chicago truck accident attorney handling your case from the very start.

Just a few weeks ago, the state Department of Transportation released its latest accident statistics report, which covers January – December 2018. During that year, the state logged more than 13,000 accidents involving tractor-trailers, with 2,235 causing injury and 122 causing death. These numbers represented a significant increase over 2017, when there were only 11,700 truck crashes, 1,949 of those causing injury and 107 fatal accidents. In each of those three categories, the year-to-year increase was more than 10%.

Recent news stories provide further examples of the problem. In early July, the Chicago Sun-Times reported on a motorcyclist who lost his life while traveling north on Lewis Avenue in Waukegan. The driver of the Freightliner that was immediately next to the motorcyclist switched lanes to the right… and right into the path of the Harley Davidson. The motorcyclist was declared dead at the scene.

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Chicago issued an emergency travel order which began at 12:01 a.m. Monday and will remain in effect until further notice.[i]  This means that anyone who has contact with one of fifteen states (listed in the travel order) and enters into Chicago will need to quarantine for 14 days.  This applies to those individuals visiting Chicago or returning to Chicago from visiting those states.

States included in the order are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Nevada, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah.

The rationale for this emergency travel order is that these States are seeing significant increases in COVID-19 cases and infection rates.  Some of these states are reporting record numbers.  What this means for Chicago-area workers that revolve around or relate to those types of industries that deal with interstate travel is that they now might have a higher probability of contracting COVID-19 then they were weeks or months ago.

Many states, including Illinois, are gradually beginning to ease their COVID-19 restrictions.  Chicago is now allowing bars and breweries to open for outdoor service only.  Nevertheless, the existential threat that COVID-19 presents is far from over, and scores of people continue to lose their lives to Coronavirus.  This has been particularly acute amongst residents in long-term care facilities.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, there were a total of 20,550 cases and 3,433 deaths in long-term care facilities throughout Illinois as of June 12.[i]  These cases and deaths, while concentrated in Chicago and Cook County, are dispersed throughout the state, affecting communities like Peoria, East St. Louis, and Springfield.  As of June 13, the Four Fountains facility in St. Clair County had 104 cases and Edwardsville Care Center in Madison County had 94 cases.[ii]  Chicago’s collar counties likewise continue to bear the brunt of the onslaught, with Lake, DuPage, Kane, and Will counties having a concentration of cases.[iii]  According to earlier data from the Illinois Department of Public Health, nursing homes account for approximately 52% of all Coronavirus deaths in the state.[iv]

In recognition of these appalling statistics, a union representing nursing home workers recently organized a candlelight vigil outside the Thompson Center in Chicago, honoring the nursing home victims of COVID-19.[v]  A union news release highlighted the need for holding nursing home owners and administrators accountable for their actions, saying “The appalling levels and scope of fatalities and illnesses among nursing home residents and workers continue to fuel demands for accountability on the Illinois nursing home industry as questions continue to rise about what dramatic steps the industry is taking to mitigate the pandemic and protect residents and staff.”[vi]

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.

Out of an over-abundance of caution during this pandemic, the government and many health care facilities across Chicago have halted many elective surgical procedures. Presumably, this was done to help prevent hospitals from being over-stressed with too many patients and not enough resources. Nationally, one in five doctors have had their pay cut since the novel Coronavirus crisis began.(Source via Business Insider) Some have even been laid off. The first hit to the health care industry was for elective and outpatient surgeries, which is not only hurting the orthopedic, pain management, and gastroenterology fields, but other fields like oncology and vascular surgery are seeing procedures pushed back. The next group of doctors that have been hit hard due to the pandemic is internal medicine. With so many fewer patients afraid to go to a doctor’s office, the only way internal medicine doctors have been able to survive is to use different forms of telemedicine, especially to follow up and monitor patients who have Covid-19 symptoms. (read more on CNBC) The next wave of people to be harmed by the slowdown is the medical staff. Without elective procedures, nurses, CNA’s, medical assistants, physician assistants, and various other health care workers are experiencing the same problems. It is obvious to most people that these health care cut-backs are going to cause another major hit to the national economy. (read more at The Washington Post)

