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Asbestos Exposure and The Cancer It Causes

Katz Friedman has successfully represented the legal needs of our clients for over 50 years. Our results-oriented firm is focused on providing legal representation for workers’ compensation, personal injury labor and employment and Social Security Disability litigation throughout the state of Illinois.

Increasingly, we have become aware of individuals who are suffering from exposure to asbestos, and the illnesses such exposure can cause. Many workers and their family members were exposed to asbestos in their workplace and home without their knowledge. Asbestos was used in many everyday industrial and household products. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with lung cancer or Mesothelioma, please contact us immediately as we may be able to assist in obtaining compensation from those responsible. We can also represent those with asbestos exposure who have been diagnosed with colon cancer, throat cancer, and stomach cancer. Please bear in mind that family members of workers heavily exposed to asbestos face an increased risk of developing asbestos-related disease.

In addition, if you were previously screened for asbestos by another law firm and did or did not recover compensation for asbestos related disease, you may be entitled to compensation. If you have not had a check-up in the last year, please call your doctor because early detection is key to successful treatment of asbestos related disease. If you have suffered from one or more pleural effusions (fluid on your lung) in the last year or two or have been told you have a mass in or on your lungs, we would urge you to see a lung specialist as soon as possible.
Please do not hesitate to contact our office at 1-800-444-1525 if you have any questions about Asbestos and the many cancers it can cause. We are always happy to provide a free consultation. We represent victims of Asbestos exposure on a contingency basis so we get paid only if you are paid. Please visit our website at www.katzfriedman.com for addtional informantion.

Governor Quinn Announces Premium Decrease for Employer’s Workers’ Compensation

The Governor of Illinois, Patrick Quinn, announced a recommendation by NCCI that premiums for Workers’ Compensation Insurance be reduced. Governor Quinn attributes this decrease to the reforms of 2011. Here is the text of the Governor’s announcement:
Governor Quinn: Historic Workers’ Compensation Reform Saved Illinois Employers $315 Million
Recommended Rate Has Dropped 13.3 Percent Since Governor’s 2011 Reforms;
Latest Proposed Decrease of 4.5 Percent Will Help Ensure Fair and Honest Wages
CHICAGO – Governor Pat Quinn today announced that the National Council on Compensation Insurance
(NCCI) has filed a request for an overall reduction of 4.5 percent in workers’ compensation rates from the
Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI).
Since the 2011 Workers’ Compensation Reform law championed by Governor Quinn, the department
estimates that overall savings have reached $315 million for the Illinois Workers’ Compensation system. With
the implementation of the proposed rate reduction, the advisory rate level will have dropped 13.3 percent below
the advisory rate level prior to the changes sought and enacted by the governor.
Today’s announcement is part of Governor Quinn’s commitment to strengthen Illinois’ business climate and
drive more economic growth while ensuring that all workers are protected, treated fairly and receive the
compensation they deserve.
“When I came into office, Illinois had one of the most burdensome workers’ compensation systems in the
country,” Governor Quinn said. “We turned that statistic around and delivered real reform that is saving
hundreds of millions of dollars for our businesses and keeping the system honest to our workers. This rate
review will ensure the state has a responsible advisory rate that supports business growth and protects workers.”
Officials estimate the latest proposed reduction in workers’ compensation advisory and loss cost rates could
result in overall reduction in premiums of up to $110 million. This estimate is based on the credit rating
organization A.M. Best’s calculations as they reviewed 2011 premiums. Individual rates for businesses may
vary based on claims experience, payroll, and other factors.
With the implementation of the proposed rate reduction, the advisory rate level will have dropped 13.3
percent below the advisory rate level prior to the 2011 Workers’ Compensation Reform Legislation. The overall
premium impact based on the advisory rates is approximately $315 million. Individual companies may reflect
different rate changes.
The NCCI advisory rates determine the premiums businesses pay for workers’ compensation insurance.
Department of Insurance (DOI) actuaries must confirm the calculations submitted by NCCI, a process that
typically takes about 60 days.
“We’re pleased about the proposed rate reduction and look forward to the review process to confirm the
results,” said DOI Director Andrew Boron. “The lower rate would benefit Illinois employers with cost
savings.”
If the department accepts the filing to be effective January 1, 2014, employers should contact their insurance
agent prior to their 2014 renewal date to determine the impact on their premium.
Since taking office in 2009, Governor Quinn made workers’ compensation reform and strengthening
Illinois’ business climate a top priority. He launched a working group on the issue, proposed legislation and
worked with the General Assembly to enact historic reform that is allowing businesses to save hundreds of
millions of dollars, which in turn supports economic growth.
Earlier this month, Governor Quinn signed three laws that fight questionable practices to protect Illinois
workers’ paychecks. House Bill 2649, House Bill 923 and House Bill 3125 deal with the misclassification of
workers and the attempts of employers to avoid paying state employment taxes and premiums.
###

