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Chicago, IL, 60603

312.346.6444

We founded Capron & Avgerinos more than 20 years ago to represent the seriously injured in Illinois and Iowa. We have devoted our entire practice to representing individuals in workers’ compensationpersonal injury, and wrongful death claims. Our skilled injury attorneys have helped thousands of clients receive compensation, enabling them to move forward with their lives.

OnInjuryLaw

RECORDED STATEMENTS: TRAPS FOR THE UNWARY

Michael Ireland

You've all been there.  You're hard at work when all of a sudden you feel a twinge, a pop or a sudden pain.  If you're like most workers, you keep going.  You get paid based on what you produce, so you chalk it up to the nature of the job.  Even though most employers have a company policy that requires a worker to immediately report all injuries, no matter how minor, they really don't mean it.  Reporting absolutely every minor ache and pain would drown the office in paperwork and grind the shop to a halt.  And--let's face it--most minor injuries are simply that:  minor.  Inconsequential.  But not always.

So what's a worker to do?  The law in Illinois requires that an injured worker notify the employer of a work accident within 45 days.  Notice does not have to be in writing, but it does have to be to a supervisor, a foreman or somebody with managerial authority.  An employer might deny a claim because it was not reported "immediately" according to "company policy," but this denial will not stand.  In a conflict between company policy and state law, state law wins.  (As a practical matter, the sooner that an accident is reported, the less likely it will be questioned or denied by the employer.)

One of the most common (and fatal) mistakes made by injured workers is giving a recorded statement.

Typically, after the boss or the HR department is told about the accident, they will alert their workers' comp insurance carrier.  An adjuster will then contact the injured worker and will ask for a recorded statement.  This is the point at which the injured worker is in the greatest peril.

NEVER allow a recorded statement to be taken!

No matter what you are told, the law does not require you to give one.  The insurance adjuster is NOT merely interested in gathering the facts or investigating the background of the claim.  If that were true, there would be no reason for the recording....the adjuster could merely ask questions and take notes.  The only reason for the recorded statement is to trap the injured worker into making damaging admissions that are designed to defeat the claim.  DO NOT FALL INTO THIS TRAP!  An injured worker should cooperate with the investigation of a claim by providing basic information, but excessive detail is not required.

Remember:  merely because you sustain an injury while you are at work does not mean that the injury will be covered under the Workers' Compensation Act.  The injury has to be "work-related."  The law is quite technical and tricky on this point.  The adjuster's only job is to save money for the carrier, and this always comes at the expense of the injured worker.  The playing field is not level because the adjuster does this for a living and most injured workers don't know the law.

Level the playing field. 

You have the right to representation by your union and by an attorney. Better yet, tilt that playing field in your direction.  Get someone on your side who understands the law and can provide you with advice that may save your claim from being denied or defeated.  Your steward or business rep can provide you with help in getting legal advice at no cost from an expert attorney who understands the type of work performed everyday by workers specifically in your line of work.

Contact a Chicago Defense Base Act Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been hurt while working as a government contractor overseas, you may be legally entitled to significant benefits under federal law. To schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Chicago Defense Base Act lawyer, call Capron & Avgerinos, P.C. today at 312.346.6444.

The Five Most Dangerous Jobs in the United States

Michael Ireland

Millions of people are injured in workplace accidents each year, sometimes leaving injured workers with high medical expenses, an inability to earn a living, and with a significantly diminished quality of life. Fortunately for workers who are injured, Illinois and Iowa both have a workers’ compensation program that provides injured workers with benefits, regardless of fault.

While workplace injuries can happen almost anywhere and in any industry, some types of work tend to be significantly more dangerous than others. According to statistics issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and compiled by Bankrate.com, the five most dangerous jobs in the country and their median salary are as follows:

 

            ●      Logging workers - $35,160

      Fishers and related fishing workers - $32,250

      Aircraft pilots and flight engineers - $118,140

      Roofers - $35,760

      Refuse and recycling collectors - $33,660

Importantly, simply because a person works in a relatively low-risk environment does not mean that he or she is not at risk of sustaining a work-related injury. For example, thousands of office workers each year develop carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of computer use, and slip and fall accidents can occur even in the most seemingly safe environments. For this reason, it is important for workers to understand their legal rights after a workplace injury and to speak with an attorney that will ensure that they receive the benefits to which they are legally entitled.

Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim

In both Iowa and Illinois, the workers’ compensation program operates as a no-fault insurance system that provides people who have been injured in work-related accidents or who have developed work-related illnesses with benefits for their medical expenses and lost income. Employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance, and injured employees receive benefits by filing a claim with their employer or directly with the insurance company.

In some cases, employers or workers’ compensation insurers may attempt to minimize the amount they pay out on a valid claim or deny a claim entirely. Fortunately, workers’ have the right to an appeal and workers’ compensation claim disputes are regulated by the state. In Iowa, the agency responsible for administering the workers’ compensation program is the Iowa Division of Workers’ Compensation, while in Illinois, the analogous agency is the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. In both states, individuals who have had their claim denied are entitled to hearing and also to be represented by an attorney. Some of the ways that an attorney can help you if you have had your workers’ compensation claims denied include the following:

 

      Collect evidence supporting the fact that a particular injury was work-related;

      Establish the severity of your injuries through the presentation of medical records;

      Prepare and file your appeal in time; and/or

      File a lawsuit on your behalf should you exhaust all administrative remedies.

 

Contact Chicago Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today to Discuss Your Legal Options

If you have suffered an injury at work or developed an occupational disease, you should speak with an experienced lawyer immediately. To discuss your legal options with one of our Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers, call Capron & Avgerinos, P.C. today at 312-346-6444.

Defense Base Act Claims – One of America’s Best Kept Secrets

Michael Ireland

It is common knowledge that the United States government has grown increasingly reliant on private companies and subcontractors overseas. The military has established a long-term presence in countries across Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and other areas, often putting government contractors in harm’s way. In addition, many private corporations have their own individual footprint overseas that include building/construction, engaging in public works projects or expanding their sources for raw materials.

It is less commonly known, however, that thousands of contractors are seriously injured each year while working on projects for the U.S. government, largely due to a failure of the American media to report on this issue.

In fact, it would be incorrect to refer to the issue as “underreported,” as it is simply not reported on at all. At the time of this writing, a Google search for “Number of Contractors Injured Overseas” did not result in any statistics on the issue, but rather links to various sites explaining Defense Base Act coverage and other sites for attorneys and law firms who represent contractor-victims of overseas accidents.

Hundreds of Thousands of Injured Contractors

According to the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, there have been no fewer than 117,223 claims made under the Defense Base Act since September 1st, 2001. The Defense Base Act, or DBA, is a federal law that provides benefits to individuals and family members of individuals who sustain an injury while working under a U.S. government contract or while employed by a private contractor overseas. The system operates similarly to state workers’ compensation programs and provides the following types of benefits:

●      Medical expenses;

●      Benefits for time away from work;

●      Vocational rehabilitation;

●      Compensation for permanent disability;

●      Compensation for the loss of earning potential.

The Defense Base Act creates a no-fault insurance system for overseas contractors, which means that injured victims are entitled to benefits regardless of who was at fault for an accident. While this may cause you to believe that obtaining benefits is simple and straightforward, this is often not the case and injured workers are routinely denied coverage for valid claims.

Fortunately, the assistance of an attorney who is familiar with representing victims who have claims under the Defense Base Act can make the process of getting benefits significantly easier. Some of the ways in which a lawyercan help include helping filing the initial claim, communicating on your behalf with the insurance company handling your claim, filing an appeal if your claim is denied, and representing you in any administrative or judicial proceeding that may occur. 

Contact a Chicago Defense Base Act Attorney Today to Schedule a Free Consultation

If you have been hurt while working as a government contractor overseas, you may be legally entitled to significant benefits under federal law. To schedule a free case evaluation with an experienced Chicago Defense Base Act lawyer, call Capron & Avgerinos, P.C. today at 312.346.6444.

The Defense Base Act: Allowing Civilian Government Contractors to Recover Compensation for their Injuries

Michael Ireland

The United States government has long engaged in the practice of hiring private companies and contractors to perform certain functions overseas on military bases. Since the early 2000s, our government has established a long-term military presence in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, often placing civilian contractors in dangerous situations. In addition, civilian contractors are hired in less dangerous areas such as Europe and the Far East to build U.S. government buildings, a task that can often result in serious injury. Fortunately for civilian contractors who are injured while working overseas or on a military base, federal legislation known as the Defense Base Act entitles them to benefits to cover their lost income as well as their medical expenses.

