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THE INJURY LAWYERS YOU WANT

  • What Illinois workers’ comp benefits are available to families after a fatal accident?

    ClaimsWhen a worker dies after a job-related accident, the consequences can be tragic and severe for families. Workers’ compensation law offers a range of benefits for the survivors of industrial accidents. Injured workers lawyers in Illinois are familiar with the different forms of compensation available for families after losing a loved one on the job.

    What are survivors’ benefits?

    Survivors’ benefits are payments made to immediate family members after a person’s death from work-related causes. These benefits may include funeral payments and ongoing assistance to support the family after the loss of a primary breadwinner. This situation is tragically common in many industries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 172 Illinois employees were killed on the job or died as a result of work-related injuries during 2013.

    Who may collect survivors’ benefits?

    After a fatal accident on the job, the following people may be awarded the Illinois survivors’ benefit, in order of preference:

    • The worker’s primary beneficiaries, defined as the worker’s spouse and any children up to the age of 18.
    • The worker’s parents, if they are dependent and in need of financial or medical support.
    • Other relatives such as nieces, nephews, cousins or grandchildren who were partially dependent on the worker may also be eligible for Illinois survivors’ benefits.

    If a case is disputed or unclear, injured workers lawyers in Illinois are aware that it may be subject to further arbitration.

    How does the state of Illinois calculate survivors’ benefits?

    The IWCC calculates survivors’ benefits starting with a lump sum of $8,000 paid for funeral and burial costs. This amount nearly doubles the previous benefit totaling $4,200 that was offered for funeral costs in cases of job-related death occurring before February 2006. After the burial costs are paid, the state of Illinois calculates ongoing benefits as two-thirds of the average weekly pay earned by the worker during the year before the fatal incident. If an employee earned $900 per week, for example, the family is entitled to weekly benefits totaling $600.

    Are survivors’ benefits ever subject to change?

    Injured workers lawyers in Illinois recognize that survivors’ benefits may change in some situations. Illinois workers’ compensation benefits for surviving families may increase on a yearly basis to keep up with shifts in the cost of living. Surviving spouses who remarry may lose their benefits after payment of a final lump sum if there are no dependent children.

    Negotiating benefits after the death of a worker can be complicated. Bereaved families may find it useful to contact a workers’ compensation attorney.

  • How does Social Security assess your physical residual functional capacity?

    pManOnCrutchesWithAttorney_7627380_sPhysical residual functional capacity is a measure of a person’s functional abilities. The Social Security Administration considers RFC when evaluating claims involving medical conditions that are not automatically recognized as disabling. As disability attorneys in Chicago can attest, RFC evaluations often play decisive roles in Social Security Disability claims. Fortunately, the SSA considers many factors to accurately assess physical RFC.

    Analyzing limitations

    An RFC analysis accounts for any exertional limitations an applicant suffers from. These limitations are impairments that prevent an applicant from meeting the strength requirements of a job. For instance, standing, walking, pushing and lifting all require a certain level of strength. When evaluating RFC, the SSA considers a person’s limitations in performing these tasks.

    Non-exertional limitations may also impact a person’s RFC, as disability attorneys in Chicago can confirm. Non-exertional limitations may be cognitive, affecting a person’s concentration, comprehension or emotional state. The SSA also recognizes more physical non-exertional limitations, including the following:

    • Environmental intolerance — some medical conditions may preclude work in certain environments. For instance, people with respiratory conditions may not be able to work near fumes or in dusty environments.
    • Manipulative or postural issues — some people may have trouble with motions such as bending, crouching or performing fine tasks. These restrictions may prevent a person from performing work that he or she is otherwise strong enough to perform.
    • Sensory deficits — hearing or vision loss may also affect a person’s ability to do certain work. These conditions do not have to be independently disabling to merit consideration.

    Based on an applicant’s exertional limitations, the SSA deems the applicant capable of one of five work categories. These range from sedentary work to very heavy work. Then, the SSA considers whether non-exertional limitations affect the applicant’s ability to perform work in the designated category.

    Documenting RFC

    The SSA considers various forms of evidence when evaluating RFC. The SSA weighs medical evidence, including objective tests and treatment history. In some cases, the SSA may order a consultative exam with an independent physician to secure additional information. The SSA also accepts statements from physicians about the applicant’s functional abilities. Descriptive statements from personal sources, such as family members, can also help reveal a person’s RFC.

    People claiming SSD benefits can also ask their physicians to complete an RFC assessment. The RFC form asks specific questions about an applicant’s strength. The form allows for descriptions of postural, manipulative, environmental and sensory limitations. Physicians can also use the form to document the applicant’s symptoms and functional abilities.