How to Obtain Company Medical Records in an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Injury Case

QUESTION:

Does an injured worker or his legal representative have a right to obtain the medical records of the injured worker from the employer?

ANSWER:

Yes – There are several statutes which provide an injured worker, or his legal representative, access to company medical records. These statutes are summarized below.

A. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act- Section 8(a) provides:

“Every hospital, physician, surgeon or other person rendering treatment or services in accordance with the provision of this section shall upon written request furnish full and complete reports thereof to, and permit their records to be copied by, the employer, the employee or his dependents, as the case may be, or any other party to any proceedings for compensation before the commission or their attorneys.”

B. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act – Section 16:

Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, either party can subpoena witnesses, books, papers, records or documents for the date of the hearing before an arbitrator. However, these records need only be produced on the date of the hearing before the Arbitrator which is usually too late to be very useful.

C. Illinois Code of Civil Procedure – 735 ILCS 5/8-2003 Provides:

Every physician and other healthcare practitioner except as provided in Section 8-2004, shall, upon the request of any patient who has been treated by such physician or practitioner, permit such patient’s physician or authorized attorney or the holder of a Consent pursuant to Section 2-1003 to examine and copy the patient’s records, including but not limited to those relating to the diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, history, charts, pictures and plates, kept in connection with the treatment of such patient. Such request for examining and copying of the records shall be in writing and complied with by the physician or practitioner. Such written request shall be complied with by the physician or practitioner within a reasonable time after receipt by him or her at his or her office or any other place designated by him or her. The physician or practitioner shall be reimbursed by the person requesting such records at the time of such examination or copying, for all reasonable expenses incurred by the physician or practitioner in connection with such examination or copying.

The requirements of this Section shall be satisfied within 60 days of the receipt of a request by a patient or his or her physician or authorized attorney or the holder of a Consent pursuant to Section 2-1003.

Failure to comply with the time limit requirement of this Section shall subject the denying party to expenses and reasonable attorneys’ fees incurred in connection with any court ordered enforcement of the provisions of this Section.

This amendatory Act of 1995 applies to causes of action filed on or after its effective date.

D. Under the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), an employee has a right to a copy of his or her medical and/or exposure records without charge from the employer.

QUESTION:

What if my company refuses to release my medical records?

ANSWER:

In a workers’ compensation case, the attorney can issue a subpoena. However, as discussed above, a subpoena can compel production of the records only on the day of the hearing. Often, this is too late or gives inadequate time to review the records properly.

In the alternative, the injured worker or his attorney could rely on the Occupational Safety and Health Act. 29 CFR 1910.20 is the applicable section. Enforcement of this section would have to be through OSHA. This would not apply to employers who are not subject to OSHA, such as public employers.

