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

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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 children. A nurse who worked at Community First Medical Center in Chicago passed away after initially testing negative and then having her symptoms return and worsen. A 35 year-old nurse at Meadowbrook Manor in Bolingbrook lost her battle with the virus, leaving behind a husband and three young children. 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 $8,000. 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 $500,000.

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 25. If an employee’s spouse remarries and there are eligible children at the time of the remarriage, benefits shall continue. 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 benefits.

Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, workers usually encounter two types of work injuries in most circumstances: 1) injuries which resulted from a sudden event or accident, which is oftentimes termed an “acute” injury; and 2) repetitive trauma injuries which result from the cumulative stress developed over time, usually the result of doing the same activity over and over.

There are a lot of repetitive work injuries an employee can encounter: carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, De Quervain’s, thoracic outlet syndrome, intersection syndrome, medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow), lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), trigger finger, radial tunnel syndrome, ulnar tunnel syndrome, etc.

Katz Friedman has represented thousands of repetitive trauma cases over the years involving these types of injuries. As a result of that experience, there are some important considerations to understand which can significantly improve your chances of establishing a successful repetitive trauma claim.

When a family decides to admit their loved one into a nursing home, it is done with trust that their loved one will receive the best care, treatment, and supervision. This level of understanding and trust come about because nursing homes supervise and coordinate the care and treatment with extensive staff to give an elderly person independence that they would not otherwise have at home along with the best outcome for their individual health. Unfortunately, many nursing homes provide understaffed facilities that commonly lead to mismanaged treatment. Most times, elder neglect leading to sickness and death are the fault of the management at the nursing home and not the fault of the staff. Before the Coronavirus struck our communities, the usual medical errors at nursing homes included over and under medicating persons, understaffing, and inadequate training. As nursing home deaths continue to rise, many families are wondering if the loss of their loved one was preventable. In most cases, it is believed that the nursing home not only could have prevented the death, but they also acted negligently by law and need to be held responsible for the loss and harm caused. Various nursing homes around the state have had massive outbreaks leading to almost half of Illinois death cases originating at the very facilities designed to protect their residents. The list of nursing homes across Chicago, Cicero, Niles, Skokie, Lincolnwood, Glenview, Des Plaines, Bolingbrook, Norrdige, and Park Ridge. (Source Chicago Tribune) Chicago nursing home negligence lawyers believe that the reason for many of these deaths is a system error from the top down at the nursing home.

Perhaps the most common type of nursing home neglect comes from improper hygiene. While normally this would involve simply checking up on a loved one or simply making sure that a person was adequately bathed, the Coronavirus is exposing a level of unhygienic practices that are simply unacceptable, including failing to make sure that residences are kept safe from sick visitors and failing to screen the staff who have Covid symptoms. This is not only something that is easy to do, it is crucial to account for when taking care of elderly people since the Coronavirus will lie dormant, without any symptoms, for days and even 1-2 weeks. Once symptoms start to show, it may be too late for anyone in contact with a sick person. (Source Chicago Suntimes) Another common problem at nursing homes is that nursing home owners and corporations cut costs and have left their staff without adequate personal protective equipment, which not only exposes the staff to Coronavirus, but it spreads the virus to many other patients. For this reason, nurses and CNA’s are filing workers compensation claims with Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers for disability benefits and awards or settlements. Unlike workers’ compensation claims, a lawsuit against a nursing home that put profits over people allows for even further damages to compensate loved ones, including funeral expenses and loss of society and companionship.

A wrongful death claim may be made against a nursing home when your loved one’s passing was the result of the business’s negligence, recklessness, or intentional wrongdoing. Were it not for the nursing home owner’s systematic neglect, your loved one would not have died. You may have the right to file a wrongful death lawsuit if you were the elderly individual’s spouse, child, or parent. The compensation often is divided among a spouse and children. If there is no surviving spouse, each child can bring a wrongful death claim. Before a family can move on from the loss caused by negligence or abuse, the usually first want to obtain answers and compensation. Every family member has the right to seek compensation and every family member has the right to get legal advice about a wrongful death or survival claim. If there is some evidence that the nursing home breached its duty of care toward your family member, Katz Friedman is prepared to help you hold the facility responsible. You may call us at anytime at our toll free number, 1-800-444-1525. We answer our telephone 24 hours a day. Chicago wrongful death lawyers at Katz Friedman are currently investigating Covid-19 cases on behalf of families. When making decisions regarding a injuries and death from Covid-related negligence at a nursing home, it is wise to consult an attorney to protect your interests because it is clear that the nursing homes already have their lawyers working on this issue to defeat your claim and help the nursing home get away with their system failure. If you or someone you know wants to investigate a nursing home for a death related to COVID-19, the attorneys and staff of Katz Friedman are here to help with obtaining proper compensation.

Americans are anxious to get back to work. Regardless of political affiliation and medical opinions, we all want to get back to restaurants, go to live performances, shop in stores, assemble parts at factories, and get children back in schools.

