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Bradley S Dworkin & Domenic Maciariello

Dworkin & Maciariello Attorney at Law

The Illinois Hammer

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Frequently Asked Questions

Personal Injury

How long do I have to file a claim?

In most personal injury cases you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit with the court system. This time period is known as the statute of limitations. If you do not file the lawsuit or otherwise settle the claim out of court, you surrender your right to pursue legal action, which includes being compensated for your injury.

There are certain scenarios when the two-year deadline can be delayed. One situation is when the person who was injured is a minor or has been deemed mentally disabled. For a minor, the two years does not start until the minor reaches the age of majority, 18. In terms of someone who has been deemed mentally disabled, the two-year span begins once the disability is resolved.

Another scenario is when the negligent act is not readily identified. This is regularly seen in cases involving medical malpractice and mass tort litigation such as mesothelioma, asbestos, and lead exposure cases. In these instances, the two-year period does not start to run until the injured party becomes aware of the negligent act or through reasonable inquiry should have known about the negligent act that led to their injury.

The statute of limitations is also different for local government entities. If the person who caused the injury is a local government body such as a police officer, sanitation worker, city bus driver, or park service member, then the time limit is only one year from the date of incident.

We encourage anyone injured to start the claims process as soon as possible and seek legal representation instead of waiting, so they can get proper advice and take the necessary steps to start recovering physically and financially faster.

What evidence helps my claim?

There are many types of evidence you can collect that help corroborate your claim. Anything that supports your case is considered evidence. A good attorney will help you understand what documentation and support is needed to present the strongest case possible. General pieces of evidence include medical records, police reports, witness statements, photos of the accident and area of the accident, pay stubs to show monetary loss due to post-accident recovery time, personal diaries evidencing the pain experienced throughout recovery, medical bills, and other bills incurred from out-of-pocket expenses. This list isn’t exhaustive and every case is different. Gathering all this information can feel like a huge obstacle, but the Illinois Hammer Injury Law Firm will help you collect evidence to maximize your case.

Can I be compensated if I was partially at fault?

Yes. This happens often in car accidents, however it’s still possible to recover if the other driver is more culpable (or responsible) for the accident than you are. For example, if you and the defendant were both speeding before an accident occurred, but the defendant ran a stop sign, they are the more culpable party, and you are still entitled to compensation. The insurance company or court may find you 10% responsible for the collision due to speeding and that percent of responsibility will be deducted from the monetary award. For instance, if the court or insurance carrier assesses your damages to be $100,000, 10% of that, or $10,000, will be deducted from your award because you were partially at-fault.

How do I settle my claim without going to court?

Having to take a claim to court (filing a lawsuit) is contingent on several components, but it is possible to settle a claim outside of court. Something to consider is the offer the defendant’s insurance or defendant makes prior to filing a lawsuit. To settle, the injured person must agree to the settlement offer. A lawsuit is filed if the injured person is not satisfied with this offer. An attorney can assess an offer and let the client know if it’s favorable. An attorney will work with their client and can advise if filing a lawsuit is likely to result in more compensation than what was offered in a settlement during negotiations.

Is the property owner responsible for my injury?

When someone is injured on someone else’s property this is called a premises liability case. The most important factor to a premises liability case is the negligence of the property owner. A successful case can prove that an injury occurred due to the negligence of the property owner. For example, if a property owner knowingly exposed the injury victim to hazardous conditions without warning, such as broken railing in a stairwell, which results in an injury, then the owner is liable for the resulting injury. Receiving a failing grade on a building code inspection but keeping the property open would be another example of negligence. Many premises liability cases occur from a property owner failing to appropriately maintain a property. The ability to demonstrate that they are negligent is key to this process.

What can I do if my insurance company is refusing to help or treating me unfairly?

The disappointing truth is being mistreated by the insurance company is common. Saving their company money and maximizing financial gains to their shareholders is a priority over the needs of you, the policyholder. The last thing you need after an injury is dealing with an unfair insurer. It often feels like being hurt all over again.

An attorney at the Illinois Hammer Injury Law Firm can examine your policy and help you understand the compensation you’re entitled to. They can also negotiate with the insurance company and ensure they honor the policy you have to the fullest potential, so you can focus on recovery.

It’s unfortunate that you have to go to such lengths just to get the compensation you are entitled to from your policy, but seeking legal representation when an insurance company is refusing to uphold their end of the deal could be the difference between hundreds versus thousands of dollars in your pocket.

How long will it take for my case to get results?

