If you’ve been injured at work, you likely know your best hope for winning workers’ compensation benefits is to hire an attorney. Your check-list for choosing legal representation is generally clear. You want a lawyer with extensive experience with your state’s laws, who has a proven track-record of success, and with whom you feel comfortable working. But for some injured workers, their needs may extend beyond just a workers’ compensation attorney. Some on-the-job injuries involving a third-party may actually also fall under the heading of “personal injury”. And for such workers, choosing an attorney who is experienced in practicing both areas of law is crucial to the success of their case.
One of the most difficult aspects of being injured at work is understanding what your next step should be. Obviously, you should seek medical treatment for your injury, but even that is not as clear cut as it may seem. How much will your doctor’s visit cost and can you afford it? Since you were injured at work, will your employer pay for your medical bills? Can you see any doctor, or must you see a company-approved physician? What if you can’t work anymore? Yet these complicated questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding the rights of an injured worker.
One thing is certain when an economic crisis hits – jobs become scarce and people become desperate for work. This was especially true during the Great Depression, when unemployment in the United States averaged 25%. As the need for jobs increased, not only were more workers willing to take riskier employment, fewer employers were making the effort to ensure worker safety. Few events highlight this more than the Hawks Nest Tunnel disaster where hundreds of workers died or were sickened by exposure to silica dust. This tragedy not only raised awareness of silicosis, a dangerous occupational disease, but helped to improve safety standards and working conditions for all workers today.
When a worker files a workers’ compensation claim, a major hurdle can be proving that the injury or illness was caused by or at work. Too frequently, the employer and/or insurance provider may try every means possible to deny responsibility. One tactic is to deny a claim by stating that the injury or illness is due to some factor other than those at work. But a recent ruling by the Illinois Appellate Court may help workers whose claims are wrongly denied on the inflated basis of preexisting or mitigating factors.