Taking the Confusion Out of Common Injury and Estate Planning Worries: Answers to Your Frequent Questions
The most important job for any attorney is making sure that his client understands every aspect of her case. Although some lawyers are comfortable keeping their clients in the dark, we feel that you deserve more. You deserve to have all of your questions and concerns addressed in order to pursue your own case confidently and successfully. This is why we take the initiative to answer common questions that you may have even before you even step into our office. If you don't see your question answered below, please contact our office at 855-522-5291.
- Page 1
Why do attorneys hire outside experts for injury cases?
If you are filing an injury lawsuit against someone, then the burden of proving that person’s negligence rests on you. After your attorney examines the evidence and details of your injury case, he or she will decide whether an outside professional should present certain information in court. The purpose of hiring these expert witnesses is to bolster your case and get you an amount that adequately compensates you for your losses.
The Role of Expert Witnesses in a Personal Injury Case
Expert witnesses offer a professional opinion of certain aspects of your injury. The types of experts who may be called to testify will depend on the nature of the case, but commonly include mechanics, economists, and medical professionals. A good expert witness will have demonstrated expertise in a particular field, have a reliable opinion on relevant facts, and be able to present information clearly. The better an expert witness is at explaining disputed details, the more likely it is that you will receive an acceptable settlement offer, since the defendant will not want to take the chance of losing at trial.
An expert witness may be used to conclusively prove:
- The cause of the accident. Insurance companies will often try to underpay or deny injury claims in any way they can, especially if a large amount of compensation is at stake. One of the most common ways is to deny liability, shifting the blame onto another party or the victim himself. An accident reconstructionist can evaluate the accident scene and recreate it, demonstrating the relevant factors using diagrams and court exhibits.
- The extent of your injuries. Doctors who specialize in certain injuries (such as neck and back injuries) may give their opinions on what types of treatment may be needed, possible lifting and movement restrictions, and the effects your injury may have over the rest of your life.
- The amount of your income losses. If your injury has resulted in disability, vocational experts may be needed to estimate the full value of your occupational losses. These professionals can describe how likely you are to earn a sustainable living, calculate the amount of past wages and bonuses you have lost, and show how your financial life is likely to be impacted in the future.
Our attorneys represent individuals throughout Illinois and Missouri who have suffered serious personal injuries, including those caused by commercial trucks. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment for a free consultation.
When should I go to a doctor after a truck accident?
People are often frightened and shaken after a crash, and just want to return home so they can feel safe. Some may even put off seeking medical attention for days, reluctant to relive the trauma of the crash with a doctor, hoping the pain will subside on its own. Unfortunately, delaying medical treatment can have severe consequences.
The Importance of Prompt Medical Treatment After a Truck Accident
It is always best to seek medical attention as soon as possible after a truck accident. An emergency room checkup—even if you think you are uninjured—can save your injury claim as well as your life.
There are many reasons to go to a doctor after a semi crash, but the most important are:
- Adrenaline. Human beings have the ability to ignore extreme amounts of pain due to adrenaline, the hormone responsible for the “fight or flight” response. When your life is in danger, your brain blocks the sensation of pain to allow you to run as fast as you can to safety. Adrenaline may course through your body for hours in the aftermath of an accident, but the pain that the brain has suppressed will return full-force once your brain has had a chance to calm down.
- Improved treatment options. Crash victims who are taken to an emergency room have the advantage of immediate treatment. Whatever injuries they have sustained, medical professionals can prevent them from worsening and make a plan for their recovery. In contrast, victims who wait to see a doctor may be living with bone fractures, herniated discs, or even internal bleeding—conditions that can become life-threatening if treatment is delayed.
- Proof of injury. Prompt medical treatment can save your life, but it can also save your truck accident injury claim. The sooner you see a doctor, the sooner a medical record relating to the accident can be created—documentation that can be invaluable when it comes time to prove the extent of your injuries to an insurance company.
