Illinois Senate Democrats Vote Down Rauner’s Worker’s Compensation Bill

Illinois Governor Rauner attempted to pass a new bill last week that would gut Illinois Workers Compensation Act. The Chicago Tribune reported that the Senate Democrats repeated the effort by their counterparts in the House as they blocked the bill at a Committee hearing.

At the Committee hearing opponents of the bill said the changes, which would toughen standards for an employee to prove an injury happened on the job and cut reimbursement rates for doctors who treat workers, could have “unintended consequences” in which doctors refuse to provide care. Instead, they said more time was needed to gauge savings from a 2011 rewrite of the workers’ compensation system. Democrats contended that Rauner is more concerned with the bottom line than ensuring workers are made whole.

“There seems to be a common corporate view of government here,” said Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park. “You guys seem to always be worried about the next quarterly report … it’s a recurring theme.”

I applaud the Senate Democrats for standing strong against Rauner’s attempt to gut our Workers’ Compensation system in Illinois. What Rauner and his aids refuse to admit is that his changes would immediately affect hard working Illinoisans by limiting the availability to doctors (should they be hurt on the job) and also make it harder to recover benefits at all. He is clearly looking out for the bottom line for insurance companies and corporations.

If you or someone you love has suffered from an Illinois Workers’ Compensation accident or has a Chicago work comp case, then call Chicago Workers’ Compensation Lawyer, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Tips On What To Do If You Are Injured At Work

Being injured at work is a common occurrence and can often be frightening. Several questions can pop up all at once. First and foremost, what is wrong with me and how severe are my injuries? Who is going to pay may medical bills and what if I cannot return to work for a period of time? What if I don’t like the way the company doctor is treating me?

All of these questions are very important, which is why you should always consult with an Illinois workers compensation attorney who can and will protect your rights. Under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act, if an employee is injured on the job, then employer must pay all of the related medical bills and 2/3 of the employees average weekly wage for any time off of work due to the injury. Assuming the injured employee returns to work, then he or she will be owed a permanency award at the end of the case. This is a very basic outline of the benefits involved with workers compensation.

There are multiple things to remember if you suffer from a work injury. Below are list of things that you should and should not do if you are injured at work.

1. Do  report the injury to your supervisor/employer immediately and preferably in writing.

2. Do seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

3. Do give a detailed accident history to your treating physician describing how the work injury occurred.

4. Do have your doctor put any work restrictions in writing and forward to your employer.

5. Do keep your employer updated on your medical treatment and let him or her know if you have been released from treatment or sent back to work.

6. Do not disobey your doctor’s orders concerning treatment, restrictions or return to work.

7. Do not miss any doctor’s appointment or therapy sessions.

If you or someone you love has been involved in an Illinois work accident or has an Illinois workers compensation case, please have them call Chicago work comp attorney, Aaron J. Bryant, at 312-614-1076. I provide free legal consultations and can answer any questions.

 

4 Iron Workers Injured In Chicago Construction Accident

The Chicago Tribune reported today that an iron beam collapsed on a construction site near Lake and Canal streets in downtown Chicago. Two iron workers apparently were on the beam when it collapsed about twenty (20) feet and two others were below the beam.

Two workers were taken in serious-to-critical condition to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, another in serious-to-critical was taken to Stroger Hospital and the fourth, in fair-to-serious condition, was transported to Rush University Medical Center.

It has been reported that the site has been closed down to allow OSHA time to come in and investigate the cause of the construction accident. First and foremost I think the whole city should breathe a sigh of relief that there were no fatal injuries from this accident and that all four workers will be in in our thoughts and prayers for a healthy recovery from any injuries.

Regardless, it is important to point out that each of these workers will be entitled to Illinois workers compensation benefits as a result of their injury. First, each of the workers is entitled to payment of all of their medical bills for treatment related to their work injuries. Second, the workers are entitled to what is called temporary total disability (“TTD”), which is payment directly to them for their time off of work due to these injuries. The payments are equal to 2/3 of their average weekly wages. Finally, assuming the workers go back to full duty after recovering from their injuries, they will be entitled to a permanent partial disability (“PPD”) award, which typically comes in a lump sum.

Another issue to consider for these injured workers is determining who was at fault for this accident. If the OSHA investigation, or any other independent investigation, determines that a third party was at fault for this construction accident, then the injured worker could have a potential civil lawsuit in the circuit court for their personal injuries, lost wages, medical bills and loss of enjoyment of life. It is premature to determine if this construction accident was caused by a third party (a party other than the workers’ employer), but it is common for multiple subcontractors to be present during a major construction project. If so, the injured worker will have both an Illinois workers compensation claim and civil lawsuit against any liable third party subcontractors and/or general contractors.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured at work and has an Illinois workers compensation case or has been involved in a Chicago construction accident, then call Chicago personal injury attorney, Aaron Bryant, for a free legal consultation at 312-614-1076.

