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

Articles Posted in Workplace Injury

You have a lot of things that will inevitably worry you after you’ve suffered an injury at work. You may be worried about losing income. You may be worried about finding the right doctor to get the diagnosis you need. You may be worried about collecting all the paperwork you need for a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. One thing that you should not have to be worried about – but too many workers do face – is retaliation by your employer. If your employer does that, it may have violated the law and the retaliation itself may be a basis upon which you can recover compensation. An experienced Chicago workers’ compensation attorney can help you look at your situation and identify all of the legal ways that you might be able to obtain much-needed compensation.

An accident at a milk processing plant here in the greater Chicago area (and its aftermath) is an example of that kind of retaliation, and it resulted in a sizable damages award, according to a Northwest Herald report. R.J., a worker at the plant, suffered a neck injury in the fall of 2009. The employer’s doctor placed R.J. on lifting, pushing and pulling restrictions. R.J. continued on light duty until he took medical leave in early 2011 after losing strength in his left arm. R.J. did not work at the plant again. He was terminated in early 2016.

An employer can impermissibly retaliate against an employee injured on the job in many ways. For example, if you are injured in a workplace accident, you are entitled to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits and to do so free from punishment by your employer. If your employer takes adverse action against you for filing for workers’ compensation benefits, and you can prove that your workers’ comp claim triggered that action, then you can recover damages for retaliation.

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The short answer to these questions is: “Yes, you can still possibly file a workers’ compensation.” It will be highly dependent on the facts of that specific case, but you can still file a claim if you met the criteria. This is where an experienced attorney can help and guide you with your possible claims. Understanding a few important provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act is vital to preserving your rights if you’ve been laid off or furloughed because of Covid-19. Or, even if you have an older claim that you did not want to pursue at the time but now want to see if you are still entitled to compensation.

How long do I have to file a claim?

Even if you are no longer working for your employer, you are legally entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim within three (3) years from the date of the injury/accident, or two (2) years from the date of last compensation received because of the injury, whichever is longer. 820 ILCS 305/6(d) Illinois General Assembly. Outside of these time periods, you may find yourself barred from receiving any compensation for that work accident and injury. However, it is important to understand that just because you may still have the ability to file a workers’ compensation claim, there is no guarantee you will be entitled to benefits if you do not take the proper steps in preserving your case.

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.

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.

Industrial workers face many potential dangers every day at work. Conveyor belts are one such example. Conveyor belt accidents lead to roughly 9,000 injuries per year, along with dozens of fatalities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Once workers become caught in a conveyor belt, they can suffer injuries like amputations, lacerations, burns, degloving injuries, bone fractures and death. In many circumstances, others may be to blame, whether totally or at least in part. These causes include a failure to perform the necessary maintenance on the plant’s machinery, defects in the machinery, and improper training. If you’ve been hurt in a conveyor belt accident, you should reach out without delay to an experienced Chicago work injury attorney to discover what legal options exist for you to receive the compensation you need.

Back in the fall, a very serious injury accident occurred at a packaging plant in Kane County. According to a kcchronicle.com report, the accident involved a temporary worker who became trapped in a conveyor belt assembly early one morning. The maintenance workers were able to take the conveyor belt apart and get the woman free before the fire department arrived. Despite being freed, the woman still faced serious medical issues. She was transported by helicopter to a nearby Level I trauma center with life-threatening injuries. (Level I is the highest level of trauma care.)

A later report indicated that, despite the extreme injuries, the woman survived. News reports did not divulge the results of the OSHA investigation, so it is not known exactly what caused this accident in Kane County.

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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.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to strain hospitals and stretch already thin staffing resources, Governor Pritzker has asked retired healthcare workers to aid in the fight against the Coronavirus. “We’re in the middle of a battle, and we need reinforcements,” Pritzker stated during a press conference. (source)

Among those answering this call are respiratory therapists. (source) Along with nurses, doctors, and other medical personnel, respiratory therapists are on the front line of this pandemic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, chief among the responsibilities of respiratory therapists are performing diagnostic tests – such as measuring lung capacity – administering chest physiotherapy, nebulizer treatments, and aerosolized medications, performing intubations and connecting patients to ventilators.(source) In the words of one doctor, respiratory therapists “serve as the glue that brings everything together when doctors manage patients with respiratory illnesses.”(source) This expertise makes respiratory care practitioners especially essential during this current crisis because they are operating the ventilators that are keeping Coronavirus patients alive. Operating ventilators is an intensive process, requiring significant time in the proximity of critically ill patients, creating a higher risk of exposure.