Our attorneys represent individuals throughout Illinois and Missouri who have suffered serious personal injuries, including those caused by commercial trucks. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment for a free consultation.
What is a work-related injury?
While some work-related injuries are fairly straightforward, others may be more difficult to identify. A person who is struck by a falling box in a storeroom—on the clock and on company property—has undoubtedly suffered a work injury. However, injuries that occur away from work, off the clock, and slowly over time may also be considered work-related injuries under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. So what exactly is the definition of a “work-related” injury?
Injuries That May Qualify for Illinois Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Most courts consider an injury to be work-related if the injury resulted from actions you performed on behalf of your employer or during the course of your employment. In order to claim workers' compensation, you must be able to prove that there was a connection between your employment and the injury you have suffered.
Common work-related injuries include:
- Sudden trauma, such as falling from a ladder during construction work or spraining an ankle after tripping on uneven carpeting in the company conference room
- Occupational diseases, such as mesothelioma as a result of asbestos exposure on the job
- Car accidents during work-related travel, while running an errand for an employer, or other journeys that are not an employee’s regular commute
- Repetitive strain injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome caused by computer use or back injuries due to repeated lifting
- Accidents at work-related functions, such as sports injuries at the company picnic or falling from the deck of an employer-sponsored social event
- Certain off-the-clock injuries, such as accidents on lunch breaks or before or after shifts caused by defects on company property
- Injuries away from the company property, such as accidents during meetings away from the main employment site or sustained while an employee is traveling for work
- Pre-existing conditions that have worsened during the course of employment, such as old knee injuries or back injuries that have been aggravated by the physical demands of the workplace
- Mental injuries (such as anxiety or depression) that have arisen as a result of a compensable physical injury
If you have suffered an injury in the course of your employment, our workers’ compensation attorneys can advise you on your next steps at no cost to you. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
I have a pre-existing condition that was aggravated at work. Could I have a workers’ comp claim?
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act covers injuries that occur in the course of employment, including those caused by the aggravation of a pre-existing condition. As long as the aggravation of a prior injury is work-related, the injured employee may be entitled to medical payments and temporary or permanent disability benefits. Unfortunately, seeking workers’ compensation for a prior injury can make the claims process more complicated.
Pre-Existing Injuries May Be Covered by Workers' Compensation
Workers’ compensation laws operate on the policy that an employer agrees to take an employee as he or she is. If an employee has a pre-existing condition, the employer assumes responsibility for the aggravation of this condition sustained at work. However, this does not mean that the employer is responsible for paying the costs to correct the original injury.
Workers’ compensation benefits may be available for prior injuries such as:
- Aggravation of a non-work-related condition. If you suffered from an injury in the past (such as a slipped disc) that was made worse through the course of your current employment, you may be able to collect benefits to treat the aggravation, but not for the previous injury’s damage.
- A second work-related injury. If you collected benefits in the past for an injury at your current employer, then reinjure the same part of your body, you can still receive workers’ compensation for the second injury. You are entitled to payment for your new medical costs, but the amount of disability you receive may be adjusted based on your previous awards.
- Diseases. Certain workplace conditions can adversely affect an employee’s health, especially if he or she is already suffering from a disease. If an employee has a breathing condition (such as asthma or emphysema) and normal workplace conditions make symptoms unbearable, the employee may have a claim for workers’ compensation.
Your employer’s insurance company is unlikely to pay for an injury that could possibly have been caused outside of work. If you are seeking to claim workers' compensation benefits for an aggravated injury, our workers’ compensation attorneys can gather evidence to strengthen your claim and advise you on your next steps at no cost to you. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
What is maximum medical improvement?
Maximum medical improvement (MMI) is the term used when an injury is not expected to get better even if treatment continues. In Illinois, employees are entitled to medical treatment and wage loss benefits after a workplace injury during the period of medical recovery. If an employee reaches MMI but is still suffering from the effects of the injury, he or she may be entitled to continue receiving workers' compensation benefits.