In the case of Secretary of Labor v. General Motors, 10 OSHC (BNA) 2064 (2/15/91), OSHA levied a citation and penalty against GM for failure to release the company medical records pursuant to Section 1910.20 of the Code of Federal Regulations promulgated by OSHA. GM argued that the employee wanted the records for a Workers’ Compensation case and that the Workers’ Compensation Act does not allow discovery, therefore there is no access to medical records. The Occupational Safety and Health review commission said there was no conflict under the OSHA Federal Regulations, the injured worker is entitled to his or her records.

Prepared by:

Katz, Friedman, Eagle, Eisenstein, Johnson & Bareck
77 West Washington Street, 20th Floor
Chicago, Illinois 60602
Telephone: 312-263-6330

June 13, 2013

Illinois Workers’ Compensation Reform Legislation 2013

Well, it appears there is activity in the area of Workers’ Compensation in the spring 2013 legislative session. The Illinois Senate passed HB3390 which provides for a few amendments to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The Bill passed the Senate vote on May 30, 2013. The Illinois House now considers the legislation. In sum, there are only a few changes of interest to the working men and women of Illinois.

There are various changes requested by the IWCC for administration of the Commission.  These do not materially affect the participants in the system.

Another amendment concerns the situation of a pro se approval of a settlement contract. Under the new proposal, the Commission (or Arbitrator) must make sure the unrepresented employee can read and write as well as communicate in English.

There are a few more items regarding the qualifications and retention of Arbitrators. This author advocates for any legislation that frees the Arbitrators to make decisions based on the law and the facts of each individual case before them. Rules that impose the possibility of politics influencing decisions/outcomes or which create concerns the arbitrator will lose their job unless decisions are made a certain way create a confict of interest for the arbitrator and places them at odds with the fair administration of justice and are an anathema to our system.

Nurse wins Workers’ Compensation Award for Parking Lot Injury

A recent Illinois Workers’ Compensation decision involving a State of Illinois worker, an icy/slippery parking lot and an authorized break awarded benefits to the injured worker. The facts are interesting and illustrative of the law in an area of confusion. The injured worker was a nurse working for the State of Illinois. She was wearing a walking boot as a consequence of a different injury. The nurse wanted to go outside to her car (which was in the employee parking lot) while on break. A co-worker warned the nurse that the weather conditions were very bad and there was ice and snow on the employee parking lot. Despite this warning, the nurse went out to her car and on the way back into work, she slipped and fell and injured her right arm. While the arbitrator denied benefits, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission reversed and awarded the nurse benefits. The Commission reasoned the nurse proved her injury arose out of and in the course of employment.

The Commission stated that the nurse was on an authorized smoking break and although warned of the conditions of the parking lot, the injured nurse did not assume an unreasonable or unnecessary risk by going out to her car.

What does this decision mean for Illinois workers? If you are injured in the employee parking lot, a reasonable time before or after work or while on break, that accident may be compensable under Illinois law, entitling you to Workers’ Compensation weekly benefits, medical benefits and a settlement for permanent disability. This decision follows a long line of cases standing for this proposition.

When does a Flight Attendant become ‘on the job?’ What if I get injured before I even check in for the flight?!

Anyone who reads this blog regularly will know that one of the hardest things about a worker’s compensation claim is establishing that you had an accident in the first place and that this accident is compensable under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  We have been over this concept before but in order for an accident to be compensable under the Act it is not enough that you were “at work.”   You have to establish that the accident “arose out of” and “in the course of” your employment. One way of doing this is to show that you were at a ‘greater risk then the general public.’ This can get tricky when your job isn’t the typical clock in/clock out job, like that of a flight attendant.

A flight attendant’s job is unique.  Many flight attendants do not live in the city they typically fly from, for example, they may live in Colorado but be domiciled in Chicago.  They will commute by plane to their domicile.  Also flight attendants still have to go through security at the airport well before they have ever checked in for a flight.  All of this navigation, and making their way through airports, can be a prime way to become injured.

