Do I really need a lawyer?

I am often asked this question during my initial meeting with clients.

In response to this question, I often reflect on my own plumbing experiences where, after buying all the required parts and following the directions, invariably a leak appears.
When I finally call a plumber, the work is done in a fraction of the time and there are no leaks. Why? Because the plumber possesses knowledge and experience in his profession. The same is true with legal representation by an attorney in the area of law for which he is hired, such as workers compensation.

Unless you know the law and have handled cases on a daily basis for years, you cannot know if you are receiving everything to which you are entitled under the law, including the potential trial or settlement value of your case. This is particularly important in light of a number of “employer friendly” changes to the Illinois Workers Compensation Act that became effective in September. 2011.

Hiring an experienced workers compensation lawyer to represent you in a claim is a simple process – the initial consultation is always free and, with few exceptions, the attorney’s statutory 20% contingency fee is paid out of the final award or settlement.

I keep hearing a lot about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. What is it and can it be caused by my work?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passage in the wrist formed by the carpal bones and the transverse carpal ligament through which travel nine flexor tendons and the median nerve. Carpal Tunnel Syndrome occurs when the median nerve is compressed against the transverse carpal ligament, causing pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the fingers, hand and sometimes the arm.

While there are a number of causes and/or risk factors for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, it has generally been understood and accepted that Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can be caused by trauma or jobs that involve highly repetitive tasks and/or improper ergonomics. Examples are assembly line work, cashier or keyboard use.

Under certain circumstances, if you are diagnosed with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and it was caused or aggravated by your work, you may be entitled to benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

Is there a time limit for filing a workers’ compensation claim with the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission?

Yes. A claim must be filed within three (3) years after the accident or within two (2) years following the last payment of weekly compensation (not including medical), whichever is later. If death occurs as a result of the accident, claims must be filed within three (3) years of the death, within two (2) years of the last date of payment of weekly compensation, or within three (3) years of the date of the last payment of compensation under the Occupational Diseases Act, whichever is later. For radiation and asbestos exposure, you essentially have 25 years after the date of last exposure to file a claim.
If you sustain a work injury you should consider filing a claim before the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission if you do not receive the benefits to which you believe you are entitled, or if you believe that you may need future medical or that your disability may worsen.

What benefits are available under workers’ compensation if I am hurt on the job?

If you are injured at work, you are generally entitled to first aid, medical and hospital care necessary to treat your injury.  In addition, you are entitled to receive two-thirds (66 2/3%) of your average weekly wages while you are temporarily and totally disabled and medically authorized to be off from work.  These benefits are known as Temporary Total Disability, or TTD.  If you are found to be permanently disabled as a result of your injury, you are entitled to benefits known as Permanent Partial Disability, or PPD.  In the case of death, your dependents may be entitled to death benefits as provided for by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

If I sustain a work injury, can my employer ask me to undergo a medical evaluation by a medical doctor of their choosing?

Yes.  Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, your employer or their representative has the right to ask you to be examined by a doctor of their choice and, even though their doctor may differ or disagree with your treating physician, your employer or their representative has the right to base their decisions and actions in your claim on their doctor’s opinion.

The requested examination must be scheduled at a reasonable time and place.  Your employer pays for this examination.  Your employer must also pay for travel expenses and meals reasonably incurred.  Furthermore, you and your attorney are entitled to a copy of the examination report.

If injured on the job, can I choose my own doctor and is there a limit to the number of doctors my employer must pay for?

You may seek, and your employer is liable for, medical treatment from two doctors of your own choosing for a particular injury.  You may also consult and treat with doctors to whom you are referred by your first two doctors.  If you go beyond the two doctors of your own choosing and those to whom they refer you, this treatment is at your own expense, including all prescriptions, tests or hospital care that the additional doctor orders.  The two doctor limit does not include doctors your employer asks you to consult.

It is generally in your best interest to select your own physician, surgeon and hospital rather than an employer appointed doctor, as your doctor will hold your interests foremost.