HURT WHILE WORKING FROM HOME

As a general rule, under workers’ compensation an employee may receive benefits from the employer for accidental injuries or death which occurred during the course of employment. In a situation where the employee was injured on the premises of employment while performing duties within the scope of his or her employment, entitlement to the benefits are clear. However, what happens if the employee is working from home? Would he or she still be entitled to benefits if injured while working from home? The answer is maybe.

In a technologically advanced society, working from home (telecommuting) has become an alternative employment structure for many companies. The positive aspects of telecommuting include: the ability to work a flexible schedule, improvement of the work/life balance, saving commute time, and reduction of stress. Some of the negative aspects of telecommuting may include:  the lack of contact with fellow workers, possible missed job advancements, and blurry lines between work and home. In addition, telecommuters may be considered to be “out of the loop”.

If you are injured while telecommuting, receiving workers’ compensation benefits will depend on whether the injury occurred within the course and scope of your employment. The injured party will still have the burden of proof that his injury was, in fact, work related.  As it may be more difficult for a telecommuter to prove a workers’ compensation claim than for someone working in the office, it is in the best interest of the telecommuter to keep current and accurate records to account for the work done and how the work is separate from personal time. This can be done by placing entries in a journal each day.

One example of an injured telecommuter awarded benefits can be found in the case of Ameritech Services, Inc. v. IWCC, 904 N.E.2nd 1122 (Appellate Court of Illinois, First district, Workers Compensation Commission Division, 2009).  That case involved a salesman working out of his house who was injured carrying equipment to a sales call.

If you would like an evaluation of your own situation to figure out if you might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, we can help.  The Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond can offer you a free confidential consultation to discuss your case. I can be reached at (312) 258-8188 or visit our websites at www.chicagoaccidentlawyer.com or www.siglaw.com and submit your contact information.

Advertisements
Posted in Illinois, Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, Practicing Law in Chicago, Workers' Compensation | Leave a comment

RECOVERY FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL INJURIES IN ILLINOIS PERSONAL INJURY AND WORKER’S COMP CASES

Mental stress injuries are compensable in Illinois. Like any other type of injury, psychological injuries must be properly diagnosed and treated by a qualified doctor. These can be difficult cases to prove, and even when solid proof is present these cases are difficult to argue. The insurance industry and the general public remain skeptical regarding psychological injuries. However, psychological injuries are compensable under both personal injury law and Illinois Worker’s Compensation Law.

PERSONAL INJURY CASES

In personal injury cases, the elements of proof for emotional distress cases have long been established by Illinois courts. Illinois personal injury law recognizes a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress for both direct victims and bystanders. If a plaintiff hopes to recover damages under a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress, Illinois law does make a distinction between direct victims and bystanders.

A. Direct Victims

A direct victim may be able to recover damages under a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim if he or she can show that the defendant was negligent and the negligence was a the proximate cause of a physical injury or illness. In this instance negligence is estabalished by proving these four elements:

  • duty
  • breach of duty
  • causation; and
  • damages.

B. Bystander

If the plaintiff is a bystander, he or she must prove:

  • that he or she was in the zone of physical danger
  • that he or she reasonably feared for his or her own safety because of the defendant’s negligence; and
  • that he or she suffered a physical injury or illness as a result of the emotional distress caused by the defendant’s negligence.

WORKER’S COMPENSATION CASES

Illinois Worker’s Compensation Law recognizes mental stress injuries caused by a physical trauma, and in some more extreme situations psychological injuries caused at work without a physical injury. In contrast to recovery elements for personal injury for negligent infliction of emotional distress, worker’s compensation claims can offer some unique challenges to plaintiffs and attorneys in terms of evidence and proof when building a case that involves mental injuries without the physcial counterpart.

A. Mental Stress Caused by a Physical Injury

In worker’s compensation cases, certain physical events trigger psychological trauma that could prove to be compensable under Illinois worker’s compensation law. For example, if your supervisor hits you in a manner that caused you to have panic attacks, you may be able to recover under worker’s compensation. Another scenario may involve an incident where you are physically injured while at work and this causes you to become severely depressed and/or have a fear of working because of the injury you sustained.