Every claim is different, which means the time it takes to get results is also different. A few factors to consider for an estimated time are how many parties were involved in the incident or accident, how long you will be receiving medical treatment due to your injuries, whether the insurance company accepts fault for the claim, and if the claim can be settled without filing a lawsuit. For instance, if a defendant disputes they are at-fault, the claim will take longer because evidence will need to be gathered through the discovery process and arguments must be presented to the jury, or in some instances a judge or arbitrator. On the other hand, if the defendant accepts full responsibility and has a quick-paying insurance company that accepts the claim, seeing results may come faster.

How can I make sure the insurance company accepts fault for my claim?

Having ample evidence to corroborate the circumstances of your claim is a great way to prove your claim is valid. This includes pictures of the scene of the accident, taking witness statements, getting a police report, and seeking medical treatment immediately for your injuries. After the accident, if you are still in pain, continuing consistent medical treatment and evaluation is the best way to show that your injuries were serious. Unfortunately, your word is not enough for an insurance company. If you say you’re in pain, then your actions should demonstrate that. Keeping track of medical bills and lost wages to show financial loss is another helpful way to substantiate your claim. These examples are not exhaustive. An attorney will help you continue to gather evidence to make sure you present the strongest claim possible to the insurance company, and that you maximize the value of your case.

How long do I have to wait to get my settlement money?

The amount of time it takes to receive money from a settlement or verdict ranges, but it generally takes up to 60 days. Once a settlement or verdict amount is reached, the attorney will begin the process of making sure the medical bills that have liens on the case are negotiated down to their lowest cost. As this occurs, the attorney will submit the required settlement paperwork to the insurance carrier so they can release the check to the law firm. Once the check is received, the medical liens are all negotiated, and all paperwork is signed by the client, a representative from the law firm will contact you, the client, to give you the option of coming in person to pick up the check or having the check mailed to you.

How do I prove my medical malpractice claim?

Medical malpractice occurs when the medical standard of care was not upheld and that led to an injury. In other words, a doctor or healthcare professional caused harm to a patient through careless negligence. To make a medical malpractice claim, there needs to be proof of the doctor’s or healthcare professional’s error. There also needs to be proof of the link between the error and injury. Having a doctor in the same field as the negligent doctor testify that the doctor in question did not abide by the standard of care and their error caused an injury or reoccurring injury is necessary to support your claim. Attorneys at the Illinois Hammer Injury Law Firm can work with you to find the right doctor to testify to the standard of care in your case.

Who is considered liable for a slip and fall injury?

A slip and fall accident is under the realm of a premises liability case. Premises liability cases are successful when proof of negligence by the property owner is present. In the case of a slip and fall accident, it must be proven that the slip was caused due to a dangerous or hazardous condition on the property that the property owner was aware of, but the owner did not take adequate action to remedy the danger or make patrons aware of the danger. Proving negligence for a slip and fall case could include photos of the unsafe surface, which had no warning signs announcing that there was a spill, debris, or anything else that might cause a person to slip or trip. Like all injury cases, continued medical care and evaluations help corroborate that an injury was sustained, and this strengthens the validity of your claim.

What can I be compensated for in a car accident?

When you’re injured in a car accident, the at-fault party is responsible for compensating you for a variety of things, including paying for the damages to repair or replace your car, all medical expenses needed because of the accident (both immediate expenses, ongoing treatment, and future treatment), lost wages (past, present, and future), pain and suffering (past, present, and future), disfigurement such as scars, loss of a normal life, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship/consortium for your spouse.

In the event of a truck accident, who is responsible: the driver or their company?

If the truck driver was performing work duties when the accident occurred, which is most likely the scenario, then the truck driver is acting as an agent, or extension, of the trucking company. Therefore, the trucking company is the financially responsible and liable party. In turn, if the driver was operating the vehicle outside of his work duties, then the trucking company will likely deny liability and say the driver is directly at-fault. The court may decide to split the percent of liability between the driver and the company so they must share the financial responsibility. In either circumstance, your attorney will pursue maximizing your case and advise the best course to navigate the legal process.

After an accident, is the insurance company required to pay my medical bills?

Part of negotiating a settlement amount will include the costs of medical bills, including payments for bills already incurred as well as future ongoing treatment you need stemming from an injury caused by the accident. A settlement will usually completely recoup the costs of treatment, plus additional benefits within a policy. Even if your medical bills are paid through a different source such as health insurance, you are still entitled to reimbursement for those medical bills through your lump sum settlement.

Who pays to fix my car?

