Articles Posted in Worker Compensation

semi truckFor any worker seeking to recover workers’ compensation benefits, one might hope for a clear-cut case in which the workplace injury unmistakably caused harm to the worker. Real life is rarely clear-cut, however, which is one reason why it pays to have experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorneys on your side. An example of succeeding even without a clear-cut case was a truck driver who had pre-existing conditions but whose evidence persuaded the Illinois Appellate Court that the driver’s post-accident state of ill-being was causally related to her workplace accident.

The worker was a woman who worked as a truck driver for several months in 2005. She eventually returned to truck driving, working for the same employer, in 2013. In the interim, she had undergone two back surgeries, one in 2009 and one in 2011. Despite the back problems and fibromyalgia, she passed both the employer’s physical exam and a state-mandated physical exam for truck drivers.

Six months back on the job, the driver slipped and fell on ice while making a delivery to a distribution center in northwest Illinois. The driver’s doctor restricted her from working. In the following April, she underwent spinal fusion surgery. Even after the surgery, the worker experienced pain and numbness, walked with a limp, and was unsteady on her feet. Her doctor did not clear her to return to truck driving and also imposed lifting restrictions. By September 2014, the employer terminated the driver.

firefightersThe Illinois workplace injuries you suffer are not always physical ones. For one firefighter seeking workers’ compensation benefits, his injury was post-traumatic stress after a fellow firefighter died battling a blaze. Even though the firefighter did not actually see his colleague die and was not involved in trying to rescue or resuscitate him, the overall facts of the case still indicated that he suffered a “severe emotional shock” and was entitled to benefits, the Illinois Appellate Court has ruled.

The claimant was a man who began working as a firefighter in 1986. In 2010, he was a lieutenant in a small department for the Village of Homewood. The man was in command at a fire in Homewood in March 2010 when a flashover occurred and one of Homewood’s firefighters died in the blaze.

After the incident, the Homewood fire chief told the lieutenant that he could not return to work until he was cleared by a psychiatrist. By May, the lieutenant had seen a doctor, who diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. The lieutenant returned to work in the fall of 2010.

United Airlines (UAL) employees are talking and social media chat rooms are buzzing about the potential change in workers’ compensation administrators. For about 20 years Gallagher Bassett has been administrating the claims for benefits due to occupational injuries also known as “occupationals”, “OJI” or workers’ compensation injuries. Typically, an administrator provides claims adjustment services that include the investigation and processing of injury claims and payment of weekly workers’ compensation income benefits known as temporary total disability (TTD) and authorization for medical procedures and payment of medical bills. The administrator may also, at times, negotiate settlements after the injured worker has been released from doctor’s care.

There does not appear to have been a formal notice or press release confirming that United Airlines is replacing Gallagher Bassett. There has been speculation that this may occur October 1, 2017 and that the new claims administrator will be Sedgwick Claims Management Services.

Helpful Advice for the Injured Worker

What do I do when I am injured at work?

You know your job and you know what to do when things are running smoothly and when things go wrong. However, when you get injured you may be unsure about what to do and what to say. Here are some helpful hints for figuring out what to do when you get injured at work.

1. Report everything. If you get hurt at work you should report the accident to your superiors as soon as possible. Let them know exactly what happened and when it happened. It is easy when you have a specific injury, “I picked up a box and felt a sharp pain in my low back.” It is harder when the injury is due to the repetitive and forceful activities that you do at work. If you have pain and think it is work related let somebody know about it and see a doctor. You will need to report the claim to your employer as soon as a doctor tells you that your pain may be work related. Reporting every injury does not mean you are going to a doctor or hiring a lawyer every time. You are documenting that something happened. If you get hurt on Thursday but do not report it until the following Monday your employer may question your claim. Report the accident as soon as possible.

Safety remains an important issue for teachers, teacher’s assistants and school workers. Numerous injuries occur while teachers and school employees strive to instruct and provide for the safety and well-being of students. Although the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act is a law set up to benefit and provide relief for the injured worker, skilled workers’ compensation attorneys familiar and experienced with school related injuries are frequently needed to ensure the injureds’ rights are protected. Katz, Friedman, one of the few law firms, approved by the Illinois Education Association (IEA) to handle work injures on behalf of its members has successfully represented the injured throughout Illinois including employees of Elgin’s School District U-46, Rockford School District No. 205, St. Charles Community Unit School District No. 303, and many more. We are proud to report two recent trial victories on behalf of injured teaching professionals.