We are concerned with the safety of workers. We have been writing about essential workers who have an increased risk of exposure to Covid-19. They have not been staying at home. They are in squad cars, hospitals, restaurants, trucks and offices. It is hard for these workers due to the virus and the need to stay socially distanced and protected from other workers and the public. It is somewhat easier as there are less people out of their homes. Traffic volume is lower less people are ordering from restaurants, there are less people in offices. We are aware that some healthcare workers have been dealing with heavy volumes of potentially sick people. This can take place at smaller hospitals or larger systems such as Advocate, Aurora, Resurrection or Northshore.

What will happen when more people are working? Will the newly opened businesses abide by social distancing? Will they have personal protective equipment for their employees? Will they have thought through how people will work and how they will interact with the public and how they will get their jobs done in a reasonably safe manner? We hope so.

Those who are putting themselves on the front lines of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic are at a high risk of contracting the illness themselves. As the crisis continues, first responders, doctors, and nurses are working tirelessly to help others, while they themselves risk getting sick at work.

According to data from the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), approximately 9,300 healthcare workers have contracted COVID-19, and of those, 27 have tragically lost their lives.1

As many as 5% of those infected required intensive care.2 Nevertheless, the CDC acknowledges that their data is likely a substantial undercount3. Local data can be even more disturbing. In Ohio, for example, 20% of the state’s positive tests have been from healthcare workers4. In Detroit, more than 700 workers from the Henry Ford Health System have tested positive5. In Massachusetts, more than 160 employees of the Berkshire Medical Center have been quarantined6. Here in Illinois, 68 employees – 30 of whom are nurses – tested positive at the University of Illinois Health System as of the beginning of April7. Many more healthcare workers are under home surveillance, according to the Illinois Nurses Association8. As of April 22, 2,500 Illinois healthcare workers had contracted COVID and 8 had lost their battle with the virus9.

To celebrate the heroic dedication of Illinois Nurses, the law firm of Katz, Friedman has donated 1,500 face shields to the Illinois Nurses Association. The INA will distribute this much needed personal protective equipment ( PPE) to those facilities where it is needed most to fight the Covid 19 pandemic. While the Governor phases in a reopening of the State’s businesses, it is a certainty that Illinois citizens will continue to need medical care and treatment in the ongoing battle against the novel Corona Virus. On the front line of this fight are the brave members of the Illinois Nurses Association.

Please consider a donation of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the nurses. You can go to this website: www.myfaceshield.com to order PPE and have it shipped directly to the Illinois Nurses Association.

Thank you!

The impact of the Novel Coronavirus is in its early stages and the toll on families has been devastating. What’s more, the degree to which the health care industry is suffering from this illness is now being felt locally. Within the past week, a 35 year old registered nurse died at Amita Health Adventist Bolingbrook Medical Center from cardiac arrest caused by Covid-19. (source Via SunTimes) Like many health care professionals falling ill, the fact that she worked at a nursing home only brought greater risk to her health and well being. In fact, the Meadowbrook Manor nursing home in Bolingbrook is one of many nursing homes around Chicago caring for patients suffering from Covid-19 infections. Similarly, a CNA fell ill from Covid and died at age 35 at Stroger Hosptial. The name of the nursing home where she worked is Mado Health Center (Uptown), which has at least 46 Covid cases. (Source via WGN) Illinois nursing homes are responsible for over 1,000 infections from the Cornavirus. Among them, Symphony of Joliet, Bria Forest Edge, and Alden Terrace in northwest suburban McHenry have over 100 a piece. Families of patients and employees at these facilities want to know when the preventable harm will stop.

The death toll continues to mount at other facilities like the Westchester Health and Rehab facility, Elevate Care North in Chicago, and Windsor Park in west suburban Carol Stream. (source via WGN)

Based on the dangerous conditions at nursing homes, many workers had planned strikes to protect their rights which; in turn, eventually protects their patients health. (source via ABC) It is expected that more nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, CNA’s and various health care professionals are going to hire lawyers and file claims against their employers for workers’ compensation benefits like disability pay, medical bills, and a settlement or award for permanency. Many health care professionals are extremely worried about their ability to work to the degree they did before contracting Covid since many of the permanent problems involve extreme fatigue from heart, lung, and internal organ damage. Fortunately, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act protects these rights by providing monetary awards for future lost wages and even in the most extreme cases, death benefits for families.

As Illinois hits its peak , and many states begin to loosen their restrictions , there are persistent reminders that the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) crisis is far from finished and that lives are still at risk. Chief among these reminders are headlines of outbreaks within Illinois nursing homes, affecting both healthcare workers and some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.