Who is Covered under the Defense Base Act?

The Defense Base Act covers the following classes of people:

●      Individuals who are working for private companies on United States military bases or on lands outside the United States used for military purposes, including those in U.S. possessions and territories;

●      People who work on public works projects with an United States agency, including service and construction contracts that are related to war or national defense activities outside of the United States;

●      Individuals who are working on contracts that are funded and approved pursuant to the Foreign Assistance Act, generally providing for services to allies, military equipment, materials, provided that the contract is performed outside of the United States; and

●      People who are working for American employers providing welfare or similar services for the benefit of the United States Armed Forces outside of the United States, such as the USO.

What Kinds of Benefits Does the Defense Base Act Provide?

The provisions of the act are similar in function to state workers’ compensation programs in that every government contract that comes within the purview of the act requires that the contractor maintain insurance that will pay benefits to employees if they are injured. If an employee who is covered by the act is injured, he or she will receive disability and medical benefits if he or she is unable to work. The rate of compensation varies per situation including when the injury was sustained.  This is just one of many reasons  an injured worker should contact an attorney that is experienced in Defense Base Act claims. In cases of permanent disability, workers can receive benefits for life that are adjustable based on fluctuations in the annual cost of living. Under the act, injured workers are allowed to see the physician of his or her choice.

Contact a Chicago Defense Base Act Lawyer Today to Determine Whether You Have a Claim

If you have been injured while working overseas or on a United States military installation as a civilian contractor you may be entitled to significant financial compensation for your losses. The filing requirements regarding Defense Base Act claims are significantly different than those associated with a personal injury or workers’ compensation claim, so victims should be certain to speak with an attorney familiar with representing individuals with these kinds of claims. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced Chicago defense base act attorney, call our office today at 800-535-4542.  

Injured Employees: Do not Assume your Injury is Not Work-Related

Michael Ireland

Of the millions of Americans that are injured each year in workplace accidents or who develop diseases related to their occupation, a large percentage of those injured are legally entitled to benefits through their state’s workers’ compensation program. Unfortunately for injured workers, these benefits do not kick in automatically and often require action from the victim.

 

Determining Whether an Injury is Work-Related

There are some injuries that are so clearly work-related that there is no reasonable argument to the contrary; let’s say a construction worker who is injured while using a power tool.  Sometimes, however, there is some question as to whether a particular injury is related to work.

Slips and falls are not so clearly work-related, for example. In fact, slip and falls and parking lot injuries are two widely defended types of workers’ compensation cases.  In either instance, it would be advisable to speak with an attorney with experience in workplace injury.

Generally, in order to be work-related, an injury must occur while a worker is doing something that would ordinarily occur in the course of his or her job. Here are only a few examples of situations that may occur without a worker realizing it could be classified as a work-related injury:

·         Car accidents that occur while delivering goods or going on a service call

·         Injuries that occur at a holiday office party

·         Anxiety or depression that occur because of a work environment

 

Preexisting conditions that are aggravated by a person’s work or work environment may also be considered work-related injuries, as can illnesses or conditions that are caused by workplace conditions, such as hearing loss or repetitive strain injuries. Because of the complications that often arise when determining whether an injury is related to a person’s work, it is important for any worker that becomes ill or sustains an injury to talk to a lawyer to determine whether they may be covered.

Do not forget. Insurers are financially incentivized to contest your workers’ compensation claims and the benefits you may be entitled to receive. 

Contact Capron & Avgerinos Today to Discuss Your Legal Options

If you have been hurt in a workplace accident or developed an occupational disease, you are likely entitled to benefits through the workers’ compensation program. To schedule a consultation with one of our Chicago workers’ compensation attorneys, call our office today at 800-535-4542.

Avoid Workers’ Compensation Pitfalls by Retaining Legal Counsel after an Injury

Michael Ireland

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were almost 3.0 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private employers in 2014. Illinois’s Workers’ Compensation Program is intended to provide injured workers with benefits for their lost wages and medical expenses regardless of whose fault the accident or illness is – the tradeoff for these no-fault benefits is that injured workers can only sue their employers for their injuries in extremely limited circumstances.