How Maximum Medical Improvement Affects a Work Injury Claim
When determining MMI, the treating physician should exhaust all potential treatment options and consider the effects of any additional treatment (including surgery). The treating physician’s medical opinion during the period of MMI should consider your:
- Work restrictions. The treating physician may perform functional capacity testing to determine whether the employee has any restrictions that can make it difficult to perform certain types of work. Typical restrictions may include an inability to lift heavy objects, sit for long periods, or perform physical actions without pain or fatigue (such as bending or kneeling). Once the doctor has assigned these work restrictions, your employer must decide whether to accommodate the restrictions by implementing assistive devices or transitioning you into a different position within the company.
- Permanent disability benefits. Employees who are unable to perform any type of work may be entitled to permanent total disability benefits, while those who can perform limited work may be entitled to permanent partial disability benefits. Partial disability benefits can be used to make up the difference between the employee’s pre- and post-injury wages, as well as pay for vocational retraining so the employee can enter another career path.
- Future impairment. While MMI means the injury is not expected to improve, it does not mean the condition could not get worse. The physician should carefully consider whether the injury could cause future disability or hardship for the patient, as well as treatment recommendations for known complications. For example, doctors may recommend joint replacement surgery for a knee injury if the patient is unable to bear weight on the knee in the future.
If you suffered a work injury in Illinois, our workers’ compensation attorneys can help you maximize the amount of available benefits. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
Can I get a second medical opinion if the company doctor says my injury was not work-related?
Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, employees have the right to two different medical opinions on treatment for a work-related injury. If you are injured at work and do not agree with the assessment of the first doctor you see, you are free to seek another doctor’s advice and the workers’ compensation insurance company has to pay for it. However, there may be an exception for injury victims if the first doctor says that the injury is not work-related.
Getting a Second Doctor’s Opinion After Your Injury is Deemed Not Work-Related
Illinois employers are allowed to contract certain hospitals or doctors to provide health care to their employees. When an employee is injured, the employer may demand that the employee see one of its approved physicians for treatment. As the physician is directly beholden to the employer, the medical opinion may not be in the patient’s best interest.
As a result, the law allows the patient to seek a second opinion for an Illinois work injury for any reason, including if:
- He or she disagrees with the doctor’s diagnosis
- He or she disagrees with the doctor’s treatment plan
- The doctor has cleared the patient to return to work, but the patient does not feel ready
- The doctor has recommended surgery
- The doctor’s medical opinion has been influenced by recommendations from the insurance company’s nurse case manager
- The patient does not feel like the doctor is listening to his or her concerns
- The doctor is misinterpreting or giving too much weight to previous medical history when evaluating the current injury
While the right to a second medical opinion is automatic, there is an exception to the insurance company’s responsibility to pay for the second doctor’s visit: if the first doctor says that the injury doesn't qualify for workers’ compensation. If you seek a second opinion and your new doctor agrees that the problem is not work-related, you will likely have to pay for this visit out-of-pocket. On the other hand, even if the new doctor believes that the injury is work-related, you may still have difficulty getting the workers’ compensation commission to consider the second opinion.
If you suffered a work injury in Illinois, our workers’ compensation attorneys can determine whether you are owed payment through workers’ compensation benefits or a third-party lawsuit. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
What should I take pictures of with my cell phone after a car crash?
Some of the most conclusive evidence in your case is gathered immediately after the crash. Snapping a few pictures allows all parties to see the true nature of the wreck long after the accident scene has been cleared away—as long as victims know where their cameras should be pointed. Here are a few tips on taking the most effective photos of your vehicle damage, injuries, and the accident scene.
Tips on Photographing Car Accident Evidence with a Cell Phone
Most modern cell phones come equipped with multiple cameras, each with a variety of settings to enhance or animate your photos. When documenting an accident scene, you should keep the camera settings as plain as possible: no filters, no motion effects. Use the camera that has the highest photo quality and avoid using the zoom lens (it can make photos blurry or grainy).
