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How the Illinois Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund works

Illinois workers who are injured on the job have the right to workers’ compensation benefits for hours of work lost and for medical expenses. If the employer fails to pay the compensation owed, then the benefits can be paid by the Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund (IWBF).

The IWBF was created in 2005 to compensate injured workers whose employers fail to pay workers’ compensation benefits. It is funded directly from penalties that employers must pay if they fail to carry required workers’ compensation insurance, and the money is used to help workers who may not otherwise receive benefits due to their employer’s uninsured or underinsured state. Cases are reviewed, and funds disbursed, by the Illinois Division of Insurance Compliance. If there are insufficient funds to cover all the claims that are submitted, then distribution of benefits takes place on a pro rata basis.

Injured workers may apply for IWBF benefits if they have already received a final workers’ compensation award, and their employer failed both to pay the benefits and to carry proper workers’ compensation insurance.

Specific procedures and requirements apply to IWBF benefits. If you were injured at work, consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to learn more about your rights.

Briskman Briskman & Greenberg
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Illinois Governor Vetoes Truck Safety Bill

A bill to increase the speed limit for trucks on some non-urban Illinois highways, which was passed unanimously in both chambers of the Illinois state legislature, has been vetoed by Governor Pat Quinn.

The trucking industry supported the bill, claiming that a high speed differential between cars and trucks is dangerous. The top speed for cars on nonurban highways in Illinois is 70 mph, an increase from 65 mph that went into effect on January 1, after Governor Quinn signed a measure raising the limit. Trucks in most Illinois counties may travel at the same posted speed as automobiles, but they are limited to 55 mph in Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will counties, which the Illinois Trucking Association (ITA) says is dangerous.

The ITA said that it did not support raising the speed limit for cars, because it would increase the speed differential between cars and trucks. It now supports raising the speed limit for trucks for the same reason.

In a letter to Illinois legislators, Quinn said that the increased speed for trucks would lead to an increase in highway fatalities.

Russ Rader, a representative of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, said that research does not support the idea that a high speed differential between cars and trucks is dangerous. He said that lower speed limits for trucks are safer, as they reduce stopping distance and allow cars to pass trucks more easily.

Matt Hart, the director of the Illinois Trucking Association, said that he expected legislators to call for a vote to override Quinn’s veto.

Amputee Files Lawsuit Against Hospital for Cremating Amputated Leg

A patient has filed a lawsuit against Skokie Hospital for incinerating his amputated leg. The patient, an Orthodox Jew whose religious traditions indicate that the dead should be buried whole, claims that he informed a rabbi employed by the hospital and other medical personnel that he wanted his leg to be preserved to be buried with him after his death.

In March 2011, Moshe Lefkowitz had surgery to have his left leg amputated below the knee. The hospital claims that Lefkowitz signed consent forms permitting the hospital to dispose of his leg. Lefkowitz said in an affidavit that he is legally blind and was told by a nurse that he was only signing a form consenting to the surgery.

Lefkowitz sued the hospital and the rabbi in 2013, seeking damages in excess of $100,000. A Cook County judge dismissed the suit, but that ruling was reversed by an appeals court, and the case was sent back for trial.

The hospital argued in an appellate brief that Lefkowitz should not be able to sue the rabbi for what it termed “clergy malpractice,” saying that the plaintiff’s religious contentions have “no place” in the civil court system. Lefkowitz claimed in court papers that he is suing the rabbi for negligence for not properly informing the hospital staff of his wishes.

In reversing the circuit court’s granting of the defendant’s motion to dismiss, the Appellate Court of Illinois, First Judicial District ruled that Lefkowitz had raised at least a question of material fact as to whether he had knowingly consented to the disposal of his leg.

Rabbi Yona Reiss of the Chicago Rabbinical Council told the Chicago Tribune that under Jewish tradition, body parts that have been severed are preserved or buried for the day when it is believed that the bodies will be resurrected. Severed body parts are usually buried in private, low-key ceremonies, he said.

Age Restriction in Park Not a Liability Shield

The Chicago Park District must do more to publicize playground age restrictions if it wants them to be the basis of legal immunity, a state appeals panel has ruled.

The First District Appellate Court, in an unpublished order decision by Justice Robert E. Gordon, found that signs must be posted at the park and that any ordinances restricting the age of users of playground equipment must be published in order for the park district to claim immunity.

