March 31, 2011

Federal Government Investigating State’s Handling of Its Own Employees' Illinois Workers’ Compensation Claims

Investigators from the federal government have opened a criminal investigation into the way the Illinois government deals with its employee’s workers’ compensation claims. Prosecutors in Fairview Heights and Springfield put out subpoenas last month asking for Illinois workers’ compensation claims that its government workers have submitted since 2006. The subpoenas were sent to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Department of Insurance, the Department of Central Management Services, and the Department of Corrections.

The investigation comes following a report by the Belleville News-Democrat that since 389 prison employees were paid over $10 million in Illinois workers’ compensation since 2008. 230 of the claimants were guards who said they suffered repetitive-stress injuries from manually unlocking and locking the doors of prisoner cells.

One subpoena presented called for records that were any way related to Illinois workers’ compensation claims filed by workers at the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Human Services, Central Management Services, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Department of Health Care and Family Services, the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and the Office of the Executive Inspector General. Emails, reimbursement documents, and personnel records related to John Dibble and Jennifer Teague, two Workers’ Compensation Commission arbitrators who were placed on paid administrative leave last month, were also requested.

Teague allegedly tried to keep the media away from the public hearing about ex-Illinois State Trooper Matt Mitchell’s worker’s compensation claim. Mitchell was the trooper whose vehicle hit two autos in November 2007, including one carrying the Uhl sisters. The Collinsville teenagers who died from their injuries. Teague would go on to deny Mitchell’s work injury claim seeking benefits. He is now appealing her decision.

The subpoenas also have requested records for arbitrator Andrew Nalefski, ex-Illinois attorney general’s office employee Bill Schneider, and CMS employee Susan J. LeMasters. Schneider dealt with Illinois workers’ compensation cases on behalf of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office.

Illinois Workers’ Compensation
Our Chicago workers’ compensation law firm is dedicated to making sure that injured employees get all of the work injury benefits that they are owed. If you are injured on the job, your employer’s insurer should pay you Illinois workers’ compensation benefits. It doesn’t matter who was at fault.

Feds open wide-scale probe into state workers compensation claims, Chicago Sun-Times, April 1, 2011

Ia href="">Illinois workers' comp under scrutiny, ABC Local, March 31, 2011

Feds reviewing Illinois workers' comp in wake of BND investigation, BND/AP, March 31, 2011

Related Web Resources:
Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

Illinois Department of Central Management Services

More Blog Posts:
Review of Denied Illinois Workers’ Compensation Claim Requested by Ex-State Trooper Involved in Car Crash that Killed Uhl Sisters, Chicago Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog, March 24, 2011

House Votes to Audit State Employees' Illinois Workers’ Compensation Claims, Chicago Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog, March 17, 2011

Over $1.5M in Illinois Workers’ Compensation Paid to Correctional Guards for Repetitive Strain Injuries, Chicago Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog, December 15, 2010

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November 24, 2010

Illinois Workers’ Compensation: Fingertip Injury Warrants Permanent Partial Disability Award

The Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission says that a journeyman ironworker’s fingertip injury merits a 20% permanent partial disability award for loss of use (rather than 35%). Finger pain, high sensitivity in the injured area, and the sensation of coldness are among the evidence to sufficiently support the award.

The ironworker got hurt while working as a ground man. At the time, he was working with a crane and a group of other workers to raise 100-pound joists. The tip of the claimant's left finger was ripped off when a coworker pushed one of the joists that he was aligning. Per medical records, the ironworker suffered a 4-centimeter fingertip laceration.

After returning to work while having limited use of his left hand, the claimant continued to experience pain inside his fingertip. He says that he hasn’t received medical care for his injury since after the work accident and that whenever his finger hits against an object he feels pain. The claimant said that his doctor “talked him out" of seeing a hand surgeon.

Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
Permanent partial disability refers to the partial or complete loss or loss of use of a body part or the entire body as a whole. “Loss of use” refers to the worker’s inability to do certain tasks that he/she would have been able to prior to sustaining the work injury. PPD benefits are Illinois workers' compensation benefits that are paid to a worker after it becomes clear that his/her disability will not get better.

