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Appellate court rules worker’s injury in fall compensable

The Appellate Court of Illinois reversed the judgment of a trial court in a workers’ compensation case, ruling that the worker’s injury in a fall was compensable.

The claimant, Jane R. Brais, suffered an injury to her wrist when she tripped on a faulty sidewalk outside the Kankakee County courthouse, where she worked in the circuit clerk’s office. The trial court affirmed the arbitrator’s decision to deny benefits because the injury did not arise out of the worker’s employment. However, the appeals court reversed and remanded the cause case to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

The appeals court found that the claimant was required to attend a meeting at a nearby building and was returning to work through the only entrance that was open at the time. The court found that the cracked sidewalk was a contributing cause of the worker’s injury and that it was a special hazard. The court also said that using the cracked sidewalk was a hazard that was part of the worker’s employment; even though the public also used the sidewalk, the employee was exposed to a greater risk than the public because of the demands of her work. The court said that the only reasonable inference based on the evidence was that the worker’s injuries arose out of her employment.

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Special Hazard Rule Covers Employee in Workers’ Compensation Case

In an unpublished opinion, The Illinois Appellate Court held that a bus driver’s injury — resulting from tripping over a mat while leaving a work meeting — arose out of her employment.

The bus driver claimed an injury to her leg while attending a compulsory meeting for 200 workers held at a school. The driver claimed to have tripped over a bunched-up mat as she exited, resulting in a knee injury and distal fracture. The driver claimed workers’ compensation benefits.

The employer did not dispute that the driver was in the course of her employment at the time of the injury, but did dispute the allegation that the injury arose out of her employment.

The Illinois Appellate Court held that the worker was entitled to benefits because she was required to be at the location where the accident occurred and because the location was controlled by her employer. The court rejected the employer’s argument that the case involved the risks inherent to walking on a mat that confront any member of the public. According to the court, the bunched-up mat constituted a “dangerous condition of the premises,” adding that special hazards, when encountered as a result of using ordinary access routes, arise out of employment.

Illinois Supreme Court Allows Mailbox Rule in Workers’ Compensation Case

The Illinois Supreme Court upheld the “mailbox rule” as it applies to workers’ compensation cases. The court held that the petitioner’s appeal to the circuit court was timely filed because it was postmarked by the filing deadline.

Justice Robert R. Thomas, writing for the majority in the 5-2 decision, said that upholding the rule in such cases would bring “harmony and consistency” to the process of review in workers’ compensation cases, because the rule is presumed at other stages of an appeal.

The court also noted that the Illinois General Assembly has specified when the rule is not applicable and in state courts the modern trend is to allow the mailbox rule, essentially equating time of mailing with time of filing.

The decision overturned a ruling by the Workers’ Compensation Commission Division of the Illinois Appellate Court.

The case stems from a lower back injury that a worker received while pulling pins from the ground as part of roadwork for a construction contractor. The worker’s initial claim was denied by an arbitrator, and that decision was upheld by McHenry County Associate Judge Thomas A. Meyer.

The worker’s circuit court filings were received on May 14, 2009, four days after the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act’s statutory deadline for “commencing” an appeal.

The high court said that the question was whether a proceeding is begun when the appropriate filings are placed in the mailbox or when they are file-stamped by the court clerk. The court observed that appeals to the commission and to the appellate court follow the mailbox rule, and the same rule should apply at every stage of review. The court also said that the legislature is aware that courts have construed statutes as including the mailbox rule and they have precluded it only in the case of certain documents filed under the Election Code.

Employee Claims Retaliation for Filing Workers’ Compensation Claim

An Illinois woman claims she was fired from a retail store because she filed a workers’ compensation claim.

Cynthia Hewitt filed a lawsuit against Casey’s General Store in Maryville. According to the lawsuit, Hewitt began working at the store in September 2011. She claims that she fell and injured her back while moving a tall stepladder inside the store on February 28, 2012. After the injury, Hewitt filed a successful workers’ compensation claim, receiving $220 per week in benefits for total temporary disability beginning March 3, 2012.

Hewitt says in the complaint that she underwent surgery on her back in July 2012 and was approved by her doctor six months later to return to light duty work, meaning she could lift a maximum of 15 pounds. She claims the store refused to assign her to light duty work.

In March 2012, Hewitt says her doctor approved her return to work with no restrictions, and her disability payments ceased. However, according to the lawsuit, the store refused to allow her to return to work. Hewitt claims she applied for unemployment benefits but was denied because her employer had reported that she was “discharged.”

The complaint alleges that the employer’s actions are a violation of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The lawsuit seeks damages in excess of $50,000.

Employee Denied Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Fall from Chair

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission ruled that a Department of Human Services worker was not entitled to compensation for a fall from a chair, because her work did not expose her to an increased risk of falling.

A security therapy aide employed by the Department of Human Services testified that she was writing notes while sitting on a plastic chair when the chair slipped out from under her and she fell, injuring her back, head and right hand. The worker testified that the floors had been waxed the previous night, and though the chair was not on wheels, it slipped on the floor.

The workers’ compensation arbitrator found that the accident arose out of and in the course of the worker’s employment and awarded permanent partial disability benefits and medical expenses. However, the commission reversed the arbitrator’s decision, finding that the aide was not eligible for benefits.

The commission found that the worker was not exposed to increased risk of falling merely by being seated in the chair and that she did not show how her injuries arose out of her employment. The commission found that the aide did not show a causal relationship between the floors being waxed the previous night and her falling out of her chair.

Worker Claims He Was Fired After Applying for Workers’ Compensation Benefits

A lawsuit has been filed alleging that a worker was fired after applying for workers’ compensation benefits.

