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

Articles Tagged with Teachers

The return of students to school every fall is supposed to be an exciting time, replete with the promises of new opportunities for learning and growth. However, in the midst of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, many teachers are preparing more than just their lesson plans as they return to the classroom this year – many are preparing their wills. As one teacher said, “I never would have thought when I become a teacher, I would need to get a will in place in order to go back to work.”

Unfortunately, the approach to school safety has been far from uniform – individual school districts themselves are largely responsible for determining whether and how they will open, and in what capacity. This can create fairly drastic variations from district to district, and some districts have had multiple iterations of re-opening plans or completely reversed course from in-person to remote learning. Some school districts have still pressed forward with in-person education despite explosions of COVID cases. For example, a photo from a Georgia high school recently went viral, showing a crowded hallway filled with teens not wearing masks. Predictably, the school reached over 35 positive cases, but the district is not completely abandoning in-person instruction.

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An elementary school teacher, Frederique Boisyvon, wears a face mask to protect against coronavirus, in a school, in western France. (photo courtesy of Associated Press)

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.

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