Like many frontline workers in Illinois, most doctors simply ask for the basic personal protective equipment so that they can safety do their job. It is no wonder that they also ask that their staff members get the same. In reality, local hospitals have fallen short, which has gotten numerous doctors, nurses, and staff members sick with Covid-19. Health care workers contracting this disease due to their job duties have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim in Chicago as well as any other part of Illinois. It is clear that Chicago has been the hardest hit city in the state when it comes to Covid-19. This means that as patients fill hospital and nursing home beds, the number of sick health care workers also increases. The first important thing that must be remembered in any workers’ compensation case involving a health care worker is that we do not have to prove that the employer was at fault. Illinois has a no fault workers compensation system. This makes it easier for an employee to recover. The second important thing that must be remembered in any case involving a sick or injured health care worker is that Illinois has a rebuttable presumption for any Covid-19 case for an essential worker. This means that a health care worker who contracts Covid-19 is presumed to have fallen ill on the job. (source via Chicago Tribune) While an employer can still fight a claim like they usually do when they get in touch with their insurance carrier, having an evidentiary presumption gives health care workers an advantage in recovering benefits like lost and future wages, medical bills, and an award or settlement that is proportionate to a person’s average weekly wage. What’s more, a family of a deceased worker can recover benefits.

Undoubtedly, the insurance industry is fearful that doctors and nurses will exercise their rights and file claims since there will be permanent impairment to lung, kidney, liver, and cardiac function with mild cases just like there were with the original SARS outbreak in 2003-2004. The reason that the insurance industry is so concerned about this legal development has to do with the possibility that doctors and nurses will cost the insurance industry billions by filing claims since their wage loss is so significant. However, given that insurance companies will deceive, dupe, and trick injured individuals into taking low settlements or making a person believe that they have no claim, it is expected that the health care industry will make a record number of workers compensation claims in 2020. As we have for over 60 years, Katz Friedman is investigating injuries caused on the job and will fight to help obtain full, fair, and proper compensation for those workers as it is their right under the laws of our state. You may call us at anytime at our toll free number, 1-800-444-1525 or simply click on “Contact” above. We answer our telephone 24 hours a day. When making decisions regarding a injuries and death from Covid-related injuries, it is wise to consult an attorney to protect your interests because it is clear that the employer already has their lawyers working on this issue to defeat your claim.

As scientific modeling shows a peak and flattening of the curve by mid-April, the time that it will take for the leveling out and decline will probably last until early May. That means that the exposure that medical professionals working at places like UIC, University of Chicago, Advocate, Rush, Amita, and Northwestern have had to this disease will only worsen until the cases decline substantially from where they are now. (source via NPR) This likely means that those employed in healthcare will see an even greater percentage of work injuries due to Covid-19 than many scientists first predicted. Although people in Illinois hear the news about how the efforts to slow the novel Coronavirus down are working, they are usually not aware of that the same horror stories that are seen in New York City are happening in Chicago and across Illinois. In fact, hospitals in Chicago are running short of personal protective equipment necessary for health care workers to maintain body substance isolation from infected patients. Rather than provide the necessary equipment, hospitals are putting their employees at risk of falling ill with Covid-19 by failing to provide enough masks, gowns, and face shields. Many hospitals are telling nurses to re-use masks and gowns. Without this equipment, hospital management is essentially putting their nurses, nurse’s aides, nurse practitioners, respiratory therapists, physician’s assistants, and doctors in harm’s way.

