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When Do You Need Witnesses for a Workers' Compensation Claim?You are the primary witness in your workers’ compensation case and the only necessary witness in many cases. In Illinois, you are not required to prove that anyone was negligent in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The arbitrator or court that is deciding your case needs to know that your injury occurred during the course of your work or as a consequence of your work duties. You may need other witnesses if your employer is casting doubt on the cause or extent of your injury. However, live testimony may be unnecessary even in these cases.

Expert Witnesses

Every workers’ compensation case should include records of all of your medical treatments and diagnosis of your physical condition. You can also call your physicians or a vocational expert as witnesses to testify during your case about:

  • The severity of your injuries;
  • Disabilities that resulted from your injuries; and
  • How your injury or disability will affect your ability to work.

Expert witnesses will often charge large fees in order to testify for a case. You should determine whether live testimony is necessary before you pay for an expert witness. Detailed reports from these experts may contain all of the information you need to establish your medical condition and future work limitations.

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Five Types of Catastrophic Injuries and Their EffectsThere is no legal definition for a catastrophic injury in a personal injury case, but general consensus defines it as an injury that permanently affects your ability to work or enjoy your life. Suffering a catastrophic injury may entitle you to substantial compensation if another party was at fault for the accident. You will need the money to pay for expensive medical treatments and therapy, as well as to replace your lost income or to train you for a new career. Your lost quality of life is more difficult to quantify, though compensation for pain and suffering should help. Here are five types of catastrophic injuries, each debilitating in its own way:

  1. Brain Injuries: Suffering a fractured skull or concussion can result in traumatic brain injuries. A minor brain injury can cause headaches, dizziness and troubling thinking, but the prognosis for recovery is usually good. A severe brain injury can cause longer-lasting or permanent symptoms, such as problems with memory, speech, or bodily functions.
  2. Spinal Injuries: Spinal cord injuries are often associated with paralysis, loss of feeling and the inability to control bladder and bowel functions. The severity of the symptoms depends on where the injury occurred and whether it is a complete or incomplete injury. The injury will affect a greater part of the body when it is higher on the spinal cord. An incomplete injury may allow some feeling and movement, while there is a low chance of recovering from a complete injury.
  3. Limb Loss: Victims can lose body parts when they are severed as the result of an accident or when the extent of the damage forces doctors to amputate. In some cases, a severed body part can be reattached, followed by painful rehabilitation. Otherwise, losing a finger or limb will permanently change how a person functions.
  4. Organ Damage: A ruptured organ, such as a liver or kidney, is often a medical emergency because it can cause internal bleeding. The victim may be able to recover with time, but there can be long-lasting symptoms if doctors had to remove part of the organ due to damage or infection.
  5. Severe Burns: Third-degree burns can cause severe disfigurement, chronic pain, loss of sensation, or disablement of part of a body. Even if the long-term effects are purely cosmetic, that may still diminish the person’s quality of life.

Contact a McHenry County Personal Injury Lawyer

No amount of money may ever feel like enough to pay for a catastrophic injury, but you need the compensation for practical purposes. A Crystal Lake, Illinois, personal injury attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can tell you how much compensation you can expect to receive for your injury, based on similar cases. Schedule a free consultation by calling 815-338-3838.

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Police Blocked from Forcing Defendant to Give Phone PasscodeAn Illinois appellate court recently upheld a lower court ruling that police could not compel a defendant to surrender his passcode in order to access his cellphone. The court determined that forcing the defendant to give up his secured digital information would violate the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which protects people from self-incrimination. The ruling is the latest development in an ongoing debate about whether the contents of a digital device should be treated as simply data or akin to personal testimony in a criminal case.

Fifth Amendment

In People v. Spicer, the defendant is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance and possessing a controlled substance with the intent to deliver. During a traffic stop, police allegedly found a pill bottle containing cocaine inside the defendant’s car. A court approved a warrant to search the defendant’s cellphone for supporting evidence, but police could not open the phone because of the passcode. Police sought to compel the defendant to provide the passcode. The court denied the request because it would force the defendant to incriminate himself if there is damaging evidence in the phone’s contents. According to a common interpretation of the Fifth Amendment:

  • The amendment applies when the information is testimonial, incriminating, and compelled; and
  • Providing information such as a passcode is testimonial because it requires the defendant to use the contents of his or her mind.

Some legal scholars claim that the Fifth Amendment should naturally protect information on cellular devices because it is an extension of the user’s mind.

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A Prenuptial Agreement Can Protect Your Business During DivorceBusiness owners must prioritize securing their business and its assets during a divorce. In most cases, a business is a marital property that is included during the division of property. Business owners are unlikely to split ownership with a divorcing spouse who did not own or help run the business during their marriage. However, the two sides may dispute the value of the business and how much the other spouse should receive to offset that value. As a business owner, you can plan ahead to protect your business during a potential divorce by including it in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

Why Is Your Business a Marital Property?

Spouses normally differentiate between marital and nonmarital properties based on whether one of them purchased the property before their marriage. However, a business predating a marriage is not enough evidence to make it a nonmarital property:

  • You may have invested marital money into your business; 
  • Your business may be the primary source of income in your marriage; and
  • Your spouse may have sacrificed part of his or her career to allow you to focus on your business.

Your spouse can claim that the amount that your business increased in value during your marriage is marital property.

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Qualifying for Vocational Rehabilitation Maintenance PaymentsSuffering a permanent disability from a workplace injury may prevent you from resuming your previous job duties because of your physical limitations. Vocational rehabilitation trains you in new job skills that will qualify you for a job with more technical or interpersonal duties. An employer is required to offer you vocational rehabilitation when appropriate, and your workers’ compensation claim can give you maintenance during your rehabilitation that is equal in value to your Temporary Total Disability benefits. However, your employer may deny your maintenance if it disagrees with you about whether it must provide vocational rehabilitation.

Recent Case

In the case of Beverage v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the claimant and his former employer disputed whether the employer was required to provide vocational rehabilitation and pay maintenance. The claimant had developed a degenerative disc disease that prevented him from performing a job that required him to lift cases of beer that could weigh as much as 50 pounds. The claimant requested vocational rehabilitation, but the employer instead invited him to apply for a warehouse manager position. The claimant did not apply because he did not believe he was qualified for the position. As part of his workers’ compensation benefits, an arbitrator awarded the claimant nearly 163 weeks of maintenance that started after his TTD benefits ended. A trial court nullified that decision because the claimant had not participated in a vocational rehabilitation program or searched for a job during that period.

Qualifications

The claimant stated that his former employer violated Illinois law by denying his request for vocational rehabilitation. The court responded that vocational rehabilitation was not necessary in this case because:

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