For those retired therapists returning to the work force in the midst of this pandemic, it can be a particularly worrisome time. Many of those answering the call and returning to the front line after years of retirement may be at a higher risk because they may fall into one or more high risk categories. (source) Additionally, while the public has become well aware of the critical need for ventilators, many may not understand the intubation process required to connect a patient to one. This process involves exceptionally close contact with an ill patient, including lifting the patient’s chin or jaw to open their airway, using a laryngoscope to view a patient’s airway, inserting an endotracheal tube into their trachea, and taping the tube to their face. Such close contact can expose respiratory therapists and other medical personnel involved to patient’s airways, aerosolized droplets, condensate from tubing, and other risks associated with tending to critically ill patients.

We have rallied around our first responders who are protecting us against Covid-19 and who maintain order and protect our homes and lives. Many houses have homemade signs in their windows expressing solidarity with police, fire and healthcare workers. We join in that sentiment and are aware of the risks those workers take every day. However, they are not the only ones who are continuing to work and continuing to put their lives at risk.

There is a wide range of “essential workers” who continue to provide service, continue to risk their lives by making contact with other humans as we attempt to live normal lives in the wake of the pandemic. The Governor has designated the following workers as essential:

  •  Healthcare and Public Health Operations (includes businesses in the supply chain)

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.

Grocery store and delivery workers have recently been thrown into the front lines in the battle against the most dangerous pandemic in 100 years. As business after business shuts down, food delivery has become one of the most important parts of the economy. Across the country, workers at places like Amazon, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Kroger, Domino’s, Costco, Uber Eats, Chipotle, and McDonalds have received much deserved praise and admiration for providing essential services to millions of people sheltered and isolated at home. While these employers are increasing wages and making promises to provide protective equipment, workers are still falling ill. What’s more, is that these employees are still getting hurt on the job and they still aren’t fully aware of their rights to compensation. While drivers involved in car accidents often have the ability to file two different claims, workers contracting Covid on the job are being left in the dark by their companies.

The family of a Chicago-area Walmart employee filed a lawsuit against the company for wrongful death alleging that Walmart failed to keep its employee safe from the Coronavirus. In fact, two Evergreen Park employees died just four days apart from Covid. Both employees were long-term Walmart associates with nine and fifteen years of dedicated service. While legal scholars highly doubt the chances of a civil lawsuit for a work-related injury succeeding, there is no doubt that these co-workers’ families are within their rights to file a workers’ compensation claims for death benefits. In Illinois, workers’ compensation death benefits are paid for 25 years or up to $500,000.00, whichever is greater. While many lawyers would file for workers’ compensation benefits in a situation like this, a civil action, if not dismissed in the early stages of the case, still runs the risk of Walmart claiming many different highly-factual defenses. For instance, Walmart is already disputing the family’s timeline of how the deaths of its employees took place. Bottom line, Walmart will claim that the employees were not present when they contracted the disease. Like with most legal cases, corporations and employers like Walmart will hire expert doctors who almost always give an opinion that the injury or illness simply was not caused by anything on the job or the incident itself.

The concern with these deaths around Chicago is the lack of personal protective equipment at Walmart. While OSHA and the CDC may look into the matter, companies are trying to get ahead of the disease by doing their own testing and providing more protective equipment. At a minimum, these deaths have prompted companies to disinfect and sanitize the work place. Amazon has recently been testing disinfectant fog to clean warehouses and distribution centers. Regardless of whether Amazon makes a difference in the health and safety of their employees, the company has plans to hire at least 100,000 additional workers. On the one hand, the extra workers will be necessary to help with the heavy increase in demand for the necessities of life being delivered to millions of homes. On the other hand, many workers suspect that Amazon is planning to use the additional workers to fill the vacant spots of sick and injured workers who not only get hurt in slip and fall incidents or get hit by forklifts, but also for those who contract Covid and are off work for at least two weeks. The spread of the disease at Amazon warehouses is so prevalent that more than fifty Amazon warehouses have reported Coronavirus cases. This comes as no surprise when a typical warehouse worker touches as many as two thousand items per day and many of them do this without personal protection.

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