Once the defendant’s insurance company accepts liability for a collision, the defendant is responsible for necessary repairs to your car or writing a check for the total loss of the vehicle. The defendant’s insurance company has the right to choose the most economic option. This means if it costs less money to pay for a totaled car over the costs to repair it, they may choose that. If the defendant doesn’t have thorough insurance but you have full coverage on your own vehicle, it may be better to pay the deductible and use your own insurance to make sure your car is properly repaired and/or receives its full value. Your insurance company can then pursue the defendant’s insurance to reimburse you for the amount paid, including being reimbursed for the deductible you paid.

Does it matter that I was a passenger in a car accident, but my name isn’t on the police report?

It’s important to make sure you are added to the police report if you plan to seek any legal action after an accident, especially if you were injured during the accident and sought medical treatment. Not only will it help in corroborating any legal claims, but it will also help avoid complications with the insurance company down the line. To have your name added to a police report, you and the driver of the vehicle must immediately go to the police station and request an amended report to include you as the passenger.

How do I prove my wages if I’m self-employed?

The easiest way to prove your wages when seeking wage-loss compensation is by submitting tax records. Typically, an insurance company will request tax returns from the prior two to three years to determine your wage average. If you’re a rideshare employee, insurance will examine your monthly earnings logs to determine your average wage. The insurance company will then use that average wage to determine the approximate total of wages you lost as a result of being injured.

Should I use my health insurance to pay my medical bills from an accident?

In some circumstances, it may be more efficient to pay your medical bills through your insurance than being stressed by unpaid bills and threats of it being reported to collections. In the state of Illinois, your attorney can request the full cost of the medical bill, including what your insurance covered, as part of the settlement. For example, if you have $10,000 in medical bills and insurance covers $6,000 of it and you pay $4,000 out of pocket, your attorney can still include the total cost of $10,000 as part of the settlement. You may still have to repay your health insurance, but that amount will come from the settlement and will always be at a lesser price. It should be noted that medical providers are not required to accept payment from your health insurance and may choose to take a prorated portion of the settlement or verdict as allowed by the Illinois Healthcare Services Lien Act.

If I have a workers’ compensation case and a personal injury case, do I get paid for both?

Yes. The two causes of action can yield two separate settlements. However, there is an interplay between the two settlements, which is why it’s important you have the same law firm handling both cases to maximize the amount you can receive. A law firm, such as the Illinois Hammer Injury Law Firm, that is well-versed in both fields will consider the circumstances of the case, such as the severity of the injury and policy-limits, to decide how to get you the best results. Settling a personal injury case and ignoring or minimizing the workers’ compensation case may negatively impact your results if you decide to also pursue legal action under workers’ compensation, or vice-versa. That’s why it’s imperative to have one law firm review both options to determine the best course of action.

If I don’t recover anything, do I owe my attorney money?

In the unlikely event the Illinois Hammer Injury Law Firm does not win, which is extremely rare, you owe nothing. The Illinois Hammer Injury Law Firm works on a contingency basis, which means that the law firm is paid a percentage of the recovery amount. The exact percentage depends on the case type. The Illinois Hammer Injury Law Firm wins 97% of their cases, but to restate, if you don’t win you owe nothing. If the law firm has taken on your case, it means they believe it’s a valuable and winnable case.

 

Workers’ Compensation

Am I able to pursue workers’ compensation benefits even though I am no longer working for the employer I was working for at the time I was injured?

Yes, assuming you have complied with all of the other conditions specified by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

Can I be fired from my employment for applying for workers’ compensation?

Illinois law specifically prohibits an employer from firing injured employees for exercising their right to compensation under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Firing employees for exercising their rights under the Act may give rise to a separate legal action against the employer.

Can I choose my own doctor or hospital?

You may, within certain restrictions that are specified in the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The employer is responsible for 100% of all reasonable and necessary medical, surgical, and hospital expenses.

In many cases you can see up to two doctors of your own choice, and your employer is responsible for paying the charges made by any other doctors or hospitals to whom you are referred by either of your first two choices of doctors. However, if your employer maintains a Preferred Provider list, you are required to select a treater from that list as your first choice of doctor, or else forfeit that first choice. In that case, you will be entitled to only one doctor of your own choice. In our opinion, the doctors on an employer’s Preferred Provider list are biased in favor of the employer and should not be seen. Because declining to treat with your employer’s doctors will leave you with only one choice of doctor, it is important that you contact us before beginning treatment so that we can review your doctors with you and make the best use of your choice.

Can my employer ask me to submit to an examination by its own physician?

