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If you have an injury at work, you have rights under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation law: the right to pick your own doctors, the right to have your employer pay all of the medical bills (without any co-pays), the right to be paid weekly benefits if you are unable to work, and the right to pursue a settlement once you have finished medical treatment. But what if the problem is considered a pre-existing condition? In Illinois, any pre-existing condition which is aggravated or made worse by an injury is covered under workers’ compensation. As the Illinois Supreme Court described, “When workers’ physical structures, diseased or not, give way under the stress of their usual tasks, the law views it as an accident arising out of and in the course of employment.” Translated into English, this means that where an injury is an aggravation of a pre-existing condition, it may be completely covered without anything taken away because of the prior condition. Even if some of the symptoms are from a pre-existing condition, as long as that condition was aggravated, exacerbated, or made worse by the new injury, then the injured person may be entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits.

A classic example of this can be found with rotator cuff tears. The “Rotator Cuff” is the term for four muscles in the shoulder which stabilize the shoulder and help move the arm. The rotator cuff can be torn by any number of things, including lifting injuries, traction injuries (such as reaching out to avoid a fall), or by wear and tear over time. Sometimes people can have tears in the rotator cuff and don’t even know it because tears of the rotator cuff are not always painful. Sometimes a person has an injury at work to his or her shoulder and discovers that he or she now has pain because they have aggravated a pre-existing rotator cuff tear; but now this person is unable to do the lifting that they used to do at work because of the rotator cuff tear. This is a situation where an injured worker qualifies for workers’ compensation because they have aggravated a pre-existing condition.

Katz Friedman recently dealt with this situation in a recent case for client “E.C.” She was simply doing her normal job when she lifted something heavy and felt a stabbing pain in her shoulder. An MRI showed that her rotator cuff had a large tear which had been present before her injury, though she had never noticed a problem before. Katz Friedman fought for her, took her case to arbitration, established that her injury was covered under workers’ compensation and was able to negotiate a settlement for her.

This article originally appeared in the Chicago Tribune Business Section on April 19, 2022.

NORMAL, Illinois — As problems go, Rivian CEO and founder R.J. Scaringe believes he has a good one.

The startup EV manufacturer has renovated a shuttered Normal factory, created thousands of jobs, raised billions of dollars and launched production of an electric pickup truck and SUV that have captured the imagination of the automotive world.

We are lawyers and we pride ourselves on doing things the old-fashioned way and dotting every “I” and crossing every “t”. Lawyers have been using legal pads since the 19th century. We now live in an age of computers. Our office size will eventually shrink as we have less paper to store. We already scan all medical records we receive, and we send most correspondence by e-mail. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission now has all documents filed electronically through their CompFile system.

In the years since Harold Katz and Irv Friedman became partners in 1954, we have seen the advent of the fax machine and computers for typing letters and then for storing data. We have gone from fishing in our pockets for change to call a client to relay a settlement offer to making that call on a cell phone and then texting or emailing the terms to our secretary in the office.

We strive to retain the accessibility of the old-fashioned country lawyer who will meet you in your town, at your union hall or even in your home while keeping current and using technology to make life better for our clients.

DETROIT — Drivers of bigger vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs are more likely to hit pedestrians while making turns than drivers of cars, according to a new study.

The research released Thursday by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety points to the increasing popularity of larger vehicles as a possible factor in rising pedestrian deaths on U.S. roads. The authors also questioned whether wider pillars holding up roofs of the larger vehicles make it harder for drivers to spot people walking near the corners of vehicles.

“The link between these vehicle types and certain common pedestrian crashes points to another way that the increase in SUVs on the roads might be changing the crash picture…

— KFEEJB Persuades Illinois Appellate Court to Stop Insurer from Ducking its Obligations….

The 1st District Appellate Court recently reversed a finding that a workers compensation insured lacked coverage due to the insured’s lack of cooperation with the insurer’s investigation of an employee’s alleged injury.

The case is Country Mutual Insurance Co. v. Under Construction & Remodeling, Inc., 2021 IL App (1st) 210600 (Dec. 22). The injured worker, an employee of Under Construction, was represented by A-R Igbadume and David Barish of Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca P.C.

On February 10, 2022, Congress voted in favor of the “Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act of 2021”. President Biden is expected to sign the legislation into law in the near future. Just as the title indicates, this Act allows victims of sexual harassment and/or assault in the workplace to file lawsuits in state or federal court, ending the commonly used practice of employers forcing these types of claims into mandatory, confidential arbitrations. The law further renders any prior agreement to waive the right to proceed as a class or joint action unenforceable.

Typically, in Illinois when an employee is subjected to sexual harassment and/or assault at work, he or she will file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Committee and/or the Illinois Department of Human Rights, the state and federal agencies assigned to investigating these types of charges. If the charge is not resolved during that process, he or she will have the right to proceed to file a lawsuit in state or federal court. However, prior to this law’s passage, if the employee had signed an employment agreement prior to the incidents in question, he or she may have waived the right to file a lawsuit in court. Instead, the only option is to proceed to a private, confidential arbitration. It is estimated that over 60 million workers in the United States have waived this right as part of their employment contracts.

