Chicago Workers' Compensation Lawyer
Representation for Seriously Injured Workers
Were you injured on the job? If so, you are covered by workers' compensation from the moment you began working. An employee who is injured during the course of performing work duties is almost always eligible for workers' comp benefits. However, depending upon the severity of the work injuries or illness suffered while on the job, the benefits provided by the system may vary greatly.
Your workers' compensation benefits may include:
- Reasonable medical care to cure or relieve the injury;
- TTD benefits (temporary total disability) paid during the period of recovery;
- TPD benefits (temporary partial disability) for workers on lighter duties during the period of recovery;
- PTD benefits (permanent total disability) for workers that are injured to the degree that work is no longer possible;
- Vocational rehabilitation benefits in approved programs;
- Death benefits for the surviving family members for work-related fatalities.
Injured workers often assume that there will be no problem getting benefits; but in many cases, it can be much more difficult than expected. Employers dispute certain cases, often claiming that the injuries are either exaggerated or happened outside the workplace.
As a result, the injured employee is sometimes left struggling without income and is forced to appeal the insurance company's decision. These are usually complex cases involving the submission of evidence, and they may require appearances at hearings. If you or a loved one was seriously injured at work, it is imperative that you seek legal help to assist you.
At Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC, we have extensive experience with all aspects of the workers' compensation system in Illinois. We fight for the rights of injured workers. Call us at (800) 996-4824 immediately for assistance after a work-related injury or illness.
Understanding the Different Types of Disability
There are four different types of disability you might be able to qualify for, depending on the severity of injuries and how long they will affect your well-being.
- Temporary Partial Disability: This refers to injuries that require time to heal, but from which you will be able to make a full recovery. You can typically go back to work with these injuries, but you cannot perform your usual duties and therefore cannot earn your previous wage during recovery.
- Temporary Total Disability: This too refers to injuries that can be fully recovered from. Total disability pays for injuries that are so severe that you cannot return to work in any capacity, and therefore cannot earn any wage.
- Permanent Partial Disability: These injuries are so serious that full recovery will never be possible, such as the loss of a limb or eye. You can return to work with these types of injuries, but you are not able to perform the same tasks as before and so experience a loss of some wages.
- Permanent Total Disability: This refers to injuries so serious that you will never fully recover, such as the loss of multiple limbs or both eyes. These injuries are so severe that you cannot return to work in any capacity and cannot earn any kind of wage.
Time Limits to Report a Work Injury in Illinois
Under the present Illinois workers’ compensation laws, you have 45 days to notify your employer that you were injured on the job or had a work-related accident. Period. No allowances are made if you forgot or just didn’t know about this time limit. So the very best advice is always to tell your company right away whenever you suffer an injury, whether large or small. When you tell your employer about the problem, it doesn’t mean that you have to sue them or that you have to file a workers’ compensation claim for compensation. It just means that you have preserved your right to do so later if you choose. That’s all.
This hard and fast 45 day limit certainly applies anytime that there is a specific, single accident. Examples of specific events include if a package falls off a shelf onto your head, if you cut yourself, if you bend down to pick something up and you feel a pain, or if you break a bone. In each of these cases, you would clearly know that something bad just happened and under workers’ compensation laws in Illinois, the clock begins to tick. You must then notify your employer within 45 days to be protected.
But some exceptions do exist. Not all work injuries are the result of a single event. For example, repetitive stress or trauma injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) often take many years to appear. Similarly, occupational diseases, cancers and illnesses do not just appear overnight. Exposure to asbestos and chemicals slowly progress over long time periods before problems appear.
What if My Workers' Compensation Claim is Denied?
A workers' compensation claim, like any insurance claim, can be denied by the insurer for a number of reasons. If you feel your claim has been unfairly denied, then you can file an appeal to argue your case further. You should not try to file an appeal by yourself, but instead contact an experienced workers' compensation lawyer to help you understand the process and protect your rights. When you appeal a claim, you will need to demonstrate why your claim is valid and show that the insurer was wrong to deny it. In some instances, there may even be an act of bad faith from the insurer that might open them up to additional civil litigation, which an experienced lawyer can recognize and help you with if appropriate.
Workplace Accidents: Third-Party Claims in Chicago
Workers' compensation benefits are often inadequate, as only a portion of the wages you were earning are compensated. But in some workplace accidents, a third party may be either fully or partially responsible for the injuries. Faulty equipment, electrical accidents, and other situations may have led to the injuries you suffered. In cases of third party negligence, a separate claim can also be filed against that party to seek compensation beyond the benefits from the state workers' compensation system. You owe it to yourself to discuss your case with us. We are prepared to help you fight for every form of compensation available to you.
Can I File a Lawsuit?
While worker's compensation is designed to cover just about any injury at a workplace, regardless of negligence or liability, there are typically stricter requirements for filing a lawsuit that has a chance of rewarding damages. For any civil suit to be successful, liability and negligence need to be proven. This can be difficult to do without an experienced lawyer to represent you.
Liability means that a party is responsible for damages that occurred to a person or property, typically through an act, or failure to act, of negligence. Negligence demonstrates that a person or company knew about a risk or danger and failed to act in a reasonable way to prevent injury. For example, falling from a scaffolding at a construction site can cause a serious injury covered by worker's compensation, but might not be the result of negligence and therefore the property owner or construction company is not liable for civil damages. If, however, the fall was due to a scaffold that was improperly stabilized or needed to be replaced, and the owner knew about the issue but failed to act to resolve it, then liability may be provable and a civil suit is worth pursuing.