B. Mental – Mental Cases

Worker’s compensation claims are covered under state law and under Illinois law, the courts have recognized claims where there are mental damages without an acutal physical injury. The mental-mental worker’s compensation claim encompasses factors where both the cause of the injury and the resulting manifestation of the injury are mental as opposed to being physically induced. The key to recovering mental-mental damages in worker’s compensation cases is to show that a particular situation involved a suddent, shocking event. In cases where the mental trauma is not related to a sudden, shocking event, the plaintiff must show that the mental trauma experienced was extraordinary and the employment conditions surrounding the mental trauma were a substantial cause of the psychological disorder.

Since recovery of mental damages under either personal injury or worker’s compensation require varying elements of proof, I encourage injury victims to seek the proper legal consultation concerning the specific facts of his or her case.

In order to discuss your situation with me personally, you may call the Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond at (312) 258-81881 or visit our websites at http://www.chicagoaccidentlawyer.com/ or http://www.siglaw.com/ and submit your information for a confidential free consultation.

Posted in Workers' Compensation | 1 Comment

PRESIDENTS DAY: LET’S RESTORE RESPECT FOR THE OFFICE

On Presidents Day we celebrate two of our great heros, Washington and Lincoln, as well as all of the other men that have held the office.  Also, we celebrate the office itself.  The person holding the office is the leader of the free world and the most powerful man on Earth.  Even so, at the end of his term, beloved or reviled, the President will simply walk away, as each of his predecessors has done.  The Presidency is an amazing institution that we Americans are rightfully proud of.

While our nation celebrates Presidents Day, we continue to show less and less respect for the office.  I’ve heard some of my conservative friends talk about how President Obama was actually working for Al-Qaeda.  Likewise, I’ve actually heard some of my liberal friends talk about how President Bush was actually working for the Saudi royal family.  I’ve heard both compared to Adolph Hitler.  Those statements should offend all of us on several levels.

Personally, I was never a fan of George W. Bush.  We are allowed to publically criticize our President; That’s one of the wonderful things about America.  So, for example, I considered Bush to be dim-witted and misguided.  That being said, to suggest he was treasonous or murderous or evil is just nonsense.  I’m sure he did what he thought was best for this country and its citizens at all times.  I just disagree with his ideas of what’s best, that’s all.  And, much as I didn’t like him, I didn’t like seeing somebody throw a shoe at him either.  Disrespecting the President is still disrespecting America!

We are all tired of the negative campaign ads, the constant bickering in Washington, and incredibly adversarial atmosphere between the parties that prevents government from ever getting enough done.  How do we change that?  I believe that a good start would be to show a renewed respect for the office of the President. 

We all need to stop demonizing those leaders with whom we differ on social and economic policy.  We need to recognize that free speech and democracy also applies to people who don’t see it our own way.  This can start by showing a little respect for the presidency, even if you don’t like the current occupant.  The office represents the collective will of our Republic.  Respect for the office is respect for the process.  Respect for the President is respect for democracy, and America.  This can allow us to talk about ideas again.  Let’s give it a try.

 (Of course, you’ll have to ask me if I still feel the same way next February).

Posted in Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, Politics, SigmondLaw Blog | 2 Comments

WHISTLE-BLOWERS & THE MESS IN HAPPY VALLEY: A trial lawyer’s perspective

Recently, I have taken a case on behalf of a whistle-blower who found herself in a difficult circumstance similar to that of the legendary football coach.  My client choose to call the police and soon found herself without a job.  I’ve been thinking about the more famous and less famous cases.

Being an avid reader and huge sports fan, I often enjoy the ability of sportswriter Rick Telander to put things in perspective.  Here is some of what he had to say:

“As the heinous and surreal details of former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky’s alleged destruction of innocent souls are brought to light, we can only start looking up the chain of command and wonder how this could happen….”  (Rick Telander, Chicago Sun Times, Sunday November 13, 2011).