    A completed RFC assessment can strengthen an SSD claim, as any disability attorneys in Chicago can explain. This assessment helps ensure that the SSA has accurate and comprehensive information when making the final claim decision.

  • Don’t rush to get elective surgery

    pSurgicalDoctorsInOR_8943758_sIllinois patients who opt to have elective surgery often do so knowing the risks that are associated with their procedures and their expected outcomes. One thing few elective patients understand is that the time in which they undergo their surgery may have a significant impact on their chances of dying in connection with their procedure. A Chicago medical errors attorney knows that as the weekend approaches, medical errors often start to rise.

    Clear study results

    The Huffington Post reports that a recent study published in the British Medical Journal shows that patients who have elective surgery on the weekends have a higher risk of death than those performed on weekdays. Researchers from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London performed the study using data from 4 million elective surgical procedures. The surgeries took place between 2008 and 2011 in England. Of the records examined, 27,582 deaths occurred within 30 days of surgery. A Chicago medical errors attorney understands that many of these deaths could have been avoided with proper care.

    Researchers found that as the day of patients’ surgeries neared the end of the week, their risk of death also increased. Patients who underwent surgery on Fridays saw a 44 percent increase in mortality over those who were treated on Mondays. When patients’ surgeries occurred on Saturdays or Sundays, they were 82 percent more likely to die within 30 days. Researchers noted that patients may be more likely to have a positive outcome if they wait to schedule their surgeries on a weekday.

    End-of-year rush

    As the year draws to a close, many patients have finally met their insurance deductibles. This leads a large number of individuals to seek treatment that they have been putting off all year due to the financial ramifications it may cause them and their families. Healthcare workers often work nights and weekends to fill the demand, which may cause them to become fatigued more easily. When healthcare professionals are fatigued, their chances of making medical mistakes significantly increases.

    Preparations for elective surgery

    While there is no way to avoid risk in elective surgeries due to their nature, patients do have the ability to reduce their chances of being injured by medical errors. Prior to undergoing elective surgery, every patient should take specific precautions to ensure that they have the greatest chance of a positive outcome. Choosing the best doctor and hospital are paramount. Patients should look for doctors and hospitals that are well-known for treating their conditions. Additionally, hospitals should be accredited by the Joint Commission to prove that staff are following the most up-to-date safety recommendations.

    Patients and the families of the fatally injured may be able to receive compensation for the damages they sustained in surgery. Those who would like to know more about the claims process should contact a Chicago medical errors attorney immediately due to potential statute limitations.

  • Is your Illinois company protecting you against a trenching injury?

    Yellow tractor on golden sunrise skyTrenching is an important part of the construction industry. Unfortunately, it is also associated with an elevated rate of injury and death on the job. A recent case in Illinois shows the dangers of trenching in unregulated or unsafe environments. Chicago injured workers lawyers can point to many cases of preventable injuries caused by improper protection for trenching workers.

    Recently discovered trenching hazards in Illinois

    In December 2014, investigators working for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration discovered that Illinois employees were exposed to severe cave-in hazards during a trenching operation. The employees, who were installing a water main, were at work in a deep trench without cave-in protection. If their supervisors had not been forced to halt work immediately, they could have been disabled or killed.

    Dangers of trenching

    According to OSHA statistics, trenching and excavation workers face a fatality rate 112 percent higher than that of general construction workers. Chicago injured workers lawyers are aware that this high death rate can be traced to a combination of the following hazards:

    • Lack of adequate protective systems
    • Lack of inspection in and around trenches
    • Insufficient access and escape points
    • Unsafe placement of spoil piles and supports

    If supervisors and workers neglect even one of these hazards, a fatal accident may result.

    Protection while trenching

    Chicago injured workers lawyers know that adequate protective systems are important to keep trenching professionals safe in a variety of conditions and circumstances. Excavation is always a hazardous job. Even the best protective setup cannot always insure against accidents. The best way to decrease the likelihood of excavation injuries and fatalities is to take a broad approach involving multiple safety concerns.

    Important points for excavation companies

    Excavation companies must be aware of soil conditions before they begin digging. They must contact all companies that provide local utilities (including electricity and gas) to confirm that no lines will be disturbed during the trenching operation. Before workers are allowed to go into the enclosed area, supervisors are required to test for hazardous fumes and lack of sufficient oxygen. If water is likely to accumulate, companies must provide for proper drainage. Workers have the right to sufficient access and egress on work sites of all sizes. Once the site is in place, it must also be inspected regularly for safety and cleanliness.