Simple DOs and DON’Ts For Illinois Workers Compensation Petitioners

The Illinois Workers Compensation Act has been developed and refined through the years. The basic premise remains the same: the laws were enacted to protect workers who are injured on the job. If you are injured on the job in Illinois, employers are required to provide you with medical treatment and to pay you for any time you miss from work, which is called Temporary Total Disability (or TTD). At the end of the case you are also owed a lump sum award or settlement amount for Permanent Partial Disability (or PPD).  There are also awards and/or settlement amounts for those workers who are no longer able to work (permanent total disability) or are unable work their previous job and thus earning less (wage differential). 

Unfortunately, many workers do not know their rights and some employers and/or insurance companies will not go out of their way to make sure those rights are fulfilled. I always recommend injured workers contact a workers’ compensation attorney to discuss their rights and to make sure they are receiving all of the benefits owed to them under the law. Below is a simple list of DOs and DONT’s if you happen to be injured at work:

-Do report the incident to your employer (or supervisor) immediately, both orally and in writing

-Do seek medical treatment immediately or as soon as
possible

-Do have your doctor list any work restrictions in writing
and forward to your employer

-Do contact a workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your legal options

-Do not disobey your doctor’s orders regarding treatment,
restrictions or return to work

-Do not miss any doctors or therapy appointments unless
unavoidable

-Do not forget to inform your workers comp attorney when
your doctor sends you back to work

-Do not forget to inform your workers comp attorney when
your doctor releases you from care

If you or someone you love has been injured on the job and believes they have an Illinois workers compensation case, then call Chicago workers compensation attorney Aaron Bryant for a free consultation at 312-588-3384 or go to the firm website at www.blgchicago.com. 

A Recap Of Changes To The Illinois Workers Compensation Act

Illinois Workers Compensation reform was a major issue during this year’s Spring legislative session. As of the Sunday before the final day, the bill appeared to have failed, resulting in no changes. But alas, Illinois House legislators worked hard to pass the bill and move forward to Governor Quinn for his signature.  The Chicago Sun times provided an excellent description of how the bill was passed, which can be read here

As an Illinois Workers Compensation attorney that represents Petitioner employees, I first have to ask whether the changes stripped away any rights and protections for Illinois workers.  The short answer is yes. Below are the major changes and how they will affect Illinois workers. My thoughts are in italics.

Section 8(d)(1)
 
The changes to  this section of the Act involve wage differential claims.  The previous law stated that when an employee returns to work with a lower average weekly wage than the wage held prior to being injured,  the worker would be entitled to receive 2/3 of the difference between the two wages every week for the rest of his or her life. The new law states that wage differential claims that occur after September 1, 2011 shall be effective only until the employee reaches the age of 67 or five years from the date the award becomes final, whichever is later.

The new law definitely strips the award potential for Illinois workers, but, in my opinion, this is a not a major blow the rights of Illinois workers. The law still allows for the same award, but it is limited basically to a worker’s retirement age. I would have preferred not to see this change, but it is not a drastic change.

Section 8(e)(9) 

The new law makes specific changes to hand injuries involving carpal tunnel syndrome due to repetitive or cumulative trauma. The new law states that the value of the hand be returned to their pre-2005 scheduled amount of 190 weeks, and places a disability limit of 15% loss of use of the hand in such cases, unless clear and convincing evidence can show an award should exceed this amount. In such cases the award should not exceed 30% loss of use of the hand.

Apparently lawmaker and the insurance company lobbyists believed there was excessive fraud when it came to carpal tunnel syndrome cases. I could not disagree with this change more, but, it must be remembered, that the new law does not eliminate carpal tunnel or repetitive trauma claims, it merely limits them to 15% of the hand and decreases the number of weeks a hand is worth down to 190. The interesting question here is what will qualify as clear and convincing evidence when determining whether and injured hand is worth more than 15%. I would imagine that there is clear and convincing evidence when more than one surgery is performed on the hand and the medical testimony clearly connects all treatment to the work injury. If this is the case, I have to believe that the arbitrators will find that the injury is worth more than 15%. This is one area of the new law to keep a close eye on.

Section 8.2

The new law contains medical fee schedule modifications. The new law states  that if a fee schedule amount is in place, effective September 1, 2011, the charge shall be no more than 70% of the fee scheduled amount. If a fee schedule amount cannot be determined, the default reimbursement shall remain at 76% until September 1, 2011 at which time a 53.2% reimbursement rate shall apply.

Above is just a very brief synopsis, but this is probably the biggest amount of reform in the Act. It basically means that the treating doctors will receive less money pursuant to the new fee schedules.  On its’ face, this change does not directly affect Illinois workers or take away any of their rights. Although, one could argue that, due to the lower fee schedules, fewer doctors will be taking workers compensation patients because they do not want to take lower fees. This could possibly lead to a smaller pool of doctors to choose from an ultimately impact the type and/or quality of treatment  workers receive . It is too early to tell at this point whether this will affect quality of treatment but it is something to follow.

