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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

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What are my rights if I get hurt at work in Illinois?

Your employer has several obligations under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act when you are injured during the course of your employment. First, you are entitled to have your medical expenses paid, as well as the right to choose your doctor. You also should receive a weekly check equal to 66 percent, or two-thirds, of your average weekly earnings. Once your physical condition has stabilized and you have reached what is known as “maximum medical improvement” from your injuries, you have the right to receive a lump sum equal to the permanent disability that has resulted from the injury. In certain circumstances, such as when your injury prevents you from working again or when you are unable to earn the same amount as before you were injured, you are entitled to what is known as a permanent total disability award or a wage differential award.

The Chicago attorneys at the Epstein Law Firm are ready to help maximizing your workers’ compensation recovery. In many cases, an injured worker’s employer will not pay the correct amount of the weekly temporary total disability checks or will delay payment of medical bills. Also, some employers and their insurance companies will attempt to negotiate directly with the injured worker and offer a small amount of money then tell the injured worker that hiring an attorney will only “take money out of their pocket.” That is a lie. Do not be fooled. Please call us with the details of your injury to learn more about your options.

I'm afraid to call a lawyer because I don't have a green card or a valid social security number. Can I still be helped?

Every person working in the state of Illinois has the same rights under our Illinois law, whether it is an injury at work, car accident, slip and fall, construction accident or other personal injury. You are permitted and entitled to recover benefits or damages regardless of immigration status. In fact, the Illinois Supreme Court has stated that an employer cannot deny an employee workers’ compensation benefits because of his or her status as an undocumented alien. Other cases extend that protection to automobile accident lawsuits. You should never be afraid to speak to an attorney because of your immigration status. The Epstein Law Firm specializes in working with undocumented aliens and we welcome you to contact our office to speak to us in confidence. We would never reveal your undocumented status to any person or entity without your consent and we always maintain your personal information in the strictest of confidence – whether you decide to hire our firm or decide to look for a different attorney.

How long do I have before I must bring an action or file suit?

An injury that occurs in Illinois is governed by a limitations period known as a “statute of limitations.” That means that you must file your case before a certain time period or you will lose your right to file the case. Generally, in Illinois, the time limit to file a workers’ compensation case is three years, and two years for a negligence lawsuit such as an auto accident or an action against a general contractor that is not your employer. However, these limitations period may be extended, sometimes by many years. Also, every case is different and that is why it is vitally important that you contact an attorney to discuss the details of your injury claim.

The Chicago attorneys at the Epstein Law Firm provide a free consultation to discuss whether a case should be filed, and will help you evaluate whether the limitations period has expired or can be extended. If you have been injured, you should contact us immediately. Quick action will help to gather and preserve evidence, including photos and video evidence. Our office will also assist you if you do not have a doctor and require a recommendation. Do not wait even one day as some limitations periods can be less than two years – some even as short as six months.

I do not speak English or my English is limited. Do your attorneys speak Spanish?

Many of our clients speak only Spanish. Every one of our employees speaks, reads and writes Spanish fluently. Jack Epstein, our principal attorney also speaks Spanish. This is a great advantage as you can speak directly to your attorney without a translator.

The attorneys at the Epstein Law Firm are available to speak to you in Spanish or English. We have evening or night appointments and the first consultation is free.

Can my employer or the workers’ compensation insurance company refuse to authorize my medical treatment?

Unfortunately, your employer and its insurance company will routinely refuse to authorize medical care after a work-related accident. These actions may or may not be legal depending on the factual or legal situation. Of course, many times employer and their insurance company have no legal or factual justification for the denial of medical treatment. The best approach is to contact an attorney to discuss your particular case. Generally, an employer or their insurance company may delay or deny medical treatment because they say they are investigating the case or because they want to confirm the matter is a work-related condition. Many times, an employer or its insurance company unreasonably delays their investigation.

The insurance company may demand that you attend an independent medical evaluation (IME) with a doctor hired by the insurance company to provide a medical opinion relative to your condition. Of course, many of these doctors are not at all “independent” and provide opinions in favor of the insurance company. The IME doctors earn a tremendous amount of money each year from insurance companies by providing the insurance company with medical opinions that will help the insurance company defend and defeat a worker’s claim. These doctors are not subject to malpractice rules as they work only for the insurance company. Challenging these opinions is complicated, and should your case be denied based upon such an opinion, you should consult a knowledgeable attorney to assist you in preparing your case for arbitration.

