Workers Comp Lawyer - Frequently Asked Questions
Yes. The first-time limit has to do with reporting the injury to your employer. The law requires that after an accident, the injured worker has to report the approximate date and place of the occurrence to a supervisory person with the employer, within 45 days of the occurrence. This is a mandatory requirement. The notice can be given orally or in writing.
The second time limit is known as a “statute of limitation”. The “statute of limitation” requires that you file an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Worker’s Compensation Commission within three (3) years of your accident.
Please note that the fact that you may be receiving benefits from your employer, or their insurer, does not mean that your claim has been filed. In order to comply with the law and protect yourself, you need to file official paperwork with the Workers Compensation Commission in Chicago. If a case is not filed before the statute of limitations expires, your case can be dismissed.
Because I am not working as a result of my injuries, I have lost my health insurance coverage for me and my family. Does workers compensation provide any benefits for my lost health insurance coverage?
No, there is nothing in the Worker’s Compensation law that provides benefits for lost health insurance or other fringe benefits.
Just because you have a worker’s compensation case, this does not guarantee your job. You can lose your job, even if you have a pending workers compensation case. The legal issue depends on why the employee is fired. For example, if the employee is fired for punishment or retaliation for making a worker’s compensation claim, this might be improper. However, employers have to run their business. If an employee is off work for long periods of time or has medical restrictions where they can’t fully do their job because a work injury, the employer has the right to terminate their employment and get someone else in to do the job. In this situation, the employee is not being laid off as punishment for making a worker’s compensation claim, but so that the employer can run their business effectively. If the employee is fired for improper purposes, the employee may be able to sue the employer in court, for damages.
You have the right to be seen by two doctors of your own choosing and the referrals from those doctors. Just because you are within your chain of doctors, this does not guarantee that your treatment will be approved and paid by workers compensation. Here’s why: all medical treatment must also be ‘reasonable and necessary”.
Attorney’s fees in workers compensation cases are set by law. The fee is 20% of the gross amount recovered, plus we reimburse ourselves for our out-of-pocket expenses such as photocopying charges to get your medical records. If payment of weekly disability benefits or medical expenses is denied or delayed, and we obtain payment, the law allows a fee of 20% of the disability or medical benefits recovered through our efforts.
It is not possible to value a case until you are finished with your medical treatment and discharged from doctor’s care. Determining the value of a case is like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. There are many factors to consider, including your age and the severity of your injury, whether you had surgery, whether you have work restrictions and other evidence of disability, or had to take a lower paying job.
If you are not capable of returning to your former occupation, workers compensation law requires the employer to provide “vocational rehabilitation” services to you. The vocational rehabilitation process is designed to assist you in finding work in a different career which would maximize your earnings. Often times, the employer will assign a vocational rehabilitation counselor to assist you with these efforts. The vocational rehabilitation counselor is licensed by the state of Illinois. The counselor helps with locating job opportunities, resume writing, interview skill development, and other job seeking skills. But the main responsibility for finding work is not the vocational rehabilitation counselor’s — it is yours. You will be required to search for jobs on your own and to keep a written record of every job contact you make on what are known as “job search logs”. The counselor will require you to meet with him/her on a regular basis (maybe once a month) when you will have to turn in a mandatory number of job searches at each meeting. You will have to aggressively pursue every opportunity for work. You will be entitled to “maintenance” payments while you go through the vocational rehabilitation process. Such “maintenance” is a continuation of your temporary total disability (TTD) benefits, under a different name.
Under the law, the workers compensation insurance company has the right to have you evaluated periodically throughout the course of your case. The insurance company is not having you treat with its doctor. This is simply a consultation for limited purposes; for example, to obtain an opinion on whether your claimed injury is related to the work accident; whether you need testing, therapy or surgery; to decide on work capabilities/restrictions; and to address any other questions that the insurance company may have about your case. This is often referred to as an independent medical examination or “IME”.
Generally, if you have a person has a work injury, the only thing you can do is make a worker’s compensation claim against your employer.
If the injury was caused by the negligence of a third party, you may have two legal claims as a result of the one occurrence. Let me give you an example: Someone misses a stop sign in an intersection and crashes into a delivery driver, who is injured. The delivery driver would have a worker’s compensation case against his employer and a “third party” claim against the driver who missed the stop sign.
The first thing you need to do is report the accident to a supervisor or manager of your employer. This is really important because the law says that you have to report the approximate date and place of the accident to your employer within 45 days. If you don’t, then your case can be denied. It is always best to fill out a written accident report and get a copy for yourself. If you don’t, then you are in a “he said/she said” type of situation, where your employer can deny that you reported it, and you won’t have any solid proof that you did.
The next thing is to go to a doctor right away. Your employer does not have any legal right to tell you where to go for your medical treatment. Go to an orthopedic doctor who specializes in treating the body part that was injured. Going to your family doctor is usually not a good idea, because they don’t have the expertise to deal with bone, joint, nerve or cartilage injuries. Make sure you tell every doctor you go to that the injury happened on the job and explain the details of how the accident occurred!
Next, get a lawyer immediately. The workers compensation insurance company is not on your side. The insurance company is not there to protect you or give you advice for your benefit; it is there to protect its own interests and the interests of the employer by denying or minimizing claims and paying as little as possible.
Workers compensation law allows you three basic benefits: (1) payment of your medical bills, (2) temporary disability while a person is off work, and (3) a “settlement” or “award” for permanent disability caused by the accident (for example, a job change into light duty work, or having medical restriction to avoid certain movements or activities). If you have to take a lower paying job in the future, you may be able to get compensated for lost wages. This is called “wage-differential”.
The injured worker does not get paid for the pain and suffering he/she goes through while going through medical treatment and rehabilitation.
The insurance company has been sending a nurse to all my doctor’s appointments. Are they allowed to do that?
They do not have the absolute right to have a “nurse case manager” go to all your doctor’s appointments. The involvement of a nurse depends on whether we give permission for the nurse to be involved. We generally give our permission, so long as the nurse agrees, in writing, to certain conditions which we require to protect your privacy and to make sure they don’t pressure the doctor.