There were many other changes to the Act, but these are the main ones I wanted to point out and discuss. I am not pleased with any changes that strip away workers compensation rights for my clients, but, all in all, it could have been worse, and sometimes you have to compromise with the other side of the aisle.

If you or someone you love has been involved in an Illinois work accident or needs help on their Illinois workers compensation claim, then call Chicago workers comp attorney, Aaron Bryant, for a free consultation at 312-588-3384.

A Response To The Proposed Illinois Workers Compensation Reform

An interesting article was published last week in the State Journal Register  discussing the latest efforts by Republican legislators to stifle Illinois workers’ rights.

According to the Republican brass and the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, current Illinois Workers’ Compensation laws are prohibiting new businesses from starting up in Illinois.  Specifically, Todd Maisch, vice president of government affairs for the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, stated, “we think it (Illinois workers’ compensation ) is stifling job growth. The real insidious effect is that businesses are choosing to create jobs elsewhere.” 

Where is your proof Mr. Maisch?  Where are the studies to support these statements?   Specifically, tell us what businesses have left Illinois or are refusing to locate here because of our Workers’ Compensation system?  What other financial, political or legal constraints were prevalant at the time these supposed companies refused to move here or were forced to leave? 

The problem with blanket statements like the above is that they create stereotypes and assumptions about Illinois’ working class. It creates an assumption that workers are lying about their injuries or trying to defraud the system.  Statements like the above create stereotypes about Illinois workers  are lazy and are looking for a handout.  These stereotypes could not be further from the truth.  I would like these legislatures to meet my client that ruptured his lumbar discs at work lifting a 200 pound piece of equipment and has not been able to work for the last two (2) years. He has been ashamed and emasculated that he is no longer able to support his family.  There is nothing  in the world he would like to do more than to get back to work but his injury and doctors are not allowing him.  I would also like the legislators to meet my client that had a 1,000 pound tire crush his leg and foot.  Three surgeries later he is facing the proposition of having to take pain medication for the rest of his life, and will, no doubt, will never return to the construction trade.  This is not what he signed up for.  

My clients are not trying to defraud the system. They are merely trying to keep their head above water. When the chamber of commerce makes blanket statements, people begin to believe all injured workers  (including my clients) are looking for a free handout.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

If there are workers trying to defraud the system, then draft legislation that will prevent such acts. Do not strip away the rights of the truly injured.

Another portion of the proposed reform would allow employers to have the right to send injured employees to the doctor of their choosing.  This would be an extreme breach of the doctor-patient relationship and Illinois doctors agree.  “One of the biggest things they (proponents of reform) are looking at is taking away patient choice,” said Dr. Steven Malkin, president of the Illinois State Medical Society. “It’s the basic tenet of practicing medicine – the physician-patient relationship.”

By stripping away this right, I believe you are potentially sacrificing the patient’s health in order to save a few dollars.  Why not have an independent treating physician take care of the patient. It will ensure the patient/worker has a better chance of becoming whole and hopefully prevent future injury to the same body parts.

To me the suggested reforms are a fraud, not the workers.

If you or someone you know has been involved in an Illinois work accident  or needs to file an Illinois workers compensation claim , then call Chicago workers compensation attorney, Aaron J. Bryant for a free consultation  at 312-588-3384 or go to the firm website at www.blgchicago.com

What To Do (And Not Do) When Involved In A Work Accident

Work accidents  happen every day throughout Illinois. A work injury  or accident is a serious reality. First and foremost, I recommend being very careful while working as the construction and various labor trades are very dangerous. Regardless, accidents sometimes cannot be avoided. If you do suffer a work injury or work accident  in Illinois, there a certain guidelines to follow, which I have outlined below:

• Do report the work accident  to your employer (or supervisor) immediately , preferably in writing
• Do see a medical professional for treatment as soon as possible
• Do have your doctor put any work restrictions in writing and send it to your employer
• Do inform the hospital or doctor that you were injured at work
• Don’t forget to inform your attorney when you are released by your doctor to return to work
• Don’t disobey your doctor’s orders concerning treatment, restrictions or return to work
• Don’t miss any doctor’s or therapist appointments unnecessarily

The above seem like obvious steps to take when involved in an Illinois work comp  case, but you would be surprised how often injured workers  fail to inform their employers or forget to tell their treating physicians that they were hurt at work. It is important to follow the above guidelines in order to recover from your injury but also to receive the Illinois workers compensation benefits owed to you.

If you or someone know has suffered an Illinois work injury or Chicago work accident, the call Chicago workers compensation attorney, Aaron Bryant, for a free consultation at 312-588-3384 or go to the firm website at www.blgchicago.com