In the first case, the injured, a physical education teacher, suffered an injury while teaching her class. The teacher was demonstrating stretches and exercises to her students when she injured her back. The teacher sought medical treatment immediately and was given work restrictions by her doctor. The school district stated that they could not accommodate her restrictions and would not allow her to return to work. The school district also refused to pay her off work benefits, pay for her continued medical treatment and refused to allow her to come back to work in any capacity until all of her restrictions were removed. The school district based their denial of workers compensation benefits on the notion that “demonstrating exercises to students was not an essential function of a PE teacher’s job duties.” The school district’s refusal to allow the teacher to return to work lasted five months. During this time, the injured teacher did not receive any off work benefits as provided under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Katz Friedman attorneys fought for the injured teacher at trial before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The Arbitrator ruled in favor of the teacher and agreed with all of Katz Friedman’s trial arguments. The injured teacher was awarded full off work benefits, payment of all medical bills including repayment of her out-of-pocket medical expenses of over $1,000.00 and a substantial award for the permanent partial disability caused by the back injury.

In the second case, Katz Friedman attorneys received a favorable trial decision where a special education teacher’s assistant sustained a concussion after a student punched her in the head. The trial award was five times greater than the amount offered for settlement by the school district. At trial, the school district attempted to minimize the injured teacher’s assistant’s symptoms claiming they were not related to the concussion injury. The school district’s argument was supported by a doctor they retained for the litigation. Katz Friedman attorneys were successful in convincing the Arbitrator that the medical evidence and treating doctor’s opinions were more credible than the doctor retained by the school district. Although there is still time for the school district to appeal this very recent decision, Katz Friedman attorneys remain confident that the results will be upheld.

hospital staffThe aftermath of a workplace injury can be a stressful time. In many cases, your injury may leave you so limited that you cannot work. When that happens, it is important to make sure that you get all of the benefits you deserve, such as workers’ compensation, to provide for yourself and your family. For one hospital worker, that involved taking her case to the Illinois Appellate Court and winning a reinstatement of her full temporary total disability award because not only was she not working but also she proved that she wasn’t able to work.

The employee in this case was a surgical technician at a small-town hospital. Her job tasks consisted of setting up and cleaning up surgical rooms before and after procedures, in addition to moving patients to recovery beds. Two months into her job, the technician felt “something pull and shoot down [her] low back, into [her] legs” while moving a surgical bed into a hallway. A few weeks after the incident, the technician’s doctor diagnosed her with a disc herniation in her back. Eventually, the woman’s doctor concluded that she was unable to work and needed back surgery to address the disc problem.

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auto workersAn Illinois auto worker recently succeeded in his effort to get his award of workers’ compensation benefits reinstated. Even though the Ford Motor Company worker injured himself while bending over, which can often be considered by the law a “neutral risk” that does not allow for an award of benefits, he was successful because his evidence was able to persuade the Illinois Appellate Court that his injury actually qualified as “a risk distinctly associated with” his employment, which the law recognizes as compensable.

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WeldingWhen you are injured on the job and seek workers’ compensation benefits, there are many things that will go into your case. At some point, a doctor may examine you and give you an AMA impairment rating. In a recent First District Appellate Court decision, the court upheld an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission determination finding a welder 25% impaired despite an AMA impairment rating below 10%. While the AMA impairment rating was an important part of the impairment determination process, the statutes list five factors, which go beyond simply what a doctor’s opinion says.

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rooferWhen you’ve been injured on the job, there are several hurdles involved in reaching your proper outcome. Even after you’ve persuaded a workers’ compensation arbitrator that you deserve an award, you have still not cleared all the hurdles. The statutes allow for multiple different types of awards and the difference between them can be substantial. In the case of one roofer injured at work, he successfully appealed a decision that awarded him benefits but denied him the more beneficial “wage differential” award.

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