In a recent claim by a flight attendant before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Commission confirmed how the law applies in situations like this.  As with all workers’ compensation claims in Illinois, the flight attendant has to prove that their accident ‘arose out of” and “in the course of” their employment.  They also are considered a ‘traveling employee’ in many circumstances but in this particular case the flight attendant had not left her domicile yet.  She was injured while opening a large glass door to check into her flight.  She had not even checked in yet.  This door was very large and locked.  The only way to get through it was to enter a code into a touchpad, turn the handle and pull the door open all at once.  This had to be done while the flight attendant was holding her luggage and in her work attire.  While doing all of this, her ankle gave way and she twisted her lower back.

The Arbitrator found that the general public is not typically required to open heavy doors with a touch pad all while rolling luggage and in uniform.  He found that even though this flight attendant had not even checked in to begin work, she was performing an action that was “incidental” to her employment, i.e. checking in for her flight.  Thus, her accident was compensable under the Act.  The Commission agreed with this decision and affirmed it.

It is important to remember that even when you have not even started work yet you can still be injured in a manner that “arose out of” and “in the course of” your employment.  It is important to document all the details of your injury because even one that seems minor, i.e. using a touchpad while holding luggage, may make the difference in determining whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits or you are not.

Notice of a Work Related Injury to the Employer

As many employers make clear, when you injure yourself at work you must let your employer know about the injury as soon as possible. Many employers have standards such as immediately or within 24 hours. The Illinois Workers’
Compensation Act requires that this notice to the employer be given within 45 days from the date the injury occurred. Failure to provide notice within this time can result in the barring of your claim. It is important to note here before we go to deep into this topic that while you do have 45 days to give notice, it is important for your case that you give notice as soon as possible as delay can have a negative impact on your case. Also, please remember that notice must be given to somebody in a managment position and can be oral or in writing.
This rule of 45 days notice seems easy when you are thinking about acute injuries. An acute injury is when an event occurs which causes the injury. An example would be a slip and fall. However, what happens when we are dealing with the other major type of injury, repetitive trauma? This type of injury occurs when there isn’t one event that causes the injury but doing the same movement over and over again eventually causes a breakdown and subsequent injury. Due to the very nature of this injury, there is no definitive date when the injury occurs. When does the 45 days start?!
There is a famous worker’s compensation case called Peoria Bellwood v. Industrial Commission (115 Ill. 2d 524) which helps us to determine when this time starts. The case found that the date is when the injury “manifests itself.” The case goes on to define “manifest itself” as when the fact of the injury and the causal relationship of this injury to the employment would have become plainly apparent to a reasonable person. What does that mean? Well it essentially means that when a normal person would realize that they have an injury and that injury is related to their work activities then they should give notice and begin the process of a worker’s compensation claim.
As you can guess, this definition can be interpreted in many different ways and depends on the individual facts of each case to determine when the date “manifests” itself. However, it is important. In a recent Workers’ Compensation Commission case, the injured worker began to develop numbness and tingling and pain in her hands and wrists while typing. She sought treatment with her doctor and ultimately underwent surgery. She did not report the injury as work related until approximately one month after her surgery. The Commission found that she did not give notice within the appropriate time and denied her claim. As with any issue in law, there are always exceptions or different outcomes with different facts but it is important to remember that you cannot keep your employer in the dark regarding your work injury If you have any questions about this issue or any issue regarding workers’ compensation, feel free to speak to us by using our no charge initial consultation offer. You can contact us at 312-263-6330 or the toll free State of Illinois injury hotline at 1-800-444-1525. Also, visit us on the web at www.kfeej.com

Record Personal Injury Verdict in DuPage County, Illinois

RECORD $4.1 MILLION VERDICT FOR KATZ FRIEDMAN CLIENT
 
This month a DuPage County Jury awarded $4.1 Million dollars to a 29 year old garage door serviceman who suffered a severly fractured femur and back injuries in a work-related accident.
 
Our team of lawyers also secured a significant workers’ compensation settlement including a full waiver of the employer’s lien on the third party recovery.
 