The case, Artenia Bowman v. Chicago Park District, involved a 13-year-old girl who fractured her ankle on a slide with a hole in it, which the park district claimed was intended for children under 12. In July 2011, the child’s mother filed a complaint in Cook County Circuit Court seeking recovery of medical expenses. Bowman alleged that the park district had received several complaints about the broken slide and had failed to fix it.

The park district raised an affirmative defense, arguing that the girl was in violation of an ordinance restricting the use of playgrounds for younger children to those between ages 5 and 12. Whether or not there was a sign indicating the age restriction on the day the girl was injured remained in question, but the trial court granted summary judgment to the park district in June 2013.

On appeal, Judge Gordon wrote that there was no evidence that the park district took measures to enforce the age restrictions, and that there was no way for a child to know that such a restriction existed.

Paul Greenberg of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represented Bowman. Greenberg noted that while the ordinance in question refers to park equipment intended for use by younger children, it does not specify which equipment or locations are age-restricted. Greenberg said that the ruling is important because the park district will now have to publicize the ordinance and/or post signs if it wants to restrict playground users to certain age groups.

Personal injury claim not barred by workers’ compensation exclusivity, Illinois Appellate Court rules

An Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled that a worker who allegedly sustained exposure to asbestos while working for his employer between 1966 and 1970 was not barred from pursuing a personal injury claim by the exclusive remedy provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The claim was not compensable under the Act, as the statute of repose had expired.

In the case of Folta v. Ferro Engineering, James Folta allegedly sustained exposure to asbestos while working for the defendant, his employer, in the time period between 1966 and 1970. Forty-one years later, on May 17, 2011, he was diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. 

Generally, the no-fault compensation provided under the Workers’ Compensation Act is the exclusive remedy for workers whose injuries arise out of and in the course of their employment. However, a statute of repose limits asbestos claims under the Act to a 25-year period from the time the employee was exposed. Another statute of repose limits claims under the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act to a three-year period.

The First District Appellate Court ruled that because the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim was time-barred, his injury was “not compensable under the Act,” and he could therefore pursue a civil lawsuit against his employer.

Many misdiagnosis errors go unreported

Medical errors involving surgery or drug mistakes receive a lot of attention, perhaps in part because it is often obvious that an error has been made. But research indicates that misdiagnosis may be a far more common type of medical mistake.

Experts in patient safety say that misdiagnosis, which can include delayed, missed or incorrect diagnoses, may affect between 10 and 20 percent of all cases.

Medical errors that harm patients and are the result of negligence on the part of doctors or hospital personnel may give rise to medical malpractice lawsuits. However, in the vast majority of misdiagnosis cases, lawsuits are not filed. In many cases, patients are not aware that an error was made because the misdiagnosis is never reported.

A report by Daniel R. Levinson, the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, found that only one in seven mistakes or injuries involving Medicare patients are actually reported by hospital staff, even though reporting events that cause patients harm is a requirement of receiving Medicare payments.

Patients who suspect a misdiagnosis caused or worsened an injury should consult with a medical malpractice attorney to determine whether a lawsuit is appropriate to recover compensation for the harm they suffered.

Over 14 million dollars awarded in birth injury lawsuit

An Ohio jury has awarded $14.5 million to a boy who suffered a birth injury.

The jury returned the verdict against a hospital and doctor in favor of the 11-year-old boy and his mother, Stephanie Stewart. The child suffered a brain hemorrhage after a delay in his delivery, and he now suffers from cognitive delays, cerebral palsy, visual impairments and other medical conditions. The family’s attorney said that he will require lifelong care.

The lawsuit was first filed in 2004, but it was dismissed without prejudice in 2006 due to personnel issues with the law firm handling the case. The case was refiled in June 2011.

When Stewart was pregnant in 2003, she went into labor prematurely and was admitted to the hospital on three occasions, where the labor was stopped with medication, her attorney said. Stewart’s water broke on April 10, and she was admitted to the hospital again. A cesarean section had previously been discussed, and Stewart requested that her baby be delivered soon after she was admitted. But the delivery was delayed for several hours, according to her attorney. When the baby showed signs of distress, an emergency cesarean section was performed. By then, the infant had suffered a massive brain hemorrhage.