Yes, but such an examination, which may be known as an “Independent Medical Evaluation,” must be done at the employer’s expense and must also be performed at a time and place that is reasonable for the injured worker to attend. If applicable, the employer is responsible for payment of the employee’s time lost from employment for the doctor’s examination. Be aware that your employer has sent you to their examining physician in order to obtain the injury history, diagnosis, and prognosis they want, in order to minimize or even deny your claim. Therefore, you should be specific in advising your employer’s physician or medical evaluator about the specifics of your injury and medical treatment, and that your injury was directly caused by your employment.

How do I know whether I have a viable workers’ compensation claim?

Consult with an attorney who concentrates their practice in workers’ compensation law. The Illinois Hammer Injury Law Firm does not charge for a consultation.

How do I pay for an attorney to represent me regarding my workers’ compensation claim?

You will be charged a fee only when a recovery is made on your behalf. Details are provided in the written attorney/client agreement form that you will be asked to sign at such time if you retain legal counsel. Be certain to read the agreement carefully, and ask any questions you may have about the agreement at the time of signing.

I have been handling my own workers’ compensation case for two years, but I am getting nowhere. Is it too late for me to get a lawyer?

No, as long as all notice requirements have been met.

Is it possible for me to receive a lump-sum settlement in the event I am found to be permanently and totally disabled from further gainful employment?

It is possible to receive a lump-sum settlement distribution rather than scheduled payments in such cases, provided such a distribution is approved by the Illinois Industrial Commission.

Is the employer responsible for payment if I wish to be seen by another doctor?

The employer is responsible for emergency services, physicians and hospital stays, and any additional medical care providers to whom the injured worker is referred by the aforementioned. Certain restrictions are specified in the Workers’ Compensation Act. You should consult with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in order to protect your rights regarding your employer’s payment for your medical treatment.

Under what conditions am I able to ensure that I will receive future medical treatment for my work-related injury?

Having a hearing before an Arbitrator at the Illinois Industrial Commission is the only legal method for preserving your right to future medical treatment. When you settle your claim with your employer for a lump-sum payment of Permanent Partial Disability PPD, you forever close out your right to receive any future medical treatment for your work-related injury unless such a provision is specified in your settlement contract with your employer.

What do I have to do to receive workers’ compensation benefits?

You must notify your employer immediately of your work-related injury or illness. Any delay in notification may jeopardize your ability to receive benefits. Notice to your employer may be given orally or in writing. In your own self-interest, DO NOT submit to a recorded statement and DO NOT sign any documents given to you by your employer or by your employer’s insurance carrier until you are able to have them reviewed by a competent workers’ compensation attorney. You should keep your employer informed of your medical condition.

What happens if an offer of settlement is made to me by my employer and I choose not to accept it?

You may choose to go to an Arbitration hearing so that all of the evidence surrounding your claim may be heard by an Arbitrator. The Arbitrator’s decision may be appealed by either party, and, depending on the facts regarding your injury, may go all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

What happens if I am injured on the job, or if I contract a job-related illness?

You are probably entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

What happens if my condition worsens after the Arbitrator renders their decision regarding my claim?

If no lump-sum settlement of your claim has been made, under certain circumstances additional medical, surgical, and hospital services, and increased compensation, may be allowed by the Illinois Industrial Commission.

What happens when I settle my workers’ compensation claim?

You may be closing out any further claim to workers’ compensation benefits regarding your injury upon your acceptance of a settlement offer.

What if my doctor returns me to full duty employment, but I feel that I am unable to perform that job anymore?

You should follow your doctor’s recommendation and attempt to return to work. The more positive your attitude toward returning to work, the better it is for your workers’ compensation claim. If you experience pain and discomfort upon your return to work, you should report this to your supervisor and make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.

What if someone other than my employer is responsible for my work-related injury or illness?

You may have a legal cause of action referred to as a “third party claim” against the party or parties responsible for your work injury. The most common forms of “third party claims” are vehicular accidents and product liability claims. In cases such as these, a claim may be filed in state or federal court against the other driver and their insurance company, or the manufacturer that produced a defective product which led to your injury or disease. If recovery of damages is made against a third party, your employer may be entitled to reimbursement of some or all of the benefits paid out in your workers’ compensation claim. Such reimbursement should be made by the third party or their insurer.

What injuries, diseases, or illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation benefits generally apply to injuries that are caused by the employee’s work, and also apply when a previous injury or illness is aggravated by the employee’s work. Injuries which are caused by repetitive stress, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, are covered, as are strokes, heart attacks, and other physical problems that are directly caused by a worker’s employment.

What is the statute of limitations regarding the filing of a workers’ compensation claim in Illinois?

Generally speaking, the statute of limitations for the filing of a workers’ compensation claim is three years, although certain conditions are specified in the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. You should act as promptly as is practical to ensure your rights under the Act.