Fortunately for healthcare professionals, the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission issued an emergency rule deeming essential workers including but not limited to EMT’s/ paramedics, CNA’s, RN’s, CNP’s, PA’s, technicians, therapists, and doctors as presumed to have contracted Covid-19 at work if they get a positive test. (source via WBEZ) The impact of this rule is groundbreaking to say the least because it puts pressure on an hospital to try to show how their employee did not contract Covid-19 on the job. Thus, when a sick healthcare worker can show that they contracted Covid-19 and were working for a health care provider, they will have an easier time succeeding on their case. That being said, insurance companies will not second-guess fighting any Covid-19 work comp claim that they can. Not only is it in the nature of insurance companies to fight legitimate claims, insurance companies rarely see the negative perception in instances where they try to take advantage of sick and injured people. Legal scholars predict that despite this recent rule benefiting all sick healthcare workers, insurance companies intend to fight the cases brought by healthcare workers as the court system starts to return to normal.

It is anticipated that insurance companies and their lawyers will try to minimize the suffering, harm, and damage done to healthcare workers by claiming that they have little to no permanency and thus deserve little to no award. While this may sound shameful on many levels, it also disregards the science that is out there related to the harmful long-term effects of those who survived SARS-CoV-1 and the data that is coming out from the early survivors of SARS-CoV-2. If the recent outbreak has just slightly similar long-term effects as the first outbreak, it is highly likely that our health care system will become weakened for decades. The infections from Covid are leaving various physical and mental health damages. Primarily, we know the lung scarring and diminished lung capacity is the most concerning part of the body that is being widely impacted. Furthermore, it is thought that besides lung issues, infected persons can suffer from bone and joint issues. In particular, we may see necrosis of the hip. (source via Nature) What is also alarming is that along with decreased lung function, diminished cardiac function is also likely. Many people dying of Covid-19 are dying from cardiac arrest and heart failure. Heart disease from Covid-19 is unfortunately expected to become rampant. (source via Nature) Even for those healthcare workers who have milder cases, they can expect to see themselves and many of their colleagues develop impaired endurance and chronic fatigue. (sources via National Center for Biotechnology and Journale of American Medical Association Network)

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.

If your child was injured at school because some employee (or employees) didn’t do their jobs properly, you might reasonably desire to sue. It is important to be aware that, in Illinois, suing a school district or school employee for an injury accident isn’t the same as suing for an auto accident injury, or a slip-and-fall/trip-and-fall accident.

That’s because, unlike those latter categories, schools in Illinois cannot be held liable for simple negligence. Does that mean you should just give up on your child’s school injury case? No, it doesn’t. Even without the option of a basic negligence claim, the evidence and the facts of your child’s case very possibly could still be enough to meet the standards that the law has erected, so don’t “throw in the towel.” Contact a knowledgeable Chicago school injury attorney to learn more about the options that may be available to you.

Success in a school injury case requires something more than proof that someone was negligent. Consider the case of S.B., a sixth-grade cheerleader, as an example. She suffered an injury at doing a “lift” maneuver at cheer practice. Her mother sued the school district, alleging that multiple safety failures contributed to her daughter’s injuries, including failure to maintain the safety equipment properly and the use of inadequate “thin gymnastic mats.”

In slip-and-fall (and trip-and-fall) cases, there are several techniques the defense may deploy to attempt to defeat your claim and avoid paying compensation to you. One of the more common tactics is to assert that the defect that caused your fall was “open and obvious.” This argument can be powerful because the law says that the owners or controllers of a property have no legal obligation to provide protection against, or a warning about, open and obvious risks. In order to make sure you have your opportunity for your day in court (and to obtain the compensation you deserve), be sure that you are prepared by having experienced Illinois premises liability counsel representing you in your case.

One man who had to battle against an “open and obvious” argument was Steven, who was injured while attempting to enter the condo he shared with his girlfriend, Karen. According to the injured man’s lawsuit, he slipped and fell on the “stoop and stairs” situated in front of the condo’s entrance. The fall caused Steven to suffer very serious injuries to his left knee and left ankle, which caused him to have to undergo multiple surgeries and led him to sue.

According to Steven, the problem arose after the property manager hired a firm to apply an epoxy substance to the stoop and stair area. Allegedly, after the epoxy job was completed, the stoop and stair area was very slippery, especially when wet. Karen allegedly complained to the property manager at least 3-4 times, starting in 2008. (Steven’s accident took place in October 2009.)

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