Articles Posted in Work Injuries

When it comes to navigating the Illinois workers’ compensation system, it can be confusing to understand your rights and how you should proceed after suffering a work-related injury. At Therman Law Offices, our seasoned team of lawyers have handled a wide variety of job-related accidents and are ready to assist you.

In a recent Illinois court opinion, an injured worker sued his employer, a railroad company, claiming that he was injured as a result of his employer’s negligence. According to his complaint, the plaintiff was working as a railroad track switch lever operator when he suffered a spinal injury. At the time the injury occurred, the plaintiff was unaware that the employer had installed a new type of device. This lack of knowledge is what led him to suffer the back injury.

The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, concluding that there was a causal link between the employer’s conduct and the resulting injuries. The jury also concluded that the plaintiff was partially at fault for the injuries that he sustained and reduced the final judgment by the percent of the plaintiff’s negligence. The ultimate verdict in the plaintiff’s favor amounted to $37,500. Following trial, the parties entered into a dispute regarding how the judgment should be satisfied. The plaintiff’s lawyers claimed that the final award should be used to satisfy the fees and costs they incurred in the litigation. The defendant, however, alleged that the judgment should be used to repay the railroad money that it provided to the plaintiff regarding his injury before the litigation was initiated. The lower court agreed with the defendant and entered an order reflecting the same. The plaintiff appealed.

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In a recent opinion from the Fourth District of the Appellate Court of Illinois, an injured employee filed an appeal from an order issued by a trial court, setting aside a decision from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission that awarded her benefits. According to the trial court, the Commission erred in concluding that the claimant demonstrated a causal connection between her alleged injury and her job duties. In other words, the lower court determined that the plaintiff’s injuries did not occur as a result of her employment and that she was therefore not entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

The plaintiff worked as a truck driver beginning in 2005 for a period of roughly six months. Due to medical conditions, the plaintiff ceased working after that period and underwent back surgeries in 2009 and 2011. The claimant also reported experiencing fibromyalgia and received Social Security benefit payments for this condition beginning in 2010. The plaintiff reported experiencing back pain and foot numbness and was considering a third surgery, according to her treating physician’s care plan, in 2013, when she decided to go back to work instead. She resumed work as a truck driver in 2013. As part of her reinstatement as a truck driver, the plaintiff was required to undergo a physical examination, which she passed. The employer allowed certain accommodations for the plaintiff, who could only drive during certain parts of the day due to her fibromyalgia medication.

During a delivery that occurred in December 2013, the plaintiff slipped and fell on a concrete pad that was likely covered in ice, landing on the right side of her back. The plaintiff reported to the emergency room, where she was examined and ultimately discharged. The plaintiff did not return to work following the accident. The plaintiff sought medical treatment from her existing providers, who concluded that her physical condition and back pain prevented her from working as a truck driver.

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In a recent case from the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District, the plaintiff requested workers’ compensation benefits following an injury he allegedly incurred during his employment at a hotel. The parties agreed to a lump sum settlement, which indicated that the employer had compensated the employee for all of his medical expenses. Two years after the settlement agreement was approved, the employee filed a motion seeking to enforce the contract and associated penalties. Specifically, the employee claimed that the employer had failed to pay some of his medical expenses and refused to do so when the employee made a demand for payment of the outstanding bills. In addition to requesting an order requiring the employer to pay all of the outstanding medical bills, the employee asked the court to issue penalties against the employer.

In the workers’ compensation system, an employee who suffers injuries as a result of his or her occupation is entitled to receive benefit payments to compensate him or her for his or her lost wages, as well as receiving compensation for any medical expenses associated with the injury. The worker can opt for a weekly benefit payment reflecting a certain percentage of his or her average income, or opt for a lump sum settlement. A dedicated and knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine which option is better for you.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission issued an order in favor of the employee, requiring the employer to pay over $16,000 in medical expenses and awarding the employee roughly $8,000 in penalties as well as over $3,000 in attorney fees. The employer appealed to the circuit court, which upheld the Commission’s determination. The employer appealed again, asserting that the Commission did not have proper jurisdiction to hear the employee’s motion. In the alternative, the employer argued that even if jurisdiction was proper, the Commission interpreted the contract incorrectly. Finally, the employer alleged that the action was time-barred.

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An Illinois appellate court for the Second District recently issued an opinion regarding a work-related negligence dispute. The facts of the action are as follows. The plaintiff was an employee of a company that provides both permanent and temporary employees to its clients. After the company places one of its employees with a client, the company assumes that the client will provide all supervision, direction, and control of the employee’s work with the client. The company notifies its employees that once they have been placed, they should expect to receive such direction from the client.

In December 2011, a business that provided industrial storage shelving installation services signed a national contract with the company, in which the company agreed to provide temporary employees to the plaintiff. It included terms describing the company’s policies regarding the provision of direction and control for those employees.