Ironworker secures PPD benefits for fingertip injury, Risk and Insurance, January 22, 2010

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January 28, 2010

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission Holds that State’s Department of Human Services and a Vendor are Liable as Joint Employers for the Employee’s Work Injuries

If an employee gets hurt while working for a vendor under an Illinois-operated program and the state and the vendor both benefit from the work and oversee certain aspects of the employee’s work, then the vendor and the state of Illinois are liable for the worker’s injuries as joint employees under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is affirming this finding, which was made by an arbitrator.

The case, Day v. Illinois, State of/Dept. of Human Services, involves an employee who got hurt while working as a replacement manager. The vendor had hired him under a program run by the Illinois Department of Human Services called the Business Enterprise Program for the Blind. The worker abided by the regulations and rules as outlined in the vendor’s licensing agreement.

As joint employers at the time of the work accident, the vendor oversaw and controlled the worker’s daily tasks at the facility, while the DHS trained the worker in the running of the facility and was entitled to monitor his work. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission agreed with the arbitrator that there was significant evidence in the licensing agreement that the DHS was entitled to control the employee’s work.

Do NOT give up hope if your employer has decided to deny paying you Illinois workers’ compensation benefits. Most workers in the state are entitled to work injury benefits in the event of any kind of work-related illness or injury. Unfortunately, many workers are unaware of their legal options and end up settling for less than what they are entitled to get under state law. This is where an experienced Chicago, Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer can step in.

Worker proves joint employment with vendor, State of Illinois, RIsk and Insurance, January 21, 2010

Related Web Resources:

Illinois Department of Human Services

Illinois Workers' Compensation Act

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January 24, 2010

State Supreme Court Says Company Must Keep Paying Illinois Workers’ Compensation Benefits to Employee Who Was Fired

According to the Illinois Supreme Court, an employer has to keep paying workers’ compensation for temporary total disability benefits owed to an injured worker, even if he was fired from his job for misconduct. This obligation must continue until the former employee’s medical condition becomes stable and he achieves maximum medical improvement.

The former worker, carpenter Jeff Urban, sustained work-related neck, head, and back injuries in 2003 while working for Interstate Scaffolding Inc. In 2005, Urban was involved in a short, heated dispute with another worker. The company then fired him for the use of religious slogans to deface company property.

Interstate refused to pay Urban his Illinois workers’ compensation benefits after they let him go. A workers’ compensation arbitrator sided with Urban’s employer.

However, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission disagreed, finding that the former employee should receive $1,004.41/week in temporary disability benefits. The company appealed, but a circuit court affirmed the commission’s decision. An appeals court then reversed the ruling and that is when the workers’ compensation case was brought before the Illinois Supreme Court.

Amicus briefs were filed by the Illinois Assn. of Defense Trial Counsel, the Illinois AFL-CIO, and the Illinois Self-Insurers Assn. Those who supported Urban argued that continued payment of work injury benefits shouldn’t be determined by whether a worker has been fired. Rather, the determining factor should be whether the injury has stabilized.

The Illinois Supreme Court says that although employers can fire at-will workers regardless of whether or not they have cause, this should have no effect on an employee's workers’ compensation case.

Illinois Workers’ Compensation
If you have been denied work injury benefits, do not despair. There may be other legal remedies available to you. Most workers injured on the job are entitled to Illinois workers’ compensation benefits.

Fired worker owed comp benefits: Illinois high court, Business Insurance, January 22, 2010

Read the Illinois Supreme Court Opinion (PDF)

Related Web Resource:
Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

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October 27, 2009

Illinois Workers' Compensation: Appeals Court in Chicago Affirms that Worker Injured While Playing Wallyball is Entitled to Benefits

In Chicago, the First District Appellate Court says that an Elmhurst Park District employee who got hurt in 2002 while playing Wallyball is indeed entitled to receive Illinois workers’ compensation benefits for his injury. Sean Murphy sought work injury benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act after he injured his right leg. His employer countered by citing section 11, which prevents workers from recovering benefits from work accidents that occurred during voluntary recreational programs (unless participation was mandatory).