    Know your rights as a trenching professional

    Excavation workers in Illinois have the right to a safe work site. If you are concerned about unsafe trenching conditions on the job, you may wish to consider speaking with a workers’ compensation attorney.

  • Rising numbers of disability recipients linked to female workers and baby boomers

    pHandsPenAndWorkInjuryForm_6831603_sThe number of Social Security Disability benefit recipients has increased dramatically in recent decades, as many Chicago residents know. According to The Washington Post, from 1980 to 2010, the number of beneficiaries rose 187 percent. Critics contend that this is because more unqualified people are receiving benefits. However, as most disability lawyers in Illinois know, many variables can explain this growth, including demographic changes.

    Worker demographics

    Data indicates the rising number of SSD beneficiaries is due in part to the aging population of baby boomers. The Social Security Administration’s chief actuary notes that people most commonly develop disabilities between ages 45 and 64. As more of the population reaches this age range, more people may qualify for SSD benefits.

    The growing number of women in the workforce is another factor contributing to the increase in SSD beneficiaries. As more women have started working, a greater total number of workers have become eligible for disability benefits.

    In contrast, overpayments or improperly awarded benefits do not appear to be responsible for the rising number of beneficiaries. According to The Washington Post, in 2013, the Government Accountability office concluded just 0.4 percent of beneficiaries received overpayments. Furthermore, a large proportion of all SSD claims are denied. Even after appeals, about half of applicants fail to receive benefits, due to the SSA’s strict standards.

    Rigorous standards

    As any disability lawyers in Illinois can verify, people seeking SSD benefits must meet stringent criteria. Before an applicant’s disabling condition can be evaluated, the applicant must meet the following requirements:

    • The applicant must have an adequate earnings record. The applicant must have paid enough in Social Security taxes, cumulatively and in recent years, to qualify as insured.
    • The applicant must not engage in substantial gainful activity, or work with income over a certain threshold. In 2015, the income limit for most applicants is $1,090. Applicants suffering from statutory blindness may earn up to $1,820.
    • The person must suffer from a long-term or severe condition. Specifically, the condition must be anticipated to last at least 12 months or result in mortality.

    If these criteria are met, the SSA evaluates the medical merits of a person’s claim. A person may qualify for benefits by meeting the terms of a listing in the “Blue Book” of disabling conditions. However, many conditions do not appear in the book or meet the necessary requirements. In these cases, applicants may receive medical-vocational allowances if their functional limitations preclude employment.

    Qualifying for benefits in either manner can be challenging, due to the SSA’s strict standards. People with disabling conditions often may benefit from partnering with disability lawyers in Illinois while preparing their claims.

  • Stem cell transplants and multiple sclerosis

    Depressed Man On BenchMultiple sclerosis is a central nervous system disease that affects the spinal cord, brain and optic nerve. MS disrupts the transmission of information between nerves. This can cause numerous debilitating effects, as any Social Security attorney in Chicago knows. These effects include fatigue, muscle weakness, vision problems and cognitive issues.

    Disease-modifying therapies can stop the progression of relapse-remitting MS, but there is currently no cure for the disease. However, a stem cell transplant treatment shows potential to mitigate disability stemming from the most common form of MS.

    Improved outcomes

    Abnormal immune system reactions contribute to nerve damage associated with MS. In a recent study, researchers addressed this by “resetting” patients’ immune systems with stem cells. The 151 patients received immune system suppressing treatments, followed by stem cell transplants. The results, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, reveal notable functional improvements.

    After two years, over half of the patients showed better performance on disability tests measuring physical and cognitive ability. Four years after treatment, 80 percent of patients had not experienced relapses. This represents an improvement over disease-modifying therapies, which are performed monthly and only slow the progression of MS.

    The transplant procedure cannot treat progressive multiple sclerosis, and it is currently only available in clinical trials or special cases. Still, this treatment could eventually help many victims of MS recover functional abilities.

    SSD and multiple sclerosis

    Without effective treatment, victims of MS may experience marked restrictions. Those who cannot work may be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits. A person may receive SSD benefits by meeting the terms of a “Blue Book” listing. Alternately, as a Social Security attorney in Chicago understands, an individual may receive a medical-vocational allowance.

    The Social Security Administration’s “Blue Book” lists conditions that are viewed as disabling if they meet certain requirements. The listing for MS requires victims to prove one of the following:

    • Motor issues in two extremities, resulting in impaired ability to walk or perform fine tasks
    • Severe decreases in visual acuity, efficiency or field, even after best correction
    • Mental impairment causing changes in personality, mood, IQ or ability to independently perform daily activities
    • Muscle weakness or fatigue due to neurological changes associated with MS

    If these criteria aren’t met, the SSA considers how limitations associated with MS impact a person’s ability to work. For instance, dizziness, fatigue, muscle weakness or vision loss may all impact ability to work. If these limitations preclude all work that a person is qualified for, benefits may be awarded.