While it seems from the information above that injured workers should have no problem obtaining the benefits to which they are legally entitled, in practice the workers’ compensation system can create significant difficulties for victims. This is due to the fact that insurers are financially incentivized to pay as little as possible by virtue of their business while injured workers are justifiably seeking the maximum level of benefits possible. The authors of a study published in the MedCrave Online Journal of Orthopedics & Rheumatology posit that procedural delays are often utilized in order to force workers to walk away from their claims or accept a lump sum settlement without receiving medical treatment. As a result, a substantial number of injured workers go without much-needed treatment simply because an insurance company is trying to save money.

An Attorney Can Help Ensure that you Receive the Treatment you Need

The most effective way for injured workers to ensure that they receive the benefits to which they are entitled is to retain an attorney as soon as an injury occurs. Sometimes, even the fact that a lawyer is representing an injured worker is enough to induce an otherwise reluctant insurer to pay. Workers’ compensation insurers are regulated by state law and regulations promulgated by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, and when workers’ compensation claims are denied, these legal rules give injured workers certain rights, including the right to an appeal. There are many ways that an attorney can help people who are having problems obtaining their workers’ compensation benefits. These include the following:

●      Talk to your employer or the insurance company and attempt to find come to an informal resolution;

●      Investigate your claim and gather evidence on your behalf;

●      File an appeal with the Workers’ Compensation Commission; and

●      Represent you in any administrative or judicial proceedings that may be necessary in order to obtain benefits.

The procedural and substantive rules regarding workers’ compensation claims can be complicated, and an attorney can help injured workers along every step of the way, from filing an initial claim to filing a lawsuit after an unsuccessful appeal.

Contact a Chicago Workers’ Compensation Law Firm Today to Discuss Your Case

If you have been hurt in a workplace accident or developed an illness that you believe that you may be related to your occupation, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced lawyer as soon as possible. The early assistance of an attorney can often help ensure that you receive the medical treatment you need when you need it, rather than after a series of needless procedural delays. To schedule a free consultation with a Chicago workers’ compensation attorney, call Capron & Avgerinos, P.C. today.

IS YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILE SET ON “PRIVATE?” IT DOESN’T MEAN YOUR EMPLOYER WON’T SEE IT.

Michael Ireland

 

Your boss can’t see that photo of you enjoying yourself at a party, right? Think again. If you are currently involved in a workers’ compensation claim or personal injury suit, you may be surprised to learn that your employer or your opponent has certain rights to access your Facebook, Twitter, and other social media accounts.

Currently, social networking content like status updates, photos, and “check ins” are neither privileged nor protected by any right of privacy – be it a public or private post. It’s important to know what your opponent can access and what you can do to protect yourself and the credibility of your case.

Know your audience.

If you currently have a case pending, you should post, tweet, and comment with the assumption that your boss will be able to see what you’re doing. If you claim that you suffered serious mental anguish after a work accident and you are tagged in photos that show you wining and dining with friends just days after your accident, even though you may be in pain, your employer could construe that evidence against you. As another example, if you allege that your injury severely impacted your ability to enjoy life, find a new job, and engage in outdoor activities, your social media posts could be viewed.

With that being said, a defendant does not have the absolute right to rummage through all of your private information.

Know your rights. 

In the words of one Iowa Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioner: “Facebook accounts are not designed for litigation.” Your employer or any other defendant can’t gain access to your private social media content simply because there might be something relevant or because they think they can find some evidence against your claim.

Instead, a defendant has to offer evidence or another reason to back up their speculation and persuade the court that what they believe they will find can be used to support their case in court. Your opposing counsel also can’t ask your lawyer to provide them with overbroad and irrelevant information. The courts have an interest in protecting your privacy, and that includes preventing people from being overly intrusive without cause.

Don’t panic and delete.

So what if you are questioning what you have on your Facebook or Twitter? Keep your finger off that delete button!

If you erase comments, photos, or the like from your social media website that arguably would have been relevant to your opponent, it could come back to haunt you. Courts have previously stated that when an individual deletes such posts or photos, he or she is deleting with a “culpable state of mind,” and that erasing such things is not an accident, but intentional. You don’t want to give a judge or your opposing counsel a reason to believe that you are hiding something.

Technology evolves at such a fast rate that the courts are having trouble keeping up with the pace. As a result, states’ views on social media privacy are mixed. Some jurisdictions may view the right to obtain social media information more narrowly or broadly than others.