The jury determined that medical negligence had occurred, and awarded $8 million for future care, $5 million for pain and suffering, $1 million for the cost of Stewart’s services and $500,000 for economic losses.

New Illinois law allows workers to sue third-party service organizations

On June 5, 2014, Senate Bill 3287 passed both houses of the Illinois legislature and was signed into law by Governor Quinn, becoming Public Act 98-33. The law eliminates immunity for third-party maintenance or service corporations from third-party lawsuits under the exclusive remedy provisions of the Workers’ Compensation Act. 

The law went into effect immediately.

The new law was passed in response to a recent appellate court decision. In Brenda Mockbee v. Humphrey Manlift Co. Inc., the First District Appellate Court ruled that a worker who was left paraplegic after a work accident could not file a lawsuit against safety consultants who were hired by her employer, Quaker Oats.

The new law allows injured workers like Mockbee to file a civil lawsuit against a negligent third-party maintenance company hired by an employer. Independent maintenance organizations that provide independent services to an employer are thus subject to liability in court, while a service company that is wholly owned by the employer or wholly owned by the employer’s broker or insurer are still protected from civil lawsuits under the exclusive remedy provisions.

The new law “reaffirmed 45 years of legal precedent,” according to Stephen D. Phillips, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association. The law does not increase workers’ compensation benefits paid by the employer.

Labor trauma can cause birth injuries

A number of birth injuries can result from trauma experienced during the labor and delivery process. Said trauma can result from mistakes on the part of medical professionals attending the birth.

Head trauma suffered during delivery can cause several different types of birth injuries, including cephalohematoma, caput succedaneum and epidural hemorrhage.

Cerebral palsy, a disability of the central nervous system, can result if the baby’s brain lacks oxygen during the labor and delivery process.

Perinatal asphyxia can also appear when a baby is deprived of oxygen. That deprivation can be caused by interference with blood flow to the baby’s brain or a drop in maternal blood pressure.

Erb’s Palsy is a paralysis of the arm resulting from an injury to a group of nerves in the arm. This condition can occur if the baby’s head and neck are pulled excessively during delivery.

Brachial plexus injuries can be caused by shoulder trauma, inflammation or tumors, and they may occur if the baby’s shoulder is stretched during birth.

A leading cause of severe illness and even death in newborns is meconium aspiration syndrome. If a fetus is stressed during delivery and inhales a mixture of meconium and amniotic fluid into its lungs, severe injury can result.

Each of these birth injuries may be caused by the mistakes of doctors and other medical personnel. An unnecessary injury may constitute medical malpractice. If your child suffered a birth injury due to a medical error, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact Briskman Briskman & Greenberg to learn more about your legal rights.

IWCC rules a close call insufficient for a mental disability claim

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission recently ruled against a train operator who claimed a mental disability based on the trauma of believing that the train he was operating had struck and killed a pedestrian.

The worker was operating a train exiting a tunnel when he observed two young men running across the tracks. The operator was not able to stop the train, and he heard a thumping noise that caused him to believe that the train had run over and killed one of the men. However, upon exiting the train, the operator observed the two men running away.

The train operator sought psychological counseling for sleep disturbance, anxiety, flashbacks, fatigue and headaches. He also sought workers’ compensation benefits for a psychiatric disability.

The arbitrator in the case denied the worker benefits, finding that he was not exposed to a severe and sudden emotional shock. The arbitrator’s decision was confirmed by the commission.

The commission held that the operator had testified credibly as to the events. However, because the injured man was able to stand up under his own power, jump a fence and run away, the operator did not face the emotional shock of witnessing the aftermath of what he believed had happened.

In addition, the commission agreed with the arbitrator’s finding that the alleged mental disorder did not arise from a situation beyond the usual emotional tension and strain that workers must experience, particularly those who operate motorized vehicles.

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The Chicago Illinois personal injury law firm of Briskman Briskman & Greenberg represents injured people throughout Illinois, including Chicago, the Chicagoland area, Joliet, Waukegan, Cicero, Evanston, Arlington Heights, Wheaton, Bolingbrook, and Naperville, as well as other cities within Cook County, Will County, DuPage County, Lake County and McHenry County.
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