Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Lower Court Order Granting Employer Offset for Payments Made to Injured Employee

empty railroad tracksWhen 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.

The appellate court first noted that the Federal Employers Liability Act applied to the claim, which is a federal statute that governs work-related injuries involving railroads. According to the Act, FELA provides the exclusive remedy for railroad workers who are injured on the job. The plaintiff cited to a provision in FELA, alleging that it clearly mandates payment of attorneys’ fees before any other creditor may be paid out of a judgment awarded to an injured railroad worker. The defendant argued the opposite, urging the appellate court to conclude that FELA expressly grants an employer a right to receive reimbursement for any compensation provided to an employee who suffered injuries, provided that the employer is not seeking reimbursement in an attempt to avoid liability.

In reviewing the parties’ claims, the court ultimately concluded that the railroad was entitled to offset its payments and that the provisions upon which the plaintiffs’ attorneys relied in seeking attorneys’ fees did not apply to the factual circumstances existing in this case.

If you have suffered a work injury, it is critical that you consult a dedicated workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. The provisions, procedures, and rules that apply to your particular claim may require you to take certain steps or to collect certain information. At Therman Law Offices, our skilled team of legal professionals is standing by to assist you with gathering evidence, evaluating your claim, and ensuring that you pursue the full amount of compensation that you deserve. Call us at 773-545-8849 or contact us online to get started.

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