What is workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation consists of a number of different benefits provided by state law to most workers who have suffered job-related injuries or illnesses under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The Act is administered by the Illinois Industrial Commission, which is a state agency. The Act was enacted by the Illinois General Assembly in 1911 to provide financial protection and security to almost any worker who sustains an injury or illness while on the job. Almost every employee in the state of Illinois is covered by the Act from the moment their employment begins with their employer, and benefits are paid to an injured worker regardless of who is at fault for the injury.

What kind of benefits are provided by workers’ compensation?

Temporary Total Disability (TTD) compensation is paid in a percentage of the injured employee’s gross average weekly earnings, including overtime, while the employee is off work by order of a physician as a result of a work-related injury or illness. If you hold a second job and the employer for whom you were working at the time you were injured is aware that you work this second job, your temporary disability payments are based on the gross income from both jobs. Reasonable and necessary medical, surgical, and hospital expenses are 100% covered. Physical, mental, and vocational rehabilitation benefits, while subject to requirements and limitations, will be provided to an injured worker when such benefits are found to be appropriate. Permanent disability and dismemberment benefits may be compensated by way of a lump-sum payment or payments over time. If the injury causes the death of the worker, the worker’s spouse and/or dependents are entitled to certain benefits that are specified by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

What other benefits may I be entitled to?

You may be entitled to unemployment compensation, social security benefits, disability benefits, and group health insurance benefits. Your workers’ compensation lawyer should be able to advise you regarding whether these other benefits fit your particular circumstances.

What should my workers’ compensation lawyer do for me?

Your lawyer should assist you in the filing of your claim with the Industrial Commission, and should ensure that you receive all of the benefits you are entitled to under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Your lawyer may have to petition for an immediate hearing so that you may receive the benefits you deserve from your employer in a timely manner. Your lawyer may have to take the evidence depositions of doctors involved in your medical care in order to ensure an equitable resolution to your claim. In the event that a hearing is necessary to resolve the issues surrounding your claim, your lawyer may need to review or appeal the decision made by the Arbitrator regarding your claim. Depending on the facts of the claim, your case may even go all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

When should I retain counsel to represent me regarding my workers’ compensation claim?

The Illinois Hammer Injury Law Firm recommends you retain competent counsel who specializes in workers’ compensation law immediately. You will need a competent workers’ compensation attorney to guide you through the claims process in order for you to obtain every benefit for which you are entitled to under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Your employer will not advise you of your rights under the Act, and although many employers are not unfair toward their injured employees, they may not feel that it is in their best interest to protect and assist you in the recovery of benefits as are provided by the Workers’ Compensation Act. You should be aware that their motivation and objectives may be entirely different from yours.

When will my employer begin paying me Total Temporary Disability benefits?

Under the provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, your employer or their insurance company is legally required to begin payment of Total Temporary Disability (TTD) within fourteen (14) days of the date you informed your employer of your work injury.

Who pays off my benefits?

The employer pays workers’ compensation benefits, either directly or through an insurance company.

Will I be able to receive social security benefits as a result of my work-related injury?

If you are disabled from working for a period of five (5) months, and it is anticipated by your physician that your disability will continue for a total of one year or longer, you may be eligible for social security benefits.

Will I be entitled to any vocational rehabilitation benefits in order to train me for another occupation if I am unable to perform my former job duties as a result of my work-related injury?

If you are able to prove through medical evidence that you are unable to return to your usual and customary occupation as a result of your work-related injury, your employer may be responsible to pay for the vocational rehabilitation necessary to place you in a position consistent with your physical limitations. You may also be entitled to receive maintenance payments in the same amount as your Temporary Total Disability (TTD) payments during your training period.

Will I be entitled to receive any other benefits after I return to work at my regular job after being treated for my work-related injury?

You may be entitled to receive compensation for the partial permanent loss of use of the injured part of your body, or of yourself as a whole. Such compensation is called Permanent Partial Disability compensation (PPD), and is received as the result of a settlement agreement between you and your employer, or as the result of the decision of the Arbitrator assigned to your claim.

Will I be entitled to receive any other benefits if I am unable to return to work at my regular job after being treated for my work-related injury?

If it is necessary for you to accept a lower-paying job because of your inability to perform the responsibilities of your usual and customary employment, you may be entitled to benefits equal to two-thirds (2/3) of the difference between your gross average weekly wage that you were earning before you were injured on the job, and the gross average weekly wage you are able to earn after your return to work.

DISCLAIMER: All answers to the hypothetical questions contained herein are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. The Illinois Hammer Injury Law Firm shall not be liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained herein, or any actions taken in reliance thereon.
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