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.

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  • Why is workers’ compensation a “no-fault” system?

    Workers' compensation was designed to provide wage and medical payments to employees quickly after a work injury, and remove the need to file a lawsuit to recover compensation. In this way, workers' compensation insurance works similarly to other no-fault insurance systems: an employee can file a claim after an injury and receive benefits no matter whose negligence caused the accident.

    The Many Benefits of the Workers’ Compensation System

    Workers’ compensation is essentially a contract between employers and employees. The employer provides fixed benefit payments after a work injury or occupational illness, and employees relinquish the right to sue the employer in exchange.

    Workers’ compensation provides a number of protections to:

    • Injured employees. Since injured workers do not have to prove negligence, injury payments can be distributed more quickly and at a lower cost through workers' compensation than through a lawsuit.
    • Coworkers. Most workers' compensation systems prohibit injured employees from suing coworkers, protecting fellow workers involved in the injury from losing their livelihoods.
    • Employers. The "exclusive remedy" provision limits the amount employees can recover from an employer after a work injury, making it cost-effective to carry workers’ compensation insurance.
    • Workers injured by a third party. While an employee may not be able to sue a coworker or employer, there is no such rule preventing an injury lawsuit against a negligent third party. An employee who was hurt as a result of defective machinery, a faulty product, lax inspections, or inadequate maintenance or repairs can seek compensation from product manufacturers or contractors in addition to filing a workers' compensation claim.

    If you are struggling after a work injury, our workers’ compensation attorneys can gather evidence to strengthen your claim and get you the benefits you deserve. Contact Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation and have our legal team advise you on your next steps at no cost to you.

     

  • What damages can I recover if a crash caused a spinal cord injury?

    Spinal Cord Injury Victim Talking With a LawyerThe costs of medical care and living expenses after spinal cord injury can total hundreds of thousands of dollars over a person’s lifetime. This figure does not include additional losses, such as reduced income, lost opportunities, behavioral changes, and pain and suffering—all of which can be overwhelming and costly for victims and their families. If you have suffered a spinal cord injury due to someone else’s negligence, you may be able to hold that party liable for costs related to the injury.

    Recovering Compensation After a Car Accident Causes a Spinal Cord Injury

    The majority of U.S. spinal cord injuries are caused by car accidents, and the effects are often irreversible. Any trauma to the back, neck, or spine has the potential to cause a spinal cord injury, such as a head-on collision with a drunk driver, a defective seat belt that fails to protect a passenger, or a head injury sustained in a rollover crash. Since most victims with these injuries are unable to earn a living, the damages from a personal injury case may be the only way they can live out the rest of their lives in reasonable comfort.

    Damages you may recover for a spinal cord injury include:

    • Past treatment. Medical bills may begin with emergency treatment and diagnostic testing, and progress to surgery, hospitalization, and recurring doctors’ visits to monitor your condition.
    • Future medical costs. Victims may incur future costs related to complications of the injury as well as the injury itself. Patients with complete or partial paralysis may need lifelong pain medication and physical therapy, but also have an increased likelihood of infections and health complications. Finally, victims may require emotional counseling to cope with the loss of their former abilities and lifestyle.
    • Lost income. Victims who have been permanently disabled have the right to recover the lost wages, benefits, and income they would have earned from the date of the accident to their retirement age.
    • Daily care costs. Victims may be unable to dress, bathe, or drive themselves, requiring part-time or full-time assistance around the house. They may also need expensive assistive devices such as wheelchairs, adjustable beds, ventilators, or text-to-speech computers, as well as accommodations to their living areas (such as ramps or widened doorways).
    • Psychological trauma. Spinal cord injuries can cause significant emotional pain to victims, affecting self-esteem, mood, behavior, and loss of ability to enjoy life. Negligent parties can be compelled to pay an additional amount for the pain and suffering they have forced a victim to endure.

    If you are having trouble recovering after a car accident, our injury attorneys have offices in Illinois and Missouri to advise you on your next steps and legal rights. 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!, or contact the Tapella & Eberspacher Law Firm via our online contact form to schedule an appointment.

     

  • What if the truck that hit me is a government vehicle?

    USPS Mail TruckVehicles that are used to perform a public service can be involved in collisions like any other vehicle, but the claims involved in these crashes are much more complex. Victims cannot simply file an injury lawsuit after a collision with U.S. mail trucks, police squad cars, ambulances, fire trucks, school buses, recycling or garbage trucks, snow plows, or other government vehicles. If you are involved in a government vehicle collision, you will likely have to go through a special claims process to get compensation for your injuries and other losses resulting from the crash.