Roger Johnson filed suit June 11 in St. Clair County Circuit Court, claiming that he was wrongly discharged. The plaintiff alleges that he was employed by defendant Commercial Transport when he sustained injuries on April 30, 2012. According to the complaint, Johnson filed for workers’ compensation benefits shortly after his injury.

The complaint alleges that Johnson’s employment was terminated after he applied for benefits, a violation of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The lawsuit states that Johnson lost wages and health and pension benefits and suffered mental anguish and damage to his reputation.

Johnson is seeking damages in excess of $50,000 as well as punitive damages in excess of $50,000, plus costs.

Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, an employer may not retaliate against a worker for exercising his or her rights in regards to workers’ compensation by discharging, harassing, refusing to rehire, or discriminating against the employee in any way, and violation of this provision may give rise to a cause of action in court.

Nursing Home Sued in Wrongful Death Case

A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against a nursing home on the South Side of Chicago after a patient, who was allegedly prescribed an overdose of medication, died.

A representative of Sonya Eli file the lawsuit in Cook County Circuit Court, alleging that the woman’s
doctors wrote a prescription for a dangerous combination and dosage of medicine, causing her January 2011 death.

The lawsuit claims that the nursing home, Rainbow Beach Nursing Center, was negligent in administering incorrect doses of medication and failed to properly monitor the patient’s condition. The lawsuit seeks more than $200,000 in damages.

While nursing home residents should be entitled to the highest standard of care, this is often not the case. Neglect, abuse and medical malpractice occur at nursing homes and assisted living facilities all too often, resulting in personal injury or even death. For the victims and families of those who have been victimized, seeking legal representation is often the first step toward proper compensation for harm suffered.

Nursing homes in Illinois are inspected and regulated by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). The Department conducts more than 10,000 surveys each year, responding to more than 5,000 annual complaints. IDPH also issues quarterly reports of nursing home violations.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer and medical malpractice attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Study Shows Safety Inspections Protect Workers and Do Not Hurt Businesses

Researchers have determined that random inspections of businesses in the United States have a measurable impact on the risk of workers being hurt on the job. Inspections lower the danger for workers, and have no negative effect on the businesses being inspected. The report was published in the journal Science.

According to the study, workplaces chosen randomly for inspections by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) showed 9.4 percent fewer injuries, than those that did not receive inspections.

The study also found that safety inspections had no measurable negative impact on business. The companies studied had no greater rate of job loss, decreased sales, or reduced credit ratings than those that did not receive inspections.

Over the four decades of its existence, OSHA has been criticized by labor organizations, which claim it does not do enough to protect workers, and business groups, which claim that it creates unnecessary expenses.

The claim of runaway costs was part of the inspiration for the study. Three professors from Harvard Business School, Boston University and the University of California, decided to put the claim to a test. The researchers said they had no particular expectations, because the rhetoric on both sides was so vitriolic that it was difficult to determine the facts, until the study was complete.

Michael Toffel, of Harvard Business School, one of the authors of the study, said “It seemed like a real puzzle that people had such strong opinions without a whole lot of evidence.”

Contact and Chicago construction accident lawyer or Chicago construction accident attorney with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Filed Over Drowning at Geneva Dam

A man sacrificed his own life last August to save a child drowning near a dam on the Fox River near Geneva, Illinois. The man’s relatives have now filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the city, claiming that access to the dam should have been restricted.

Randy Suchy, a 59-year-old Naperville resident, drowned after saving a 12-year-old boy, who fell in the water during a church event. While the boy was rescued, Suchy lost his life.

Suchy’s family claims that the incident never should have happened, alleging the city should be held liable for its failure to monitor the area. While there are warning signs, the area had not been roped off.

The suit seeks unspecified damages. A jury trial has been demanded.

The wrongful death lawsuit claims, in part, that “The city of Geneva knew that children or adults who came into the water at the downstream side of the Geneva dam could be killed. At all times relevant, and for many years prior to Aug. 5, 2011, the city of Geneva knew it was unsafe and potentially lethal for children and adults to be on land in close proximity to the water, and the downstream side of the Geneva dam.”

After a 2007 study by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, officials considered removing, or improving, the safety of the low-head dam, but a decision was never made.

The two sides will face off in court on August 9.

Paul Greenberg is a Chicago wrongful death attorney and Chicago wrongful death lawyer with Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. To learn more call 1.877.595.4878 or visit http://www.briskmanandbriskman.com/.

Fatal Workplace Injuries On the Rise in Illinois

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has released its final data on fatal injuries in the workplace in the year 2010. While such on-the-job deaths have been decreasing nationwide for some time, they are on the rise in Illinois.

According to the BLS data, released on April 25, 2012, fatal workplace injuries in Illinois increased by 30%, from a 2009 total of 158 to 206 in 2010. The report, from the BLS Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program, was released to coincide with Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28. The day is set aside to remember American workers who were injured, made ill, or lost their lives on the job.

Nationally, workplace deaths have been decreasing steadily since the mid-1990s, from a total of 6,632 in 1994 to 4,690 in 2010. This is a slight increase from the 2009 total of 4,551, which was the lowest ever recorded by CFOI.

The most frequent cause of a workplace death is a highway incident, with 1,044 occurring nationwide in 2010. Other frequent causes include homicide, falling, and being struck by an object. Workplace homicides, however, have fallen more than 50 percent since a high of 1,080 in 1994.

The largest number of workplace deaths occurred in the construction industry, but the highest rate of fatal work injuries was in the agriculture, fishing, forestry, and hunting industry. In terms of occupation, fishing and logging workers suffered the highest rate of on-the-job fatalities.

To learn more, contact a Chicago workers compensation attorney and Chicago construction accident lawyer at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg.

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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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