My name is Attorney Keith Schindler, I’m coming to you with another edition of Claim Your Justice via Facebook Live on workers’ compensation. These video sessions aim to give our viewers and the rest of the Facebook community valuable and helpful information on personal injury cases and related personal Injury topics. We welcome positive comments and questions. You can always call us at Claim Your Justice, visit us on the web, or call 847-434-3555.
Today I want to discuss the nuts and bolts of a workers’ compensation case. You go to work, you intend to do your job, and unfortunately, you’re injured while doing your job, within the scope of your employment. Many workers are injured every day. The range of injuries can be from a simple soft-tissue type of back injury where you get physical therapy and injuries requiring surgery. It could be a significant back injury, where you have a herniated disc or related type of spinal condition and need surgery.
Rarely, but it happens, there are cases where a worker is permanently restricted from working. We have a worker’s compensation case where our client suffered an injury at work and is unfortunately in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Then there are also those sad cases where a worker is injured, and the injury results in the worker’s death. These incidents are unfortunate with different degrees of severity, but no one deserves to go to work, be injured on the job, and not get compensated for their injuries.
From a quick historical perspective, workers’ compensation cases grew out of the type of working conditions in the early 1900s when they were building, for example, the Empire State Building. There weren’t many rules regarding worker safety, and workers were being injured, maimed, and killed without getting fair compensation, or for that matter, any compensation for their injuries. That’s the basic evolution of these workers’ compensation cases.
Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state. Essentially, they have their court system to administer the workers’ injury claims. Those cases do not make it to a court or a judge as we understand them in everyday conversation unless they’re appealed outside of the workers’ compensation venue. In Illinois, workers’ compensation cases are filed in the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development in Wisconsin hears worker’s injuries. I’m licensed in both Illinois and Wisconsin. In Kentucky, where one of our attorneys is licensed, those injury cases are heard within the department of workers’ claims. The general rule is that an injured worker is entitled to a few elements of damages. First, they are entitled to compensation for the time they missed from work. Generally, that’s at two-thirds of their regular salary, which is determined by having taxes withheld from your paycheck when you work.
When you’re not working, you don’t have to pay employment taxes, your employer doesn’t have to pay employment taxes, so you get roughly two-thirds of your check. You’re also entitled to get your medical bills paid. That makes sense. There are often disagreements between the worker and the doctors treating the worker and what type of services are needed. That is a discussion for another time, but you’re entitled to get your medical bills paid.
Finally, you’re entitled to compensation for the permanent nature of your injury. Suppose you went to work one day, went home from work, and were no longer able to walk anymore, or now walk with a permanent limp, or experience any permanent injury. In that case, you are entitled to compensation for the permanent nature of those injuries.
When injured on the job, it’s necessary to communicate the injury to your employer. Some people don’t do that. They’re injured on the job and don’t want to miss their paycheck. They don’t understand workers’ compensation rules. They worry that they may be fired if they make a claim.
So, the worker decides to continue going to work. The pain continues to ache throughout their back, shoulder, and ankle daily, but they decide to continue to go to work because they want to get paid. Then a few weeks later, the worker realizes the injury is too severe to work through it and that they need to report it now. They go to their supervisor and explain that they were injured. When the supervisor asks when the injury occurred, and the worker says five weeks ago, it is more complicated.
You can still assert the claim, but it is more difficult to protect the claim. My advice is that when you’re injured, make sure you report it to your supervisor. The best way to do so would be to send an email. Most injuries are reported orally to a supervisor. Then there is typically a report that’s made, and you may be contacted, depending on the size of your company, by the workers’ compensation representative.
The next thing is to seek medical treatment, this is obvious, but there’s a push and pull because companies want to preserve their expenses. The companies don’t necessarily want their workers’ compensation premiums to go up. So, there is sometimes a prejudice, let’s call it, where the employing medical group may say, “Do a little less medical work, maybe take a couple of Advils for a week, let’s see if that fixes your pain.”
Well, that will benefit the employer, not you, the employee. When you get medical treatment, and assuming it’s authorized, it will get paid. If it’s not authorized, the argument points to necessity. If the employer disputes that it was necessary, there are hearings that you can motion up before the commission and present your argument as to why the employer should pay your medical bills.
When you go to a doctor, the doctor will evaluate you and give you a doctor’s work authorization. It could say no lifting more than five pounds, only light work if you’re a truck driver, no driving for more than five miles. Well, that’s not realistic, but it could say that. Your job as the injured worker is to make sure you follow that doctor’s advice.
If the doctor says you should go to work and feel you can’t go to work because you’re too injured, the doctor didn’t authorize you to miss work, and you risk getting fired by your job. You don’t have a valid reason to be missing work. You have a doctor who’s treating you. He’s an expert. He’s a medical doctor, he’s licensed, and he says there is no reason for you not to be working. You, as the employee, say, “I’m injured. I can’t go to work”.
You may face a situation where you get terminated from your job and have difficulty seeking relief for future employment. Remember, it’s not going to affect your workers’ compensation claim, but it could affect your status as an employee with the company. That’s the risk of not following the assignment. There’s also light-duty work. The problem with light-duty work sometimes is that not every job has light-duty available. If you’re a laborer and you’re lifting materials from one part of the warehouse to another part of the warehouse, and your doctor says no lifting over 10 pounds, the employer may not have any light-duty work for you to do.
Make sure you follow the doctor’s advice regarding the work restrictions. Generally, when we get to a settlement on a workers’ compensation case, my clients have completed their treatment. The doctor has determined that the client had something that we call MMI, maximum medical improvement. At that point, I, as the lawyer, can review the medical records and make a proper evaluation as to the entitled compensation for my clients.
If I have a client who requires many more weeks or months of treatment, the employee is not at maximum medical improvement. Therefore, I’m not able to settle their case. Of course, the lawyer and the client have some push and pull because the client wants to get the settlement money right now. I understand that, and we work as quickly as we can. But I’m also not in the business of selling my clients short. I want to make sure I get the maximum compensation for each of you who are my clients.
Please know that workers’ compensation cases can be complex. Many rules apply. I do not recommend that you try to handle workers’ compensation by yourself. There could be a medical treatment that you’re entitled to that you’re not getting. So please call us so you don’t make any mistakes that could cost you your compensation.
If you’re injured in any work, accident, car accident, trip, fall, medical malpractice, or wrongful death, let Claim Your Justice help you. Call 847-434-3555. We’re here to help you Claim Your Justice. Thank you. This has been Keith Schindler, have a successful rest of your week.
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