If it is safe to exit your vehicle, you should be sure to take photos of:
- The full crash scene. If you can, walk far enough from the crash site so that you can fit the surrounding area in the camera frame. Walk around the perimeter and take photographs of the entire scene from different angles, showing the position of all vehicles that were involved in the accident. This can help immensely with accident reconstruction.
- Your entire vehicle. Documenting damage to your vehicle can help get a proper insurance payment for property damage, but can also help prove the extent of your injuries to an insurance provider. Walk around your vehicle and snap photos every few seconds, taking close-up shots of any damage caused by the accident. Cover as many angles as you can, including the tires, windshield, and debris around the car.
- Your (and your passenger’s) injuries. If you or your passengers have suffered injuries, take close-up shots with an object (such as a coin) to show the scale of the injury.
- The interior of your vehicle. Don’t forget to take pictures of your vehicle's interior, even if you’re not sure whether the interior has been damaged. Pictures of deployed airbags, glass fragments, blood stains, broken personal items, or even the way debris has been scattered throughout the car can all be useful to your case.
- Any relevant features or evidence. Photograph anything at the scene that could have played a role in the accident, such as potholes, road signs, skid marks, icy patches, bends in the road, broken lights, damaged guardrails, or anything else that could have contributed to your injury or lost property.
Our personal injury attorneys help car accident victims throughout Illinois and Missouri get the advice and representation they need after a crash. Contact The Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment in our Illinois or Missouri offices, or download your FREE copy of one of our books, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!
Do I need a truck accident lawyer or can I handle my own case?
Truck accident victims are often injured twice: first in the crash itself, and then in the grueling task of collecting fair compensation for their injuries. Victims who are already at a disadvantage due to extreme pain and financial difficulty may soon discover that they are up against well-funded trucking companies who have years of experience in fighting accident claims. For this reason, it is vital that you consult with a truck accident lawyer as soon as possible after the crash.
Truck Crashes Are Different From Car Accident Cases
One of the biggest differences between truck accident cases and car accident cases is the potential number of people involved. Many different parties may share blame for the accident, including the truck driver, the maker of the cab or trailer, the company who loaded the vehicle, and the company that owns the truck. In addition, trucking companies have teams of attorneys and insurance representatives working for them, all of whom are trained to protect the trucker and commercial carrier from liability.
Truck accident cases are also more complicated than passenger vehicle crashes due to:
- Insurance limits. When two cars collide, victims may be able to collect payment from an at-fault driver’s insurance company or through their own insurance provider without the need for a lawyer. However, trucking companies are required to carry a much higher policy limit than other vehicles, making them fight hard against potential high-value claims.
- Laws that apply to commercial trucks. Commercial carriers are required to adhere to numerous federal safety laws regarding the behavior of their drivers and the condition of their trucks. Many of these regulations are not commonly known to the public, but a truck crash attorney will be able to investigate whether the commercial carrier was running afoul of the law. For example, many crashes occur due to a lack of proper driver training, expired commercial driving licenses, unsafe tractors or trailers, reckless driving practices, overloaded trailers, or defective underride guards.
- Types of evidence. Trucking companies are required to maintain extensive records of driver activities and the condition of their vehicles, but they only need to keep these records for a limited amount of time. A trucking company may destroy incriminating driver logs or maintenance records related to a serious crash as soon as they are legally permitted to—unless it has been ordered to preserve this evidence. Our legal team can request copies of driver logs and onboard data recorder files, as well as block the destruction of key pieces of evidence.
- Extent of injuries. The sheer size and power of tractor-trailers make them overwhelmingly likely to cause devastating injuries, leaving victims with lifelong medical costs and the inability to earn a living after a crash. An experienced accident attorney will know how to properly value a claim that includes payment for medical bills, lost wages, loss of consortium, pain and suffering, and wrongful death.