Murphy, however, says on the day he was injured, an off-duty co-worker asked him to play the game. He refused but the co-worker pushed him into participating by saying the game wouldn’t take place otherwise due to a shortage of players. Murphy, a fitness supervisor, says his job included promoting and implementing programs and classes for patrons.

An arbitrator found that section 11 wasn’t applicable to this DuPage County workers’ compensation case because Murphy was doing his job. He was awarded temporary total disability benefits for seven weeks and two days. The arbitrator also awarded him, for the 25% loss of use of his leg, 50 weeks of permanent partial disability benefits.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, a Cook County Circuit Judge, and the state appellate panel affirmed the arbitrator’s findings.

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Injuries on the job can be very painful and costly. Because you cannot sue your employer for Chicago personal injury, it is important that you receive all of the workers’ compensation benefits you are owed. Sometimes, an employer will try to delay or deny benefits.

Man's Wallyball Injury Leads to Workers' Comp, Courthouse News, October 26, 2009

Panel: Playing wallyball part of the job for injured worker, All Business/Chicago Daily Law Bulletin, October 6, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Elmhurst Park District

American WallyBall Association

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October 17, 2009

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission Says Casino Worker’s Back Injury Was Aggravated By Dealing Cards

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission held and adopted an arbitrator’s decision that dealing at a stand-up card game aggravated a casino dealer’s back injury. The worker was awarded workers' compensation benefits, which included temporary total disability, medical costs, legal fees, and penalties.

The casino dealer said that she sustained a compensable back injury while doing her job. She claimed that she had to twist her upper torso so she could use her left hand to draw the cards from a dispenser that was placed on her right side.

Her doctor said that the repetitive twisting and bending she was required to do as a card dealer aggravated an old back injury. An expert testifying for the casino disagreed and said that the dealer’s work duties were only a minor contributing factor.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, however, found that the testimonies of the employee and the orthopedic specialist were enough evidence to prove that the casino dealer had suffered a repetitive stress injury that was work-related.

Employees must protect workers from injuries on the job. However, regardless of who caused the injury or neglected to do enough to prevent the injury from happening, Illinois workers’ compensation law provides injury benefits to most workers.

In the event that a dispute arises between an employee who says an injury was caused by work and the employer who is disputing the claim, an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer can help you resolve your claim and protect your right to receive your work injury benefits. In some instances, a case will have to go through arbitration or be heard by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Casino dealer wins benefits for back condition, Risk and Insurance, October 15, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

Related Web Resources:
Illinois Workers' Compensation Act

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September 4, 2009

Company Sues Insurance Company for Denying Illinois Workers’ Compensation Benefits to Employee

Rehkemper and Sons is suing its insurance provider for refusing to provide an employee with Illinois workers’ compensation benefits. The worker, Michael Gray, was hurt during a work accident on August 8, 2005.

Gray claims that the work accident caused him to injure his back, neck, and arms. He filed a work injury claim to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Rehkemper submitted the claim to its insurer, Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company. Rehkemper, a roof and floor trussing company, says that per its policy with Indiana Lumbermens, bodily injury per work accident is covered up to $500,000.

Indiana Lumbermens, however, has said it will not cover Gray’s claim.

Now, Rehkemper’s lawsuit wants an Illinois court to find the insurer in breach of its insurance policy. It is also asking that the defendant be made to defend and indemnify the plaintiff from the workers’ compensation claim that Gray has filed.

Rehkemper says that its policy with Indiana Lumbermens gives the roof and floor trussing company the right to secure the insurer’s defense if Rehkemper is targeted by work injury claims that are covered under the policy. Gray’s workers’ compensation complaint is currently pending before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

Unfortunately, time and again, there are workers who are denied their Chicago workers’ compensation benefits by an employer and/or its insurance company. Workers need their workers’ compensation benefits in order to pay for the medical and recovery costs, as well as living expenses, incurred from injuries sustained on the job.