The internet is a great opportunity for self-expression and building connections. If you have any fear that your social media posts could hurt the outcome of your pending suit or claim, consult with your lawyer first before taking any action.

GOVERNOR BRUCE RAUNER HAS RECOMMENDED ADDITIONAL CHANGES TO THE ILLINOIS WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT (“ACT”)

Michael Ireland

MICHAEL ROM 8/24/15

Governor Bruce Rauner has recommended additional changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act (“Act”) under the guise of attracting and keeping corporations from leaving the state of Illinois through an “Economic Competitiveness and Job Growth Package.” These proposed changes, in conjunction with amendments enacted in 2011, reduce, yet again, the ability of injured workers to be properly compensated, while increasing profits for insurance companies. The 2011 reforms added the use of AMA Guidelines as one of five factors in determining permanent partial disability (PPD) awards through the written report of a licensed physician. It was hoped that the AMA Guidelines, being more conservative in determining awards, would reduce awards, which they did to the detriment of injured workers.

Under the current version of the Act, the Commission must consider five factors in determining permanent partial disability impairment (“PPD”): (i) the level of impairment as reported by a physician (using AMA guides); (ii) the occupation of the injured employee; (iii) the age of the employee at the time of the injury; (iv) the employee's future earning capacity; and (v) evidence of disability corroborated by the treating medical records. Further, that act states that “[no] single enumerated factor shall be the sole determinant of disability.” 

One proposed change in the “Turnaround Agenda” calls for the elimination of the language requiring the Commission to consider all five factors in determining PPD, therefore allowing an Arbitrator to base an award solely on the AMA Guides. The proposal also states that the change would not mandate the use of the AMA guidelines or any of the other factors.

The AMA guides were never intended to be used as the sole factor in determining disability.

There are two problems with determining PPD solely based on the AMA guides: i) the guides address impairment, not permanency, and ii) using the guides as a sole factor in determining PPD will result in a lack of uniformity in decisions.

The 6th edition of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment notes that “the relationship between impairment and disability remains both complex and difficult, if not impossible to predict…” Further, the guide states that “in disability evaluation, the impairment rating is one of several determinants of disablement.” The guides also clarify the difference in impairment and disability. According to the AMA Guides, impairment is a “significant deviation, loss, or loss of use of any body structure or body function in an individual with a health condition, disorder or disease.” Disability, however, is defined as the “activity limitations and/or participation restrictions in an individual with a health condition, disorder, or disease.” These different terms, the condition and the restrictions resulting from the condition, are the exact reason the 2011 reform made the AMA rating one of five factors to be considered in the determination of a PPD award. To use the AMA ratings as the sole factor is to use the guides incorrectly and to the detriment of the injured worker.

Further, giving discretion to the Arbitrator to use the AMA guides as the sole factor in determining PPD will result in a lack of uniformity in awards for the same injury. A quick look at cases decided in Illinois since the 2011 reform shows a great discrepancy between the AMA ratings and PPD awards. PPD awards have never been determined solely on the AMA rating as this would result in extremely low, and inappropriate awards. Instead, all five factors required by the Act are examined.

For example, a simple medial meniscal repair might result in an AMA impairment rating of 2-3%. However, awards are typically in the range of 15-20%. If Arbitrators are given the discretion to make awards solely on the AMA guides, awards could vary as much as 90% for the same injury depending on which Arbitrator you were assigned to and whether they looked at all 5 factors or simply used the AMA rating. This would result in a great variation in awards depending on which Arbitrator an injured workers’ case were assigned. 

As Arbitrators are appointed by the Governor and reviewed at the end of that appointment period, it is logical to presume Arbitrators would feel great political pressure to use the AMA guides as the sole factor in awarding benefits to lower awards (to the detriment of the injured worker). Further changes to an already gutted Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act serve no purpose other than to lower financial security for the most vulnerable individuals under the guise of protecting jobs. In reality, injured workers are being denied proper compensation in the name of corporate insurance profit.

Can you get the best of both worlds? Unemployment Compensation vs. Temporary Total Disability Benefits

Michael Ireland

If there is one thing we have learned over the years, the bills don’t stop when a person is injured at work or laid off from a job (or both).  All avenues must be explored to keep a steady flow of income.  But as you scramble to balance the monthly budget, it is important to know the interplay between workers’ compensation benefits and unemployment benefits.

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