    How to File for Compensation When a Government Vehicle Causes Injuries

    Some government entities have what is called sovereign immunity, meaning they cannot be sued in a traditional personal injury lawsuit. However, the U.S. government has since waived sovereign immunity by enacting the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)—and many state governments have followed suit with similar statutes. While this means that victims can file injury claims for accidents caused by government employees, they will have to go through a modified claims process with specific filing deadlines and evidence requirements.

    A car accident involving a government employee or vehicle may be subject to:

    • Shorter filing deadlines. Under the FTCA, victims have two years file an administrative claim against the federal government for the actions of one of its employees, such as the driver of a postal service vehicle. The deadline for state- and city-owned vehicles in Illinois is generally two years, but victims must file a formal claim within one year in order to have a valid injury lawsuit.
    • Denial. The agency has six months to review and make a decision on the claim. If the agency does not respond within six months of submission, your claim can be considered denied and you can file a lawsuit in federal court. If you intend to file a civil lawsuit, you must do so within six months after the date of denial or your claim will likely not be heard.
    • Reduced compensation. Even if the government agrees to pay your claim, it does not have to pay the full amount you have requested for your injury costs and lost income. Your attorney may negotiate for additional compensation on your behalf, or you may pursue a lawsuit.

    If your car accident involves a municipal or federal vehicle, our attorneys can advise you of your options and next steps at no cost to you. We 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.

     

  • I was hurt on my commute to work, could I have a workers’ comp claim?

    Worker Running Errands for Work on His Commute to the OfficeWorkers’ compensation laws generally include a provision known as the “going and coming” rule. This rule prevents employees from filing claims for injuries sustained while commuting to or from work, restricting the employer’s liability for an injury from the beginning of an employee’s shift to the end of his or her workday. However, much like the rules for work injuries on lunch breaks, there may be some instances when an injury during a commute may be compensable under workers’ compensation.

    Exceptions to the “Going and Coming” Rule in Workers’ Comp Cases

    In order for a commute to be considered work-related (thereby qualifying for workers’ compensation benefits), there must be a specific factor in the journey where the injury occurred that distinguishes it from the worker’s normal commute. Common factors may include where the injury occurs, whether an employee was performing a special mission for the employer’s benefit, and whose vehicle was being used to transport employees.

    Some exceptions to the “going and coming” rule may include:

    • Driving to multiple job sites within a single shift
    • Car accidents in the employer’s parking lot before or after a shift
    • Running an errand for an employer on the way into or out of work
    • Travel to an orientation or training session before the start of a workday
    • Accidents in a company car
    • Injuries to employees who travel for the majority of their day (such as truck drivers, bus drivers, police, etc.)
    • An injury that occurs at any time during a business trip

    An employer’s insurance company is likely to challenge a workers’ compensation claim if there is a chance that the injury might not be considered work-related. If you are seeking benefits for a work-related car crash, 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.

     

  • Can I sue my employer after a work injury in Illinois?

    Injured Contractor on an Construction SiteIf a worker accepts benefits through the workers’ compensation system, he or she generally gives up the right to sue an employer for the injury or illness. However, there are limited situations in which employees can pursue legal action against an employer. In may take the help of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to determine if this is a viable option.

    Cases Where Work Injury Victims May Be Able to Sue Employers

    Workers' compensation laws were created to prevent employees from the need to file a lawsuit in order to get compensation for a work injury. Although laws prohibit most claims against an employer, there is no law against suing another negligent party who played a role in the accident (such as the manufacturer of a faulty product).

    That said, you may be able to file a lawsuit against an employer if:

    • Your employer does not have insurance. Under Illinois state law, all employers with more than one employee are required to purchase or provide workers' compensation benefits. If the employer fails to provide coverage, employees can sue the company or CEO in order to recover lost wages, medical benefits, and pain and suffering.
    • Your employer injured you on purpose. Employees may sue their employers if the employer explicitly intended to cause harm, such as cases of direct attacks, assault, or battery.
    • You were fired for filing a workers' comp claim. If an employer has retaliated against you for collecting workers' compensation benefits, you may be able to sue the employer for all of your losses related to the retaliation as well as punitive damages.
    • You are not an employee. Some workers are not considered employees under the law, or are otherwise exempt from workers’ compensation benefits. If you are not eligible for workers’ compensation, you are free to file an injury lawsuit against the employer or a coworker who caused the accident.

    If you are having difficulty getting the benefits you deserve, 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.

     

  • Why do attorneys hire outside experts for injury cases?

    Expert Witness Paperwork for a Personal Injury CaseIf 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?

    Doctor Consultation 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?

    Injured Worker on the Ground With Hands on FaceWhile 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?

    Pre-Existing Condition Button for Workers' CompensationThe 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?

    Doctor Explaining Maximum Medical Improvement to a PatientMaximum 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.