Mr. Telander’s column goes on to discuss the power of institutions, namely universities and the NCAA.  However, as I primarily write about litigation in this blog, I am more concerned about the power of the institutions of corporation and State.  Our Land of Lincoln and many other states have recently been focused on becoming more “business friendly.”  This has been described by some as “profits over people.”   Creating a strong climate for businesses becomes the ultimate “good”, and individuals who file suit against businesses are reviled and vilified.  In this type of climate, people sometimes hesitate to do the right thing.  Telander goes on to remind us of the sorry truth:

“Whistle-blowers don’t often win.  They are stigmatized, marginalized, fired, obliterated….”

Fortunately, Illinois and federal law contain strong protections for whistle-blowers.  Under the Illinois Whistle-Blower Statute (740 ILCS 174/1, et seq.), an employee may not adopt or enforce a rule or policy prohibiting employees from reporting illegal conduct to law enforcement, and may not retaliate against an employee that does so.  An employer may be liable for damages, including reinstatement with seniority status restored, back pay with interest, and compensation for attorney fees and litigation costs.

If you are disgusted by the failure to act, don’t “shoot the messenger” when someone does speak up.  A person faced with knowledge of a serious crime committed by a co-worker needs to know that they can do the right thing and call the police with the full protection of the law behind them.

For more information about this subject or the author, Chicago litigation attorney Steven A. Sigmond, call (312) 258-8188 or return to our website at www.siglaw.com.

Posted in Illinois, Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, Legal News, Personal Injury, SigmondLaw Blog | Leave a comment

State Farm: Not Such A Good Neighbor After All

Seven years ago, Justice Karmeier was the swing vote in a decision to overturn a $1 million verdict against State Farm Insurance.  At the time, he admitted that State Farm had contributed $350,000 to his campaign to be elected to the Illinois Supreme Court and the Plaintiff called for the Justice to recuse himself from the decision because of his obvious bias.  The United States Supreme Court, however, said that Justice Karmeier could take part in the decision because the campaign donation was too low to actually sway his judgment.  But it’s been revealed that State Farm donated between $2 and 4 million to his $4.5 million campaign.

 The Plaintiff has now filed a motion to reconsider the case, claiming that State Farm bought a verdict when they lied and misled the Court about the campaign donations.  Justice Karmeier claims that since the issue of whether he had to recuse himself has been to the Supreme Court and he was allowed to weigh in on the verdict.  And to add to the controversy, the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a West Virginia Supreme Court judge should not have ruled in a case involving a coal-mining company that raised the lion’s share of his campaign’s budget.

The question here, though, is not only whether State Farm effectively “bought” this verdict, but also how many similar verdicts have they swayed in a similar manner?  When insurance companies are allowed to donate huge amounts of money to judicial candidates through Political Action Committees, our entire justice system is undermined.  The decision of a jury comprised of twelve impartial citizens from the community in which the controversy originates shouldn’t be overturned in this manner.

When we let big business and national insurance companies have such enormous influence over our judicial elections, we deprive the ordinary citizen of the chance to balance the scales.  Contributions like this must be limited and the amounts of those contributions must be public.

The next time an insurance adjuster tells  you that you don’t need an attorney because he’ll “be fair,” consider the source.

For more information about the author, Chicago Accident Lawyer Steven A. Sigmond, visit www.chicagoaccidentlawyer.com, or call us at (312) 756-1186.

 

 

Posted in Illinois, Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, Legal News, Personal Injury | Leave a comment

Bicycle Riders Have Rights

With the advent of the green movement, many people are advocating the virtues of bike riding, especially people in large cities.  It’s low cost, low energy, and frees up public transportation space for those of you who hate bike riding.  However, most drivers are not used to sharing the roads with bikers, causing confusion and dangerous situations.  For instance, a driver turning right may be unaware of a biker on his right side trying to continue straight on the same road.  This can cause a serious collision.  In some cases, the roadways themselves aren’t safe.  Roads may have potholes or depressions in them which could trip up bikers and cause them to fall on the pavement.  This is what happened to a Kings County resident who suffered severe brain trauma when he hit a small hole in the pavement that was fine for a car, but unsafe for a bike.