Most of the time, employers want to keep these types of lawsuits out of the court system and in private arbitration. These arbitrations typically proceed quickly, allowing for less time to prove the facts, and are less expensive for employers. Arbitrators often award lower damages than judges or juries award. The appeals process is typically much more difficult after arbitration than it is after a trial in court, and most cases end after the arbitrator’s decision has been rendered. If there are multiple victims of sexual harassment and/or assault pursuing their claims against the same employer, they must pursue those claims in separate arbitrations instead of as a class or jointly. Finally, and very importantly, arbitrations are almost always confidential, meaning that neither the general public, nor other victims, will know the outcome of the arbitrations. After the #MeToo movement, this is arguably very important to many employers.

Did you know that signing up for a free and secure my Social Security account provides personalized tools for everyone, whether you receive benefits or not? You can use your account to request a replacement Social Security card, check the status of an application, estimate future benefits, or manage the benefits you already receive? Since Social Security closures began in March 2020, the Social Security Administration has taken steps to provide a majority of information online?

I don’t receive benefits, why should I create an account?

Even if you are still actively working there are many essential services that can be handled online. You can request a replacement Social Security card; Get personalized retirement benefit estimates; Get estimates for spouse’s benefits; Get proof that you do not receive benefits; Check your application status and more!

As gas prices continue to soar, another major concern is impacting many Illinois drivers. According to data kept by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42,060 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2020. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars /2021/03 /05/ pandemic-travel-traffic-deaths-up-8-2020-despite-driving-less/4590942001/ This figure represents an 8% increase from 2019. The increase in fatalities is the highest seen in nearly one hundred years – back when many people were driving their brand new Ford Model T’s. With vehicle traffic down sharply during the pandemic, many would wonder why this increase has happened. The root cause of this increase appears to be a substantial rise in high speed fatalities all of which are a result of drivers simply disregarding perhaps the most basic traffic rule. While many of the fatalities seen on our highways before the pandemic were due to violent trucking crashes, the trend on our roadways appears to be increasing due to the reckless operation of passenger cars. As we reach the halfway point in the year, it does not appear that this trend is reversing with increased traffic on our roadways. https://www.cmap.illinois.gov/ updates/all/-/asset_publisher/UIMfSLnFfMB6/content/covid-affects-transportation-update

Reducing speed is a simple way to prevent injuries and death, but being cautious on the road and watching out for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians is probably even more important. The reason for this is because most traffic crashes happen within 4.6 miles of our homes.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4375775/#:~:text=The%20median%20distance%20between%20home,occur%20very%20close%20to%20home. Even more concerning is that the average vehicle to pedestrian collision is 1.1 miles from home and a vehicle to cycle collision is 1.2 miles from home. As many of our fellow citizens seem to be demonstrating less consideration for each other on the roadways, the sheer volume of e-commerce deliveries are increasing the risk of harm to our loved ones. It’s fair to estimate that e-commerce deliveries by Amazon, UPS, and FedEx have grown 13-16% every year with no slow down on the horizon. https://www.truckinginfo.com/324451/how-is-the-growth-of-e-commerce-affecting-trucking It stands to reason that the more e-commerce orders we place, the more the risk of harm increases from e-commerce vehicle collisions of all kinds. Although UPS maintains a union workforce, their competitors do not and will not. Along with a non-unionized fleet of drivers comes more turnover, less training, and generally less incentive for safety. It is dangerous enough that Amazon clearly prioritizes profits over safety, but when Amazon’s Flex drivers are injured they are immediately denied workers’ compensation benefits because Amazon considers them independent contractors rather than employees despite telling the Flex drivers how to do their jobs. As the movement to unionize at Amazon grows, there is hope that Amazon Flex drivers will be given fairer treatment by a company worth nearly two trillion dollars.

Not unlike Amazon, gig economy companies like Lyft, Uber-Rasier LLC, DoorDash, GrubHub, and Postmates have a business plan that places profit over prevention of injury. Quite simply, these taxi replacements and food delivery companies enjoy all the benefits of having employees without any of the responsibilities that come with it. Uber drivers are not paid by Uber. Instead, they are paid by Rasier LLC. This allows Uber to control more drivers on more roads and never take responsibility for their driver’s when they cause collisions. Gig economy companies have only recently begun conducting background checks, but alarmingly they do not require their drivers to have any special licensing or any special training. Quite simply, if gig economy employees were given basic training, they would drive safer. Not surprisingly, Uber is reluctant to release many of the traffic crash statistics that they compile. https://techcrunch.com/ 2019/12/05/ubers-fatal-accident-tally-shows-low-rates-but-excludes-key-numbers/ Clearly, the frequency of injuries and fatalities will increase due to gig economy companies like Amazon, Lyft, Uber, Doordash, Grubhub, and a Postmates. Unless and until these companies are held accountable in court, they will take advantage of victims regardless of whether they are injured by a gig economy vehicle or are injured driving a gig economy vehicle.

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