Also, your employer and its insurance company may request a Utilization Review (known as “UR”) of proposed medical treatment and may refuse to authorize treatment which is not approved through the utilization review process. Utilization review is not a final decision and may be appealed by your doctor or may be reversed by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission through arbitration. You should consult with an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorney to determine the best course of action to obtain quality medical treatment.

How are disputes or disagreements between an injured worker and the employer/workers’ compensation insurance company resolved in the Workers’ Compensation System?

Disputes between an injured worker and its employer and insurance company are resolved by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The first stage of the process is known as an arbitration hearing. The arbitration hearing is a legal proceeding wherein the injured worker appears before an Arbitrator appointed by the Governor of Illinois and testifies and submits medical evidence in support of his or her claim. The attorney hired by the insurance company will cross examine the injured worker and may present witness of their own. Medical records and other documentary exhibits are submitted in support of the case and expert medical testimony may also be necessary to prove that the claimed injuries were caused by the accident. It should be clear that this is a complicated process that should never be attempted without an attorney. After the arbitration hearing, the arbitrator issues a decision about three to four months after the hearing.

The Arbitration decision may be appealed before the full Workers’ Compensation Commission and those appeals take many months or even more than a year. After the Commission issues their decision, either side may appeal to the Circuit Court. The important thing to remember is that once a decision is made to file a case, it is important that the injured worker immediately hire an attorney.

What should I do when I have been injured at work?

Illinois law requires the injured worker to immediately notify your employer of a work accident. You should tell your supervisor or other person in charge the part of your body that has been injured and how the accident occurred. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act provides that an employee has forty-five (45) days to provide notes on a work accident, either orally or in writing. That being said, this forty-five day period may be extended or not apply depending on the facts of your accident.

The injured worker should also take photographs and video of the location of the accident (if possible) to document the injury. The employee should also immediately seek medical attention and tell the medical professionals that injuries are because of a work-related accident. It is critically important that the injured worker detail with specificity exactly how the accident occurred and state that the accident occurred at the worker’s employment.

What If my employer does not have workers' compensation insurance?

All businesses in Illinois are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, you have the right to bring an action directly against your employer. Moreover, it may be possible to file a case against another a general contractor or against a borrowing employer. These laws are complicated and should your employer state that they do not have workers’ compensation insurance, you should immediately speak to an attorney. Also, an attorney can use websites and other investigative tools to determine if the employer has an insurance carrier.

Also, many employers may state that an employee is an independent contractor. Many times, the “independent contractor” designation is simply false. Also, it may be possible to bring a lawsuit against the employer directly. Each case is different so you should contact a workers’ compensation attorney to determine your rights.

Can my employer refuse to pay my weekly Temporary Total Disability “TTD” benefits?

In most cases no, however, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act states that an employer may delay or withhold TTD benefits if (1) your employer has a “good faith” reason to believe that you did not suffer a work-related accident or (2) your employer has a medical opinion from a physician indicating that the condition alleged was not related to your job or an accident at work.

Of course, you can fight this denial of benefits and the employee should fight this denial of benefits. The employee has the right to file a claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and fight the refusal to pay TTD.

If I'm the owner of a company, can I recover workers' compensation benefits?

An owner of a company or a self-employed worker has the right to be covered under a workers’ compensation insurance policy. Of course, you must have designated yourself as an insured employee when purchasing your workers’ compensation insurance policy. This saves money but is a huge mistake because accidents do occur – sometimes costing thousands of dollars in medical bills and lost wages. If you purchased workers’ compensation insurance to cover your employees and you had it specifically extended to cover yourself, then you have the same rights as any other injured worker.

What if my doctor releases me from care with permanent work restrictions and my employer will not let me return to work in my previous occupation?

Illinois law provides that if you were injured in a work-related accident and you are prevented from returning to your previous occupation, your employer must retrain you to a different occupation and help you find a new job – this is known as vocational rehabilitation. Your weekly benefits must be paid while you are re-trained and attempt to find a new job under the permanent work restrictions.

WARNING: The above constitutes general rules which may or may not apply to your unique situation. It is impossible to adequately address all of the potential factual scenarios which may arise in a workers’ compensation claim in the questions addressed here. You should consult a qualified attorney to determine your rights under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

INJURED ON THE JOB?

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