It’s a good thing then that major cities are taking the needs of their biking citizens seriously.  Chicago is working hard to build dedicated bike lanes on busy city streets to protect bikers from motorized traffic.  In fact, one such bike lane opened up right next to our offices on Kinzie Street.  Because Kinzie is now safer for bikers to traverse, the City of Chicago estimates bike riders account for 48% of the rush hour commute on Milwaukee and Kinzie.

Chicago also has special ordinances on the books just to protect bike riders from motorized traffic.  Remember the example I mentioned with the biker going straight and the car trying to turn right?  Chicago Ordinance 9-16-020 states that the driver has to wait until they are clear of the bicycle to turn right.  In other words, the biker going straight has the right-of-way.  A car turning left must also wait until a biker who is in the intersection or near it is safely through the intersection before turning right, and if passing a bicycle, must maintain a safe distance of at least three feet from the bicycle until it has overtaken the bicycle.

This is not to say that a bicyclist always has the right-of-way.  Bike enthusiasts must still follow traffic laws, use hand signals, and have proper lighting equipment if riding at night.  If you are a courier or make deliveries on your bicycle you must wear a helmet.  (Though wearing a helmet is always a good idea!)  You can learn all the rules of biking in Illinois at the Secretary of State’s website or you can request a pamphlet.  And if you are injured while riding your bike, get immediate medical attention and call for legal advice, or visit my website for more information at www.siglaw.com.  Remember, bike riders have just as much right to the road as anyone else.

For more information about this subject or the author, Chicago injury attorney Steven A. Sigmond, call (312) 258-8188 or return to our website at www.siglaw.com.

Posted in Illinois, Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, Personal Injury, Practicing Law in Chicago, SigmondLaw Blog | 1 Comment

MONDAY MORNING FOR A LAWYER

I had to be in Court at 9:00 am this morning, so I had to put on the suit and tie. There was some car trouble over the weekend, so I was going to take the train. It’s only a three block walk to the Metra station, but I had to carry my computer case and gym bag, which I took home over the weekend. The tempurature was about 90 degrees and the humidity about 95% After walking briskly for three blocks (so as to catch the train) carrying my suitcoat, gym bag and computer case, I had a nice rolling sweat going. When I arrived downtown, I decided to have a cup of coffee at the Metra Market. I sat down there, flipped on my computer, sipped my coffee, and thought that maybe it could turn out to be a pleasant morning after all…
As I sat there, I noticed that it was getting less light outside, and thought that it was about time to wrap up my work and get to the office. Suddenly it turned dark as night, the doors to the train station blew closed, simultaneous thunder and lightning errupted, and pouring rain and howling winds immediately followed. It was then that I remembered that I had taken the umbrella out of my gym bad just before leaving home because I was concerned over how much stuff I was carrying. By now it was after 8:00, but finishing my coffee and staying put a while seemed like a good idea.
By 8:25 it was time to move, only because court was at 9:00. I could have gone straight there, but I was still lugging a gym bag and computer case that I really didn’t need to have with me in court, and I didn’t have this morning’s file, which I really did need. So, I went into CVS, bought another umbrella, and decided to head to the office and then double back to Court. In the three block walk from the Metra Station to my office, naturally my new umbrella got turned inside out and upside down and generally got mangled in the wind, leaving me soaking wet. I got into the office, dropped my things, grabbed my file, and went back to outside, trying to make double time back to court. “Nice umbrella,” a passerby commented. I decided to just let it rain on me. At least I stopped sweating.
I arrived at the Daley Center and got off the elevator just as it was turning 9:00, with my shirt collar unbuttoned and my tie still stuffed in my pocket. Turn left for the courtroom or right for the men’s room? Right. After buttoning up the soaking shirt, knotting my wrinkled wet tie, looking hoplessly at my wet hair, I hurried back around the corner to the courtroom…
“The Judge will be absent this morning…” read the sign posted on the locked door. Everyone with a case scheduled for this morning was instructed by the sign to return next monday morning.
How’s your Monday?

Posted in Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond, Practicing Law in Chicago, SigmondLaw Blog | Leave a comment