Rehkemper and Sons sues over denied work comp case, St. Clair Record, September 3, 2009

Related Web Resources:
Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company

Rehkemper and Sons

Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

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August 26, 2009

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Benefits Awarded to Mechanic Who Sustained Burn Injuries that Developed Staph Infection

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has awarded workers’ compensation benefits to a mechanic who sustained burn injuries during a work accident. The worker, who was a diabetic, sustained burn injuries to both arms and his abdomen while on the job.

Over six months after the work accident, the mechanic developed a staph infection in his elbow. His infection was treated with antibiotics and he was admitted to the hospital.

The worker claimed that there was a causal connection between his work accident and his staph infection. The doctor of his employer denied that there was a relationship between the two. The physician, however, did acknowledge that because the mechanic had diabetes, he was more likely to sustain a staph infection.

The IWCC adopted the findings of the arbitrator that the Illinois work accident might have or could have been a cause of the staph infection. The commission said that just because the staph infection occurred over six months after the work accident doesn’t mean the two aren’t linked—especially when the worker had open wounds and was suffering from a condition that increased the chances that a staph infection might arise.

Staph Infections
This type of bacteria can be harmless, unless it enters the body, such as through a wound or broken skin. While many types of staph infections are easily treatable, they can prove harmful should the bacteria enter the bloodstream. The heart, lungs, bones, blood, central nervous system, and other parts of the body may become infected.

Illinois Workers’ Compensation
Illinois law requires employers to provide employees with injury benefits. This should, ideally, be a done deal anytime that a worker is injured while doing their job. Unfortunately, incidents will arise when an employer and/or the insurer might try to get out of paying these benefits.

It’s hard enough getting hurt and having to take time off from work so you can deal with recovering without having to worry about how you are going to pay for your medical costs and living expenses, as well as support your family.

There are ways to fight for your right to receive all of the work injury benefits that you are owed.

Mechanic links staph infection to work injury despite diabetes, Risk and Insurance, August 20, 2009

Staff Infections, Mayo Clinic

Related Web Resources:
Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

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August 15, 2009

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Benefits Should Be Given to Worker Who Was Injured When Ramming into Vending Machine to Dislodge Snack, Says Appellate Court

The Illinois Appellate Court says that a Circuit City employee who got hurt when helping a co-worker get a stuck bag of chips from a vending machine should receive workers’ compensation benefits. The decision reverses a Circuit Court judge’s ruling that Clinton Dwyer shouldn’t receive work injury benefits.

Dwyer sustained a fracture when, after failing to dislodge the bag of chips by shaking the machine, he pushed into it using his hip and shoulder. He fell.

X-rays show that Dwyer sustained a fractured hip. He went to a Chicago hospital to undergo surgery. Dwyer filed for Illinois workers’ compensation benefits but Circuit City denied his claim.

Citing the “personal comfort doctrine,” the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission awarded the work injury compensation to Dwyer. Under the doctrine, certain personal activities designed for a worker’s comfort, such as eating, are covered under Illinois workers’ compensation law.

Circuit City appealed and the McHenry County Circuit Court sided with the company.

The appeals court, however, reversed the circuit court’s ruling. Rather than citing the personal comfort doctrine, the court noted the Good Samaritan Doctrine, which lets a worker step away from his work responsibilities to help another worker. The court also noted that others had experienced problems with the vending machine and said that Dwyer wasn’t in violation of any company policy when he shook the machine.

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Benefits
You generally cannot sue your employer for Chicago personal injury, which is why you are supposed to receive Illinois workers’ compensation benefits if you get hurt on the job. However, there are cases when an Illinois company might decide to deny a worker his or her injury benefits. The best way to make sure that you receive the work injury benefits that you are owed is to have an experienced Chicago workers’ compensation lawyer representing you.

Worker attacked by snack machine sues for comp, Safety News Alert, June 12, 2009

Circuit City Stores Inc. v. Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (PDF)

Related Web Resources:
Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission

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