Our attorneys represent individuals throughout Illinois and Missouri who have suffered serious personal injuries, including those caused by commercial trucks. Simply fill out the short contact form on this page to schedule an appointment for a free consultation, or download your FREE copy of one of our books, When the Rules of the Road Get Broken: A Guide to Illinois Car Wreck Cases or The Missouri Car Crash Guide: Don't Wreck Your Car Crash Case!
Can I pursue a third-party lawsuit if I was hurt at work?
Employees who have suffered a life-changing injury may not be able to survive on the amount provided by Illinois workers’ compensation benefits. For this reason, it is a good idea to consider whether a third party could be held liable for the costs of your injury. If third-party negligence played a role in a work accident, an injury lawsuit could provide payment for permanent disability, income losses, and even the wrongful death of the worker.
Types of Third-Party Work Injury Lawsuits in Illinois
There are two notable differences between collecting workers’ compensation and suing a third-party. The first is that benefits provided under workers’ compensation are limited, while a third-party claim is not limited in the amount a victim can receive for pain and suffering and permanent losses. The second is that workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, meaning benefits are provided regardless of fault. In an injury case, victims will have to provide proof of negligence—and the percentage of their own fault may have a bearing on the amount of damages they receive.
That said, there may be several third parties who can be held liable in a work injury case, including:
- Product manufacturers. Injuries that were caused by defective equipment or components may qualify for a product liability lawsuit. Manufacturers or distributors of dangerous products can be held responsible if the products were poorly designed, badly assembled, or did not contain proper warnings to the user.
- Property owners. If you were injured while performing work at a location that is not owned or managed by your employer, you could be eligible for a third-party lawsuit against the property owner if he or she allowed a dangerous condition to exist on the property.
- Drivers. Work-related car accidents can occur if the victim is a professional driver (such as operating a taxi, truck, or limousine) or is performing a work-related task for the benefit of an employer. Employees who are injured in a crash may be able to file a car accident lawsuit against an at-fault driver.
- Independent contractors. If you were injured by someone at your workplace who does not have the same employer (such as an electrician on a job site or visiting guest at your workplace), you have the right to file a lawsuit against the person who caused your injuries in addition to filing a work accident claim.
If you suffered significant losses as a result of a work injury in Illinois, our attorneys can help you maximize the amount of available benefits. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at 855-522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.
Can I pursue a workers’ comp case and a personal injury lawsuit?
Workers’ compensation laws were created to provide payment for a work injury without the need to file a lawsuit. As a result, employees covered under workers’ compensation can only sue their employers if the employer intentionally caused harm. Intentional harm is usually limited to cases of direct assault, battery, or defamation. However, workers may file injury claims if someone other than the employer played a part in the accident.
What Employees Should Know About Filing Work Injury Lawsuits
Although workers' compensation laws generally prohibit employees from filing injury lawsuits against their employers, there is no law against suing someone else whose negligence causes a work injury. These cases are called third-party lawsuits, since they involve someone other than the first party (the injury victim) and the second party (the employer).
Although employees may file third-party lawsuits in addition to collecting workers’ compensation, these cases may be complicated by:
- Type of injury lawsuit. The ability to bring a third-party case will depend on the type of laws and requirements of the type of case. For example, an injury caused by a defective product will be subject to product liability laws, while an injury on someone else’s property will require the knowledge of a premises liability attorney.
- Burden of proof. While workers’ compensation provides benefits regardless of who was at fault for your injuries, injury lawsuits require victims to provide proof of negligence in order to recover damages. In addition, the victim’s own percentage of fault in causing the accident will be considered when calculating the amount of compensation.
- Liens on damages. If your third-party case is successful, the employer’s insurance company will likely want to be paid back for the workers’ compensation benefits they paid to you. Insurers are allowed to place a lien on any damages you are awarded, and you may have to pay a portion of the recovery back to the insurance company.
If you suffered a work injury in Illinois, our workers’ compensation attorneys can help you maximize the amount of available benefits. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at 855-522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.