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 2
  • Can I get a second medical opinion if the company doctor says my injury was not work-related?

    Doctor Giving a Second Medical Opinion in a Workers' Compensation CaseUnder 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?

    Crash Victim Taking Pictures With a Cell Phone After the CollisionSome 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?

    Wreckage of a Car and Truck AccidentTruck 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?

    Injured Worker With a Third-Party Work Injury Lawsuits 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?

    Employee With a Injured Foot From WorkWorkers’ 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.

     

  • What is a commercial driver’s license and why is it important in a truck crash case?

    Commercial Truck Driver With His CDLDrivers need special skills and comprehensive training to operate commercial vehicles. For this reason, it is illegal to drive a tractor-trailer, school bus, or other large vehicle without a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL). If a trucker is involved in a car accident and does not have a CDL, the driver’s employer can be held financially liable for penalties as well as the costs of the crash.

    Employers Share Liability for Drivers Without a Commercial Driver’s License

    Fault for a truck accident can fall on the truck driver, but also on the employer who failed in its responsibility to hire a safe, qualified driver. These duties include ensuring that drivers pass written and practical CDL skills tests, maintain their licenses, and do not drive on revoked or suspended licenses. If they fail to carry out their duties, employers can shoulder some, or all, of the financial burden of an accident.

    Trucking companies have a duty to ensure that their drivers have met all CDL requirements, including:

    • Proper classification. There are different kinds of CDLs depending on the type of vehicle driven as well as the type and location of travel. The 3 classes of CDLs have specialized qualifications depending on the weight of the vehicle (such as for driving tractor-trailers or tankers) and number of passengers (such as for operating school buses). If a driver involved in a crash has the wrong type of CDL, the employer may be held liable.
    • Endorsements and restrictions. If companies require a driver to carry hazardous materials or oversized loads, the company is required to obtain the correct permits and driving endorsements for these journeys.
    • Interstate travel. Federal law requires that CDL drivers must be 21 years or older in order to cross state lines, and must be 18 years or older to drive commercial vehicles within state lines. Employers must not allow underage truck drivers to perform journeys between multiple states.
    • Driving safely and legally. Trucking companies have a responsibility to perform adequate pre-employment testing, including skills tests and screening for controlled substances. Drivers can lose a CDL indefinitely for using drugs or alcohol behind the wheel, and the trucking company can face action for allowing a driver who failed a drug test to stay on the active driving schedule.
    • Hours of service records. Fatigued driving is a major cause of truck crashes, and drivers must be trained on hours of service rules and maintain logbooks that record hours driven. Companies that encourage the falsification of logbooks can face federal criminal charges and penalties.

    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!

     

  • Should I release my medical records to the insurance company?

    Doctor Using a Medical Records Button on a KeyboardCar accident victims may receive medical records release requests from an insurance company at some point in their claims. Since all medical records are protected under state and federal law, insurers cannot access them without your written permission. It is vital that you do not sign these releases without consulting with a personal injury attorney.

    Dangers of Releasing Medical Records to an Insurance Company

    Insurers may request medical documents for many reasons, such as to verify your injuries, estimate the costs of your treatment, or to authorize payment of your medical bills. Since many victims are not used to dealing with insurance companies after a crash, they may not realize that they should never sign release requests without first speaking to an attorney.

    Insurance companies may request that you sign a medical release in order to:

    • Access your complete medical history. Insurers will flag anything in your medical history that can be used to discredit you and devalue your claim. Your medical records may contain personal and private information that you would not want to be shared publicly, which can be leveraged by an insurance company—even if the information has nothing to do with your injury claim.
    • Look for weaknesses in your claim. Insurance companies will comb through your records and look for ways to deny your claim. This can include identifying any preexisting conditions you did not mention, medical treatments for your injuries that were expensive or unnecessary, or a doctor’s written opinion that he or she does not agree with your assessment of your injury.
    • Pressure you to settle quickly. Insurance representatives are trained to identify injuries and conditions that can lead to further treatment and lifelong complications. Adjusters may offer a fast settlement that seems reasonable to the patient, but the patient will not be able to recover any additional payment from the insurer once the offer is accepted.

    Our personal injury attorneys can review any records requests and ensure that only the necessary information is sent to the insurance company. 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!

     

  • If the amount I was offered for my car accident isn’t enough, can I negotiate with the insurance company?

    Attorney Going Over a Car Accident Settlement OfferMany people will receive payment from a car insurance company within a few weeks of suffering an accident. However, the amount on the check may not be enough to cover the full amount of losses, especially if the crash caused severe injuries. If the offer is too low, it is perfectly acceptable to negotiate the amount with your claim adjuster—but it will take time and skill to get the company to agree to an acceptable amount.

    How to Negotiate a Car Accident Settlement

    You do not have to accept the first amount offered by your insurance company if it is not enough. A low first offer is often open for negotiation, and can be brought up several thousand dollars simply by providing a counteroffer and compelling evidence to support the amount requested.