After this contract was signed, the plaintiff, who was an employee of the company, was directed to work for the shelving business. When the plaintiff arrived at the shelving business’ premises, he and five other employees were directed to assemble and install industrial shelving at a warehouse. In testimony, the plaintiff stated that he did not see any direct supervisors from the shelving company directing the employees’ work and that instead he took instructions from the permanent employees at the shelving business.

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In a recent case, an Illinois appellate court in the Sixth Division considered the potential liability of an elevator contractor who was responsible for inspecting an elevator and who was employed by the City of Chicago’s Bureau of Elevators. According to the plaintiffs’ complaint, the husband and the inspector were working as elevator servicepersons in Chicago in March 2015. While performing an inspection of elevators located inside an apartment building, the inspector ordered the husband to climb into the pit of an elevator shaft and to test components of the elevator. While the husband was inside the elevator, the inspector caused it to descend, striking the husband.

The husband filed a claim against the inspector and other defendants, including the City of Chicago, and his wife filed a claim for loss of consortium. Shortly after they filed the complaint, the husband died. Roughly two months later, the City of Chicago, a defendant in the action, brought a motion to dismiss, alleging that the action was barred according to sections 2-105 and 2-207 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (the Act).

Section 2-105 states:  “A local public entity is not liable for injury caused by its failure to make an inspection, or by reason of making an inadequate or negligent inspection, of any property, other than its own, to determine whether the property complies with or violates any enactment or contains or constitutes a hazard to health or safety.”

In moving to dismiss based on these provisions, the inspector stated that the lawsuit was improper based on the husband’s allegations that he was injured as a result of an improperly conducted inspection performed by a City of Chicago inspector.

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In a recent opinion issued by the First Division of the Illinois Appellate Court, the plaintiffs were employees of a temporary employment agency. In April 2010, they were sent to work at a retail store. While working at the retail store, a store supervisor was operating a vehicle in which the plaintiffs were riding when the vehicle was involved in a collision. The plaintiffs applied for workers’ compensation benefits with their temporary employment agency employer, which the insurance carrier paid without contest. They also filed a civil lawsuit against the retail store and the supervisor.

In response to the civil complaint, the store and the supervisor filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the plaintiffs’ exclusive remedy for damages was workers’ compensation benefits and that the plaintiffs were the retail store’s borrowed employees at the time the collision occurred. The plaintiffs appealed.

The appellate court first addressed the defendants’ claim that the plaintiffs were estopped from seeking civil damages from the retail store. One of the defendants’ primary arguments in support of this contention was that the accident occurred during the course and scope of employment. The plaintiffs disputed this, stating that the time spent in the vehicle was travel time to another location and was therefore not during the course and scope of employment. According to the appellate court, however, since the plaintiffs sought and received workers’ compensation damages for the accident, the plaintiffs could not argue that the accident did not occur during the course and scope of their employment.

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In a recent case, a claimant who was the widow of a deceased worker appealed an order from a lower court arising from a decision of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission that denied the claimant’s request for a lump-sum payout of the benefits awarded to her. The facts of the underlying case are as follows. The claimant’s husband died when the crop duster he was piloting for his employer malfunctioned. After the accident occurred, the decedent’s employer began paying the plaintiff weekly payments in the amount of $1,231.41. After an arbitration hearing, the claimant was awarded death benefits at the amount of $461.78 per week.

Shortly thereafter, the claimant filed a petition for a lump sum payout. The Commissioner overseeing the matter conducted a hearing at which the claimant testified. In her testimony, she claimed she knew she was authorized to accept a $500,000 lump sum payment or periodic installments for 25 years. In her testimony, she also stated that the reason she wanted the lump sum payment was to gain control of the benefits and to prevent losing the benefits should some change in the law or other event affect her benefits award. She also testified that she was not seeking the lump sum payout due to financial hardship, that she had no minor children, and that her job at an ethanol plant was sufficient to meet her financial needs.

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The workers’ compensation system is intended to provide benefits to employees who are injured during the course and scope of their employment. In exchange for these benefits, employees are barred from suing their employer for civil damages, except in some very narrow circumstances. In the recent case of Morales, et al. v. Radio Flyer, Inc., et al., the plaintiffs were employed at a company called Express Employment Professionals, a temporary employment agency. In April 2010, the employees were instructed to work at a business called Radio Flyer, located in Chicago. While one of the supervisors at Radio was driving the employees, a collision occurred, and the plaintiffs suffered injuries.

Both plaintiffs filed claims for workers’ compensation benefits, which they received. The plaintiffs also filed a lawsuit against Radio and the supervisor who was driving at the time of the accident, seeking compensation for their injuries. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the exclusive remedy for their damages was the workers’ compensation system. The lower court granted this motion for summary judgment, and the plaintiffs appealed.

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