    Proper diagnosis of MS and adequate documentation are essential for people seeking SSD benefits. To prepare a strong claim, applicants may want to consider seeking help from a Social Security attorney in Chicago.

  • Study: Improve caregiver communication and lower medical mistakes

    beautiful young female medical intern with tablet computerAccording to a recent study in the Journal of Patient Safety, between 210,000 and 440,000 patients die each year in U.S. hospitals due wholly or in part to preventable medical errors. This makes medical mistakes the third-leading cause of death in the nation. Unfortunately, like others in every city across the nation, Illinois patients are often the victims of these errors.  The first question that a medical malpractice attorney in Illinois often hears from victims’ families is what can be done to prevent these fatal errors from ever occurring again? A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine indicates that communication among caregivers may be the key to reducing these deadly errors.

    Study details

    Stanford Medicine News Center reports that nine children’s hospitals participated in the study in hopes of learning how handing off information during shift changes affects the rate of medical errors. At each hospital, medical residents used an acronym to help them remember what information they were to share and the order in which they were to share it with the next resident on duty. At each handoff, the medical residents used both oral and written communication to share the required information. To end the process, the receiving resident would repeat back a summary of what was communicated to ensure that nothing was omitted or incorrectly heard. Safeguards were put in place to ensure that the handoff procedure did not interfere with doctors’ workflow.

    Effects of increased communication among caregivers

    At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that they had effectively decreased preventable medical mistakes by 30 percent in participating hospitals. However, there was no change in non-preventable events. This indicates that it was the new way of handling handoffs that caused the decrease in adverse events and not simply a healthier, lower-risk patient base.

    What it means for the future

    A medical malpractice attorney in Illinois likely understands the significant impact that these increased communication practices may have on the rate of preventable patient deaths in the future.  If the results of the study can be replicated, hospitals around the country may be able to prevent thousands of deaths every year. If industry regulators, such as the Joint Commission were to make the use of these increased communication practices mandatory among hospitals, and the results seen in the original study are duplicated, as many as 132,000 patients may be saved annually. Additionally, the practices may be applied to other workers in the healthcare industry, such as nurses, to help further eliminate preventable fatalities.

    Those who have been injured by a medical professional’s mistake may be able to receive compensation for the damages they sustained. Injured parties or their families are urged to contact a medical malpractice attorney in Illinois to learn more about their rights and how to make a claim.

  • Illinois should allow cameras in nursing homes

    EinsamkeitFew things may be more difficult for families than placing their older loved ones in the care of an Illinois nursing home. Many people may have no choice as their elderly family members require constant help or supervision that they cannot receive anywhere else. Unfortunately, a Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer sees many tragic stories that are regularly being unearthed that show the consistently low level of care that residents often receive in these facilities. To combat the problem, the office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan drafted a bill to help families maintain a watchful eye over their loved ones at all times.

    Details of the bill

    The Chicago Tribune reports that Rep. Greg Harris introduced the nursing home camera bill to the state legislature early this year. If passed, it would allow residents to place video cameras in their rooms as a safety measure. Residents would be required to pay for the devices themselves. In cases where the elderly patients are not capable of deciding whether or not to employ a camera, family members and legal guardians would instead be able to give their consent.

    An additional provision in the bill provides $50,000 for patients who want cameras but are unable to afford the cost. Any room with a camera would be required to be clearly marked at the entrances. Additionally, in cases where rooms are shared with other residents, all parties would have to agree to the use of the camera. However, if a resident refuses consent, the nursing home would be required to move the person requesting a camera to a different room where they can be accommodated.

    Safety as a top priority

    While some detractors say that the bill will be in infringement on the privacy of healthcare workers, a Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer knows that the main concern for nursing homes should always be the residents under their care, not the employees. According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, 44 percent of nursing home residents surveyed in one study reported that they had been abused. In the same study 95 percent of residents admitted that they had been neglected or seen a fellow resident be neglected. Additionally, a 2010 survey found that over 50 percent of nursing home staff admitted to mistreating nursing home residents within the previous year.

    Cameras are necessary for safety

    Attorney General Madigan and other legislators hope that the use of these cameras will act as a deterrent to the deplorable behavior that many long-term care facility workers engage in while caring for their elderly residents. Those who believe that their loved one may have been the victim of abuse or neglect should immediately remove the individual from the nursing home and contact a Chicago nursing home abuse lawyer for assistance.

