In a recent case before the Hearing Board of the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission, former arbitrator Jennifer Teague was suspended from the practice of law for two years.
Ms. Teague engaged in a series of unethical and unprofessional conduct that resulted in the imposition of this sanction. She was the arbitrator in the case of Jo Anderson v. Big Muddy River Correctional Center. In her capacity as arbitrator of this case, she sent an e-mail to counsel for both parties indicating she had drawn conclusions on the case before hearing any evidence on the matter, potentially clouding the impartiality and fairness of the tribunal.
Additionally, she engaged in ex parte communications with multiple attorneys. She provided the attorney for one party in the case of Mitchell v. Illinois State Police with both advice on how to proceed with the case as well as substantive advice.
Finally, she intentionally prevented both the public and media from exercising their rights to be present at the Mitchell hearing by holding the hearing at an undisclosed time and location.
My testimony from the case of In re Nadenbush was admitted into evidence in this case. In that case, I testified to then Arbitrator Teague having exchanged a series of improper ex partee-mails with my opposing counsel. This evidence was considered in the decision here.
Jennifer Teague Report & Recommendation of Hearing Board
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has recently decided a number of decisions significantly increasing awards for both carpal and cubital tunnel syndromes.
September 6, 2012 – In Sensel v. State of Illinois, Mr. Sensel was employed as a Supply Supervisor II at Menard Correctional Center where his duties included driving a forklift and typing on a keyboard. He was diagnosed with left carpal tunnel syndrome and left cubital tunnel syndrome as a result of this course of employment. Arbitrator Granada awarded 10% of his left hand and 10% of his left arm, which upon review was increased significantly to 17.5% of his left hand for his carpal tunnel syndrome and 20% of his left arm for his cubital tunnel syndrome.
October 3, 2012 – In Bollmann v. State of Illinois, Mr. Bollmann sustained injuries as a result of his repetitive work duties as an electrician at Menards Correctional Center. He required both cubital and carpal tunnel release surgeries on both of his hands and arms as a result of his injuries. Arbitrator Granada awarded 10% loss of his left arm, left hand, right arm, and right hand, which was increased on review to 15% each.
October 5, 2012 – In Sumnicht v. Menard Correctional Center, Mr. Sumnicht was a Correctional Sergeant at Menard Correctional Center. His job duties resulted in both carpal and cubital tunnel syndromes. Arbitrator Granada awarded 10% loss of both his right and left arms. On appeal that award was increased to 17.5% loss of each arm.
See details of Decision of the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission dated June 25,2012 by clicking Order of Penalties below.
Order Of Penalties
On June 28, 2011, Governor Quinn signed legislation making significant changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. For working men and women injured on the job in Illinois and the medical providers who help them, this new law makes life even more difficult.
No rights were gained for injured workers and many were lost. The following is a partial summary of some of the changes that have been made. You will note that this is only a partial summary I have prepared for my clients giving them listing some of the changes that have been made. For additional details, please feel free to contact me or see the draft summary that I previously posted.
Some of the significant changes are as follows:
- One of the most unfair and significant changes affecting workers in Southern Illinois is the section of the legislation that requires three arbitrators be assigned to a single hearing site and that cases must be randomly assigned to each arbitrator. Arbitrators may not serve more than two years at any single hearing site. This is provision applies only to counties outside of Cook County. Under this change, an injured worker will not know which arbitrator will be available at any given month to conduct trials. By reducing the number of downstate hearing sites, injured workers will have to travel further to attend hearings and their cases may not even proceed to trial, even if a specific trial date has been requested. This will do nothing more than encourage workers’ compensation carriers to further delay payments of benefits since it is unlikely that the injured worker will actually be able to obtain an award at the time the case is set for trial. According to the Chairman of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the legislators did not consult with the Commission, nor would they take into consideration any of the input from the Commission concerning this change. For those workers who encounter difficulties getting their cases to trial, I urge them to contact Representative John Bradley of Marion, Illinois who sponsored this legislation and request it be changed back to the way it was.
- An employer may provide its workers with a preferred provider network of medical professionals for treatment of work-related injuries. If this is done, the employee only has one other choice of a physician and subsequent chain of referral. I expect that many employers may utilize this option to control the injured worker’s course of medical treatment.
- For injuries sustained on or after September 1, 2011 where the injury prevents the worker from returning to his or her usual and customary line of employment, the wage differential payment is limited to age 67 or five years from the date the award becomes final, whichever is later.