OSHA Violations and Workers' Compensation
In Chicago and the rest of the United States, OSHA has set strict rules and guidelines for how most workplaces must be run, and how potentially dangerous machinery and chemicals need to be used and kept. Businesses that violate these rules can open themselves up to fines and other punishments from OSHA and the government. These kinds of violations do not typically impact workers' compensation, since the compensation is provided based on injury and without regard to blame for an injury or accident. OSHA violations can be used to provide evidence for negligence and liability in a civil claim, however, so they are worth noting if an injury does occur. Violating policies on the use of drugs and alcohol at the workplace can cause the denial of a workers' compensation claim, so these rules should always be followed.
The Insurance Company Is Already Paying Me Workers' Comp, So My Rights Are Protected. Right?
Here is an all-too-common scenario: You suffer a work injury and notify your employer. The employer contacts their insurance company, who immediately jumps into action and reaches out to you. They say that they're going to take care of everything and you should have no worries. Everything is going to be so smooth that you won't even need a Chicago workers' compensation lawyer. Then, the insurer begins to pay you your lost time from work and covers all your medical bills. Sounds good. But is it? Most likely not.
The Insurance Company Isn't on Your Side
Without a doubt, your employer's insurance company is not your friend or partner. They are not your insurance company at all. They were hired by your employer just in case anyone ever became injured to protect them from monetary exposure. And now that you have been injured, the insurance company stands to lose many thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Is the insurance company in the business of giving away money? Do they want to do whatever is fair even if it might mean paying out hundreds of thousands of dollars? What do you think? Like any other big business, insurance companies make the most money when they pay out the least.
Illinois Workers' Comp Statute of Limitations
Oftentimes, the insurer jumps in and begins to pay out lost time and medical bills specifically so that the injured worker believes that he or she is being taken care of properly. But, all the while, the clock is ticking. The statute of limitations (which is the time limit for filing a workers' comp claim) is slowly expiring. If the time expires before the worker hires a lawyer to file a claim (called an application for adjustment of claim) in the special court for worker's comp cases (called the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission and previously known as the Illinois Industrial Commission), then time will run out.
Who is Going to Pay My Medical Bills?
If you were injured on the job, then chances are that you and your case may be protected under the Illinois workers' compensation laws. Not every work-related injury is covered, but if it arose out of and in the course of your employment, then chances are that it can be covered. One of your most important immediate concerns may be getting your medical bills covered. You may have been taken to the emergency room, required an emergency surgery, or you may be undergoing therapy of some sort.
Workers' Comp and Medical Bills
Even if you're covered by your own health insurance which is paying these bills, you would probably prefer that your employer's insurance company pick up the tab, not your personal health insurer. But, if you're not covered and the medical providers are looking to you personally for payment, you may have big concerns.
After all, you want to get better – and to get better, you may need the help of expensive doctors and hospitals. But, you don't want to forgo treatment just because it's expensive. You're entitled to good medical help no matter what it costs when you've been injured on the job.
What Do I Need To Know About Workers' Compensation and Job Security?
The vast majority of injured workers are concerned about the effect of a workers' compensation claim on their continued employment. In fact, such questions are among the most common when a prospective client initially calls our office. The typical person might say something like this: "I've been injured on the job and I want to be properly paid for my injuries, but I don't want to get fired if I put in a claim. So, I'm not sure I want to file a case."
This is because most workers incorrectly assume that if they hire a lawyer to pursue financial compensation for their injuries, the money will come directly out of their employer's bank account, which will make their boss mad and then they will then get fired. This is generally not true. The vast majority of companies have workers' compensation insurance specifically for this purpose and the benefits do not come out of their employer's pocket. Even so, you should never expect an employer to tell you it's a good idea to file a claim with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission or that you "shouldn't worry about it." But, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't file.
Filing for Workers' Comp Should Not Affect Your Job Status
Most injured workers don't encounter any issues at all on the job once they file. Most employers know that the law provides you with these benefits and seeking such benefits are simply your legal right. As a matter of fact, once the application for adjustment of claim is filed with the IWCC, it is even less likely that you will encounter any problems. That is because a company that fires an employee after the filing of a workers' comp claim may be sued for what is called "retaliatory discharge." Employers and their lawyers know this and stay clear of such potential lawsuits.
What Does a Chicago Workers' Comp Attorney Cost?
The simple answer is that a workers' compensation attorney, such as those at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC, cost zero dollars unless the lawyer wins on your behalf. There are many types of legal cases that do involve paying a lawyer hourly for work and there are other types of cases that often involve paying the lawyer a set dollar amount for each day in court. But workers' compensation cases in Illinois are done on what is called a "contingency" basis. What this means is that the lawyer will not charge any fee at all unless the law firm is successful on your behalf and gets you a monetary settlement or award. Then when the case is completely over and the settlement money has been received, the attorney would be paid a certain percentage as previously agreed to with the client.
Other types of injury cases such as car accidents and medical malpractice are also typically performed on a contingency basis as well, although the percentage for those types of cases is usually a larger percentage. But the attorney fee percentage for workers' comp is limited by the law to only 20%, so the client will pay a lower fee to the lawyer in the end. That means more settlement money goes to the injured worker.
At Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC, We Work on a Contingency Fee Basis
This type of contingency fee is the best of both worlds for our clients. It means that you do not have to pay a single penny to the lawyer until your case is successful, and not a moment sooner. It doesn't matter how long or how hard the lawyer works on your case. Only if you win will there ever be an attorney fee. For this same reason, you also know that the lawyer will try his or her absolute hardest to get you the maximum monetary recovery for your injuries. Call Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC at (800) 996-4824 for free further information about how we can help.
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