According to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health released April 24, 2020, COVID-19 cases at long-term care facilities grew to over 4,200, and the number of deaths grew from 286 to 624. In Cook County alone, more than half of all COVID-19 deaths have been in nursing homes. In the words of one nursing home worker, “This is a bloodbath. I feel like my heart is breaking.”(source) Dr. Susan Bleasdale, Chief Quality Officer and Infectious Disease Specialist for UI Health stated, “[a]ll of these sort of group communal settings are opportunities for COVID to spread very quickly, and it’s in a vulnerable population. To that end, the Illinois Department of Public Health have instructed facility administrators to restrict visits, cancel group activities, shut down dining rooms, and screen residents and staff for fevers and respiratory diseases.

Especially disconcerting to those on the front lines of fighting this outbreak is the lack of adequate available personal protective equipment (PPE). This puts workers in an unenviable position – PPE is often times not available, and some have municipalities have cited workers who do not use it, as was the case with the City View Multi-Care Center in Cicero. Some of the allegations coming from nursing home workers are particularly disturbing. Workers have cited the lack of PPE, failure to implement strict infection control measures, and staffing shortages as exacerbating the crisis. Workers at the Woodbridge nursing home in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood say administrators told them that masks were “10 times more expensive” than they were before the crisis, and some staff received masks that they were asked to wear for a week at a time. Workers at another Chicago nursing home said that they were told to reuse PPE. “We were told to wear the same gowns in and out of most of the rooms. We knew we were spreading it from patient to patient,” one nursing home worker said.

As virologists and epidemiologists theorize how Covid-19, the disease caused by the Novel Coronavirus (SARS – CoV2), may impact our health, physicians around Chicago are learning first hand how the virus really works. Just this past week, doctors from the University of Chicago released data showing the promise of a drug named Remdesivir that could potentially save countless lives across the globe. https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2020/04/17/remdesivir-coronavirus-drug-gilead-sciences-covid-19-treatment/5150793002/ It is becoming more apparent that the work of physicians treating infected patients is producing the most practical information about symptoms and how to treat the disease. For example, researchers basically provided doctors and nurses with fever, dry cough, and trouble breathing/shortness of breath as the tell-tale signs. With the experience gained in the care and treatment of patients, we know now that many Covid patients present with a loss of smell and taste as one of the most common symptoms. Besides discovering symptoms that global health care organizations seemed unaware of, doctors are essentially re-engineering many standards of care to save lives. Whereas in the past, the standard ventilation procedure would usually involve sedation early on, it is now becoming common practice that Covid patients probably need to be kept off ventilation as long as possible with moving the patient onto his or her stomach, sides, and back.

Because of the rapidly changing standards of care, doctors in Illinois treating Covid-19 patients during this difficult time are even being protected from litigation by an Executive Order by Governor Pritzker. https://www2.illinois.gov/Pages/Executive-Orders/ExecutiveOrder2020-19.aspx However, Illinois’ protections for physicians did not stop there. In addition to shielding doctors from malpractice while treating infected patients, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission gave doctors an evidentiary advantage in filing their own workers’ compensation claims when doctors contract Covid-19. https://wcla.info/resources/Documents/COVID-19%20Page/Notice_of_Emergency_Amendments–2020-04-13.pdf This rule means that if a doctor contracts Covid-19 during this pandemic, it is presumed that it came from their work treating sick patients. This is crucial for doctors’ rights as employees of large hospitals and clinics because doctors are falling ill due to their job duties. Many doctors are dying and many doctors will have long-term health issues that impair their ability to practice medicine. The Illinois Workers Compensation Act was designed to provide disability benefits, payment for medical expenses, and awards and settlements for permanent injuries of all types. The Act also provides benefits in the event of death and for long-term wage loss. Considering that Covid causes lung scarring, various damage to the heart, and both lung and kidney damage, it is apparent that doctors who are injured on the job will have the right to claim benefits for these types of injuries. Up until recent times, doctors were not in a line of employment that put them at risk of injury very often, but that has changed in just a matter of months. More doctors are looking into their rights to file claims against their employers and many are contacting Chicago workers compensation lawyers because falling ill on the job is impacting their livelihoods.

Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers at Katz Friedman are currently investigating Covid-19 cases on behalf of sick doctors and nurses. When making decisions regarding a work injury from Covid, it is wise to consult an attorney to protect your interests because it is clear that the employers already have their lawyers working on this issue to defeat your claim. If you or someone you know works in the health care field and suffers from COVID-19, the attorneys and staff of Katz Friedman are here to help with obtaining proper compensation.

An article in the New York Times on April 22 noted that “outbreaks [of Covid-19] are mounting in processing plants and factories in Midwestern towns.” (Source)

We have been representing injured workers from these plants, factories and towns for over 50 years. We have seen ancient machines that were built without thought of the safety of the workers who operated those machines give way to more modern machines that may create an incrementally safer workplace but have automated away many of the jobs the grandparents and parents of today’s workers used to hold. We have seen jobs that were brutal and repetitive become modified to allow rotation so workers do not do exactly the same thing for their entire shift.

This is part of the cycle of manufacturing. When things are new they are engineered for profit and efficiency. After many workers suffer and many dollars are paid in claims the companies re engineer and try to come up with processes that are safer for union workers and less costly for the executives and insurance companies.

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