According to the Jury Verdict Reporter this verdict represents a record high in Illinois for a femur fracture and a record high in DuPage County for a nonmedical-malpractice, personal injury verdict for an individual.
 
Congratulations to the trial team! If you have any questions about workers’ compensation or personal injury, please contact us at 312-263-6330 or the toll free injury hotline at 1-800- 444- 1525. Visit us on the web at www.kfeej.com. We are here to help!
 

Cell Phones and Driving: New Illinois Laws!

There are three new statutes affecting cell phones and driving. As a service to our clients, we are taking this opportunity to advise you of these new laws. We are very conscious of health and safety. These new laws are designed to further the health, safety and privacy of the public.

The first new Act permits a driver in a construction or school one to use a cell phone in “voice operated” (this is different from “voice activated”) mode or by pressing a SINGLE button to initiate or terminate a voice communication. This includes using a headset. This Act is effective January 1, 2013. Use of a cell phone in these areas has previously been prohibited.

The second Act prohibits a driver from using a cell phone or video within 500 feet of an emergency scene. The Act exempts using a cell phone in the voice operated mode. This Act was effective July 20, 2012.

The third Act prohibits a driver from using a hand held cell phone or texting while driving a commercial motor vehicle. It does make some exceptions for using the phone in the voice operated mode. This Act is effective January 1, 2013.

Remember, be safe, not sorry. Distracted driving is now responsible for more motor vehicle accidents than alcohol use. Automobile accidents are far more common than you think. Jury members do not look kindly on distracted drivers who injure or kill innocent victims. Violations of the cell phone laws can be used as a way to prove negligence.

If you have been a victim of a distracted driver, please feel free to contact us for a free consultation. We have been representing the injured for more than sixty years. Please visit us on the web at www.kfeej.com

Your Right To Medical Treatment When Injured on the Job

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act allows an injured worker to select two chains of medical providers at the employer’s expense provided that the services are reasonable and necessary . To illustrate, an employee may choose to consult with Dr. X relating to a work connected injury. Dr. X may refer the employee to a specialist, Dr. Y, for further treatment. Because Dr. X referred the employee to a second medical provider, Dr. X and Dr. Y count as one choice under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Then, if the employee on his own, elects to consult Dr. Z, the employee has now exercised his second choice and therefore, must use Dr. X and his referrals or Dr. Z and his referrals. Any physician in the chain can refer the worker to any other specialist or medical provider without counting that provider as a new choice. If the employee elects to consult a third doctor or chain, it will be at the employee’s own expense – two “chains” of doctors are all that the employer is obligated to pay.

What happens if the employee treats with more than two chains of providers, with one of the medical providers giving only minimal treatment at minimal cost? May the worker insist that the company pay for the two expensive providers and the employee pay the other, less expensive, doctors? The answer is “No.”

The employer need only pay for the first two chains of medical providers. The employee cannot choose which of the physicians are to be considered his first and second physician choice. Thus, the employer does not have to pay for the bills of providers after the first two chains, even if the employee would not seek payment for some of the medical providers who had rendered earlier, less expensive, medical services. However, treatment in an emergency room does not count against an employee as a choice of a medical provider.

It is important that injured employees know their rights under the law, particularly as to the limitations imposed on the number of medical providers. The employee must be extremely careful in the selection of doctors consulted.

Nothing said here applies to medical providers chosen by the employer. Remember, an injured is not obligated to treat with a physician chosen by the employer. However, if your injury happened after September, 2011, the law changed. The employer has a right to select a Preferred Provider Program for the care and treatment of work injuries. If your employer has instituted a preferred provider program, that becomes your first choice. You may opt out of the PPP in writing. In that case, you are then limited to the choice of only one physician and one chain of referral for further treatment.

If you have questions, please visit us on the web at www.kfeej.com or telephone us at 312-263-6330 or use our downstate toll free injury hotline by calling 1-800-444-1525