    If you are negotiating with the insurer yourself, it is important that you:

    • Know your car insurance policy inside-out. The insurer is not going to give you an amount above the policy limit, and will not pay for anything that is specifically excluded under the policy. You should read your insurance policy declaration page carefully to learn what is covered, what is not covered, and the payment limits.
    • Know what you are willing to accept. You should have a firm number in mind that will compensate you for your covered losses (including property damage and medical expenses from the crash). Once you have calculated the amount of your losses, you should decide on a minimum and maximum payment range that is acceptable to you. Keep these numbers in mind when negotiating, but do not share them with the insurance company.
    • Be prepared to wait. Claims adjusters are paid to save the insurance company as much money as possible, and they have years of training in reducing the amount paid on claims. You should be prepared to go back and forth with offers and counteroffers many times to reach an agreement, which could take several months.

    If your claim has been denied, delayed, or lowballed after a car accident, our injury attorneys can negotiate a settlement that works for you. 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!

     

  • How much does a truck accident lawyer cost?

    Van After a Collision With a Semi-TruckMost people who have been struck by a semi-truck do not have the financial resources to pay a lawyer who charges by the hour, and cannot take the risk of losing the money invested in a legal case. For this reason, the vast majority of attorneys charge on a contingency fee basis for all personal injury cases. This allows victims to get the legal representation they need without paying any costs up front. If the attorney does not win the case, the victim does not have to pay any fees at all—and if the case is successful, the attorney will take a portion of the victim’s recovery as payment.

    Estimating the Costs of a Truck Accident Attorney

    In Illinois and Missouri, there are no limits on the percentage allowed as a contingency fee in personal injury cases, as long as the fee is considered “reasonable.” However, lawyers and clients must agree on a percentage and sign a written fee agreement in contingency fee cases before the attorney begins working on the case.

    The amount your attorney charges will depend on the specific factors of your case, including:

    • Expenses. Most personal injury lawyers will pay for expenses incurred throughout the case, such as court costs, accident scene investigation, hiring expert witnesses, travel expenses, mail and copying costs, and creation of court exhibits. These are usually paid back to the attorney after the case has been resolved.
    • Effort. Tractor-trailer accidents can be extremely complex, involving the intersection of state and federal laws and the interpretation of trucking company regulations. This can require a lot of a law firm’s time and effort—and the more time devoted to the case, the higher the percentage an attorney may charge.
    • Trial or settlement. Court cases can take much longer to resolve than cases that settle in negotiation. Law firms may include a stipulation in the fee agreement that allows them to collect a different amount based on whether the case settles or proceeds to trial.

    Our attorneys have successfully represented individuals throughout Illinois and Missouri who have suffered serious personal injuries. We listen to your concerns and provide clear options for your next steps, giving you the personal attention you need throughout your case. 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!

     

  • What are the penalties if an employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance?

    Gavel With Money After a Workers' Compensation PenaltyThe State of Illinois requires all public or private employers with at least one employee to secure valid workers’ compensation insurance to cover job-related injuries. If the employer does not obtain coverage, the business itself may face steep fines and closed doors, while the corporate officers may be held personally liable for damages.

    Penalties for Employers Without Illinois Workers’ Compensation Insurance

    One of the most important consequences for employers who fail to provide workers’ compensation coverage is the loss of the exclusive remedy protection. Under workers’ compensation law, employees are forbidden from suing an employer in exchange for benefits. However, if the employer did not secure workers’ compensation coverage, the employee is free to file a lawsuit directly against the employer. In addition, employers named in these lawsuits cannot use certain defenses (such as negligence of a co-employee) and the burden is on the employer to show freedom of negligence relating to the injury.

    In addition to legal liability, employers who fail to obtain workers’ compensation coverage in Illinois may face:

    • Work stoppage. Investigators with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (IWCC) Insurance Compliance Division can issue a work-stop order on an employer for failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance. IWCC can request the intervention of state law enforcement to prevent any employee from occupying the place of employment until proof of insurance is provided and the work-stop order is lifted.
    • Criminal charges. Illinois law allows individuals such as corporate officers, directors, partners, and members of an employer limited liability company to be charged with criminal acts and face personal liability for failing to provide workers’ compensation coverage. Individuals who knowingly violate the insurance requirement may be found guilty of a Class 4 felony, while those who negligently fail to provide coverage may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
    • Fines. IWCC investigators may issue citations to employers for insurance non-compliance in an amount between $500 and $2,500, which must be paid in addition to providing proof of valid workers' compensation insurance. If the employer does not comply with the citation, the Commission may assess a civil penalty of up to $500 per day for each day without insurance, with a minimum fine of $10,000.

    If you have suffered a work injury in Illinois, we can help you get the compensation you deserve. Contact the experienced workers' compensation attorneys at Tapella & Eberspacher today at (855) 522-5291 or fill out our online contact form to schedule your free consultation.