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Farm Owners Have Different Rules for Workers' CompensationAgricultural work has the potential to cause serious or fatal injuries, but workers compensation benefits may not be available in some cases. Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Act states that it does not apply to owners of agricultural enterprises unless they have employees who work a combined 400 working days per fiscal quarter. Immediate family members of the owner do not count as employees if they live with the owner. Thus, the owner of a small farm is not required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance if he or she employs only a few helpers who do not work the required number of hours. This does not change the inherent dangers that come with agricultural work, including:

  1. Operating Hazardous Equipment: Farmers regularly use sharp tools that can cause serious cuts or lost appendages. They have power tools and heavy machinery that are dangerous if they malfunction or are not used properly. Large vehicles such as tractors are a threat to roll over when being driven or overturn when idle.
  2. Slips and Falls: Farmers may need to climb up ladders when working, which has the potential for fall-related injuries. The working area has many obstacles that can trip a worker and substances that may make the floor slippery. A worker may suffer further injury if he or she falls onto a piece of equipment.
  3. Grain Silos: Suffocation is a serious threat when working in a grain storage bin. Shifts in a pile of grain may cause it to collapse on a worker. Grain can behave like quicksand, making it difficult to escape from. An accumulation of grain dust can cause an explosion if it comes in contact with a heat source.
  4. Contaminants: Farmers may work with chemicals such as pesticides, which can be hazardous to humans. Working with animals may expose a farmer to diseases and infections. Long-term exposure to dust and chemicals in the air may cause chronic respiratory problems.

Contact a Crystal Lake Workers’ Compensation Attorney

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act’s exception for farm owners may not apply if your duties on a farm include more than agricultural work. Being hired to do construction or equipment maintenance may fall outside the legal definition of agricultural work.

Farm owners can still carry workers’ compensation insurance or farm liability coverage even if they are not required to. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you receive compensation for your farm-related injury. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838. 

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Tort Immunity Makes It Difficult to Collect Injury Compensation from PoliceWhen can a police officer be held liable for causing a traffic accident that results in personal injury to another party? Illinois gives officers tort immunity in situations where they are responding to an emergency. The officer’s driving actions could be negligent, reckless or illegal, but the police department would be protected from civil penalties as long as the officer was in the process of enforcing the law. While it may be necessary to allow officers to respond to emergencies without worrying about civil repercussions, it can deny car crash victims the chance to receive compensation when someone else was at fault for their accident.

Exceptions to Immunity

A court will allow you to file a personal injury lawsuit against a police department if you can prove one of two circumstances:

  • The officer was not engaged in executing the law at the time of the crash; or
  • The officer’s conduct showed a willful and wanton disregard for the safety of others.

It can be difficult to prove either of these exceptions. Courts tend to give law enforcement the benefit of the doubt when they claim that their actions were necessary or part of their job. A recent case shows how much leeway the law gives police officers who are involved in car accidents.

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Contesting Child Abuse Allegations by the DCFSThe Illinois Department of Child and Family Services has the authority to indicate you for child abuse or neglect if its investigation concludes that there is evidence of such mistreatment. Being “indicated” does not by itself mean you are facing criminal charges, but the DCFS can use it to limit your parental role and put you on a state register that may prevent you from having a job that involves working with children. You have the right to appeal the DCFS’s decision in order to expunge their findings from your record.

Expungement Process

You have only 60 days to file an expungement request after the DCFS has indicated you for child abuse or neglect. Once you have filed the request with the DCFS, a neutral administrative law judge must hear your case within 70 days. If you are a child care worker, you will receive an expedited hearing within 35 days. The judge will hear evidence from both sides and file a recommendation on whether to grant your expungement request to the DCFS director within 90 days. If either the judge or the DCFS director denies your expungement request, you can appeal to the circuit court.

Evidence

As with prosecutors in a criminal trial, the DCFS investigators have the burden of proving their suspicions of child abuse or neglect. At the hearing, they must present their findings and show why they reached their conclusion. As part of your expungement request, the DCFS must provide you a copy of the investigation report, which you can examine for:

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Appropriate Tasks for Different Members of Your Divorce Support SystemYou will often find a strong support system behind people who successfully go through a divorce. Divorcees will rely on the kindness of friends, family, professionals and even some casual acquaintances who have experience with divorce. It is important to find your support system when going through a divorce, but you also need to know what to ask of each member. A family member should not be making legal decisions related to your divorce. Asking your divorce attorney to console you when you are depressed is an ineffective use of the time you are paying him or her for. There are more appropriate ways for your support system to help you.

Friends and Family

Adult members of your family and your close friends are the people you can rely on for help with your personal life during your divorce. They are the people you turn to when you need:

  • A sympathetic shoulder to cry on;
  • Help with completing daily tasks;
  • Someone to watch your children on short notice; or
  • Someone who can help you forget your stress for a moment.

The friends in your support system should be people who have a limited personal connection with your spouse or a much stronger relationship with you. A mutual friend of you and your spouse may feel uncomfortable picking sides during your divorce.

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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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