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Employees in Illinois Cannot Waive Right to Workers’ CompensationIllinois law requires all employers in the state to carry workers’ compensation insurance – even if they have only one employee or part-time employees. The only businesses that can choose to waive the workers’ compensation requirement are those whose only employees are a sole proprietor, business partners or corporate officers. The state can fine an employer and its corporate officers $500 per day if they knowingly fail to have workers’ compensation insurance. Despite the state’s strict requirements, some employers lead their employees to believe that they cannot or should not file a workers’ compensation claim. As a worker, you should watch for tactics that your employer may use to discourage you from exercising your right to benefits after a workplace injury:

  1. Illegal Contracts: An employment contract is not allowed to include a section stating that you agree to not file a workers’ compensation claim in the event of an injury. Mediation with your employer is not a replacement for a workers’ compensation claim. If you notice such a provision in your employment contract, you should contact an attorney to confirm that it is illegal and bring it to the attention of your employer. Even if you have already signed the contract, your employer cannot enforce an agreement to forgo workers’ compensation.
  2. Waivers: Employees cannot waive their right to workers’ compensation, whether it is voluntary or at the employer’s suggestion. Illinois employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in exchange for not filing personal injury lawsuits against their employers. If someone gives you a workers’ compensation waiver form, you should recognize that it is not a legally enforceable document.
  3. Intimidation: Employers are prohibited from retaliating or discriminating against employees who file workers’ compensation claims. Victims of retaliation can file lawsuits against their employers and recover damages. However, some employers use actual or implied threats of retaliation in order to intimidate employees. You should not let a fear of retaliation prevent you from filing a workers’ compensation claim.

Contact a Crystal Lake Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

Some employers take advantage of their employees’ lack of knowledge about workers’ compensation laws by using deceptive practices to discourage employees from filing claims. The employers know they cannot enforce a contract that prevents you from filing a claim, but they hope that you will give up without testing whether the contract is legal. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will stand up to employers and insurance companies that are trying to deny your injury benefits. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

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Receiving Workers’ Compensation When You Have Two JobsSome people work more than one job in order to supplement their income and pay for their living expenses. A worker may be balancing two full-time jobs, though a second part-time job is more common. Suffering an injury at one job may affect your ability to work at both jobs. Though workers’ compensation benefits are available through the job where you were hurt, you may worry about lost income from your other job. Fortunately, Illinois allows you to include wages from more than one job when filing your workers’ compensation claim.

Qualifications

Your average weekly wage helps determine workers’ compensation benefits such as disability payments and lump-sum settlements. A workers’ compensation insurer for one employer may contest your inclusion of income from an additional employer in your average weekly wage. However, you are entitled to compensation for lost income from all of your jobs, as long as:

  • You can prove that your other job exists;
  • The employer for where the injury occurred was aware that you had an additional job; and
  • That employer did not object to you working a second job.

Most injured workers do not have proof in writing that their employer knew about their second job. You need to remember who you told at work about your second job and what their response was. You could strengthen your claim by showing that your employer knowingly adjusted your schedule to accommodate your other job.

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The Opioid Risk for Workers’ Compensation PatientsManaging pain is one of the immediate concerns after a workplace injury. The patient may have intense pain after suffering a traumatic injury or chronic pain from an injury that developed over several years. Physicians sometimes prescribe opioid painkillers as a means of immediate pain relief. However, the public is learning more about the dangers of opioid addiction. Workers’ compensation insurers are taking action against the pharmaceutical companies and physicians who have pushed opioid use, in part because opioid addiction can increase the cost of workers’ compensation. For instance, an Illinois workers’ compensation insurance organization has filed a lawsuit against the makers and distributors of opioids, alleging that they are responsible for an increase in opioid addictions amongst claimants. Injured workers must be careful when using opioids during their injury recovery and should consider alternative methods of pain relief.

Dangers of Opioids

Opioid painkillers are safest when used for a short period. Patients who take opioids for a prolonged period can develop a dependence or addiction to the drug. How quickly the dependence develops depends on the patient and whether they take more than is recommended. Studies suggest that some patients can become dependent in a matter of days. People with opioid addictions may crave increased doses of the drug as their bodies become resistant to it. This increases the risk of overdose and death.

Effect on Workers’ Compensation

According to the National Safety Council, workers who received opioids for more than a week or had more than one opioid prescription are more likely to be on disability a year later. Workers who become dependent on opioids also:

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Receiving Workers’ Compensation for Carpal Tunnel SyndromeCarpal tunnel syndrome is a condition in the hand and arm that is often characterized by pain, tingling, or numbness. The cause is pressure applied to the median nerve, which runs down the arm, through the carpal tunnel in the wrist and into the hand. The carpal tunnel can narrow over time, or the nearby flexor tendons may swell – either of which can apply pressure to the nerve. If not caught early, carpal tunnel syndrome may cause you to lose function in your hand or require surgery to relieve pressure. You may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits if you can show that your work caused your condition.

Causes

It is possible for a single incident to cause carpal tunnel syndrome, such as your wrist or hand being crushed in an accident. However, carpal tunnel syndrome is most often a repetitive trauma injury caused by:

  • Repetitive hand or wrist motions; or
  • Flexing the hand or wrist in a position that puts pressure on it.

Heredity may also play a role if you were born with a smaller carpal tunnel or develop conditions such as arthritis or diabetes.

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Can Workers’ Compensation Cover Cosmetic Surgery?Workers’ compensation benefits are meant to pay for medical treatment for your work-related injury. When a claim is filed, insurance companies often argue with workers about whether injuries are related to the work incident and whether the treatment is necessary for recovery. Cosmetic surgery is a gray area in workers’ compensation that may not seem like it would fall in the category of necessary treatment. However, a scar from an injury can degrade your quality of life, making corrective treatment appropriate as a workers’ compensation expense.

Disfigurement

An injury or a related medical procedure can leave a permanent visible mark, known as a disfigurement. In terms of workers’ compensation law, disfigurement is cosmetic damage to the body that does not affect your ability to perform your work. Visible scars and lost teeth are common examples of disfigurement. Insurers often argue against paying for corrective surgery on a disfigurement because they believe it goes beyond the treatment that is necessary to physically function. However, a disfigurement can affect your quality of life and, by extension, your work performance:

  • Scars on normally visible places of the body can cause embarrassment and distress; and
  • A scar may cause pain or itching, which a cosmetic surgery could fix.

Receiving Compensation

It may take several months after your injury to determine whether you have a disfigurement. Surgery may leave a scar, and you need time to see whether your scar will heal. Whether your disfigurement qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits and how much you receive depends on the size and location of the disfigurement. Surgery to correct a small scar may not be covered, but an arbitrator or the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission may award you additional compensation for cosmetic surgery if you have a noticeable scar on your:

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