  • Temporary workers at higher risk for injury

    cooksTemporary workers are an important part of many industries in America. This sort of work can be valuable for employees and families in financial need, but an Illinois workers’ comp attorney is also aware that it can bring a higher risk of injury.

    Temporary work is common in America

    According to recent statistics compiled by the American Staffing Association, 3 million employees are engaged in temporary or provisional work on any given day. Especially during busy work seasons, many businesses rely on contingent and temporary workers to keep up with demand. Some of the most popular venues for temporary workers include holiday sales, temporary work agencies, limited contracting tasks and internships in a range of professions.

    Why are temporary jobs associated with injury risks?

    Temporary jobs are often associated with higher injury risks. There are many complex reasons behind this correlation, but some of the most common causes include the following:

    • High rates of turnover on the job
    • Insufficient or absent training
    • Reluctance to report unsafe job conditions due to fear of losing work
    • Unsafe working conditions
    • Less comprehensive access to safety equipment

    Many employers fall prey to one or more of these shortcomings while engaging temporary workers. An Illinois workers’ comp attorney can confirm that a large number of temporary employees are hurt or even permanently disabled on the job because of insufficient safety provisions.

    Difficulties in compiling statistics

    It can be hard to compile accurate statistics about the dangers faced by temporary workers. Employers are not required by OSHA regulations to keep records on the precise job status of employees who are injured at work. In many cases, business owners and supervisors choose not to enter their temporary employees’ accidents in their OSHA 300 logs. This practice is illegal but tragically prevalent.

    Training temporary employees

    Safety practices are as crucial for temporary employees as they are for long-term workers with permanent contracts. Businesses must invest time and money in training workers from their first day on the job, even if they are only present on a contingent basis. An Illinois workers’ comp attorney knows how much of a financial and legal risk is posed by allowing untrained workers to spend time handling hazardous equipment or other sensitive materials. Even retail and service jobs can be physically dangerous without proper training.

    Have you faced an accident or a health risk while employed as a temporary worker? You may find it helpful to consider speaking with an attorney about your rights.

  • Nurse fatigue raises risk of medical errors

    Hospital hallway and nursery stationFew Illinois workers have the potential to make fatal errors when they become fatigued while on the job. An Illinois medical malpractice lawyer likely knows that nurses are chief among workers with this potential. Like many other healthcare workers, nurses are particularly susceptible to causing severe medical errors due to the nature of their employment. When patient lives rest in the hands of nurses who are extremely fatigued after long shifts and overtime, the likelihood that they will make fatal medical errors only increases.

    Shiftwork

    Nurses commonly work 12 or more hours per shift and may be at the hospital for three or more shifts a week. While this may seem ideal initially, changes in shift length are frequent and unpredictable due to patient needs and last minute staffing changes. Nurses often work their entire 12 hour shift only to be asked to stay on for a few additional hours in order to maintain adequate staffing levels for patient care. Alternating day and night shifts and consecutive shifts that require overtime also contribute to nurse fatigue.

    Effects of fatigue

    A study found in the medical journal Health Affairs outlines just how easily nurse fatigue can cause medical mistakes. Researchers examined the behavior of 393 nurses over more than 5,300 shifts. They found that when nurses worked 12 ½ hour shifts or longer, they were three times more likely to cause a medical error. An additional study found in the American Journal of Critical Care reports that nurses who are fatigued are much more likely to regret one or more medical decision that they make while fatigued. Unfortunately, an Illinois medical malpractice lawyer often sees the effects of the mistakes these exhausted nurses make.

    Confronting the problem

    The American Nurses Association is attempting to reduce the risks of nurse fatigue by combating the problem at its source. It recently released a policy that it believes, if properly implemented, will help hospitals reduce nurse fatigue and stop many medical errors from occurring in the process. The new policy includes the following recommendations:

    • Limit shifts to no more than 12 hours and workweeks to no more than 40 hours.
    • When nurses work both days and nights, minimize consecutive night shifts.
    • Eliminate mandatory overtime for all nurses.
    • Allow nurses the ability to refuse work assignments to prevent fatigue.
    • Provide transportation or sleep rooms for nurses who are too tired to safely drive home following a shift.

    In return, the ANA states that nurses must be willing to do what it takes to come to work well-rested and take appropriate breaks during their shifts.

    Those who have been injured due to the medical mistakes of a nurse should contact an Illinois medical malpractice lawyer for a claim evaluation. With an attorney’s help, many individuals may be able to successfully seek compensation for the damages that they sustained when medical errors occurred.

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