- If the employee’s injury is carpal tunnel syndrome caused by repetitive trauma, the permanency award shall not exceed 15% loss of use of the hand, except where there is clear and convincing evidence that the injury is much more disabling. In such circumstances, the Commission may award up to 30% loss of use of the hand. The total loss of the use of the hand is limited now to 190 weeks of compensation – which represented the total weeks of compensation for loss of use of a hand before 2006.
- For injuries that occur on or after September 1, 2011, the determination of permanent partial disability shall be established by using the following criteria: The American Medical Association Guides To Permanent Impairment, the occupation of the employee, the age of the employee, the employee’s future earning capacity, and the evidence of disability corroborated in medical records. The AMA Guidelines are very conservative and many physicians do not agree with their disability ratings. In fact, some medical conditions are not even recognized under the AMA Guidelines. These guidelines have been used in other states to help limit employees’ rights to compensation.
- Payment of medical, hospital, and surgical expenses will be reduced by 30% from the current fee schedule. This is going to greatly impact the ability of injured workers to receive medical treatment that they need from quality physicians. It will make it economically difficult for physicians to continue to see and treat injured workers in light of this reduction in payment of bills.
- The employer / insurance company may use a utilization review of the injured worker’s medical treatment and if the utilization review denies or does not authorize the treatment recommended by the treating doctor, the employee has the burden of proof to show a variance from the standards of care used in the utilization review and the variation is reasonably required to cure or relieve the effects of the injury.
- All arbitrators are terminated effective July 1, 2011 and will be replaced by the Governor’s appointees.
The Governor signed the Illinois workers’ compensation bill into law yesterday (June 28, 2011). It is now Public Act 97-18. Here is a link to the Public Act http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/97/PDF/097-0018.pdf.
While the effective date of the Act is immediate, there are specific dates for certain provisions. Of particular importance are the following:
- PREFERRED PROVIDER PROGRAMS-effective immediately, BUT ONLY WHEN EMPLOYER HAS APPROVED PPP ON THE DATE OF ACCIDENT.
- 8(d)1 CAP-Injuries occurring on or after 9/1/2011.
- CARPAL TUNNEL-Injuries occurring on or after effective date (6/28/2011).
- DETERMINATION OF PPD-Injuries occurring on or after 9/1/2011
- MEDICAL FEE SCHEDULE REDUCTIONS-applies to services rendered on or after 9/1/2011.
- UR-Applies to services provided or proposed to be provided on or after 9/1/2011.
- SECTION 11 (INTOXICATION)-Injuries occurring on or after 9/1/2011.
If you don’t have a personal physician – get one! You don’t want to find yourself in the emergency room and be forced to choose a personal physician at that time. The best way to find a good personal physician is through word of mouth.
Talk to friends, relatives, acquaintances. Talk to everyone you trust, even your attorney, to find the best physician. Ask people who they use and what type of treatment they received. Having a personal physician is very important for your own personal health and well being.
It can also help in your workers’ compensation claim – your personal physician will have a record of your visits before your work injury to show good health. If you are injured at work, your personal physician can order testing, prescribe medication, and issue work restrictions or off duty slips. In addition, your personal physician can refer you to specialists if necessary.
I always help my clients to get the best medical care possible after they are injured at work. If you are currently a client of mine and would like to discuss this with me, feel free to email me at email@example.com or call me toll free at 877-235-2562.
I attended the Illinois State Bar Association Section Council Meeting in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin on June 17, 2011. The Chairman of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission spoke at the meeting. He indicated that the General Assembly recently passed significant workers’ compensation reform legislation (HB1698). He provided a summary of the major provisions of the legislation which will become effective upon approval by the Governor.
Chairman Mitch Weisz spoke and outlined the following changes:
- The arbitrators and commissioners are now subject to the code of judicial conduct.
- The legislation terminates all arbitrators effective July 1, 2011. The governor will appoint and reappoint arbitrators to fill positions. Chairman Weisz estimated that between four and eight arbitrators may not be reappointed. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission Advisory Board will also be involved in the decision making regarding the appointment of new arbitrators. Chairman Weisz indicated that applications are available online for individuals who want to seek the arbitration positions. The new arbitrators must be attorneys. However, they are not required to perform the specific testing that was required of all arbitrators who previously received appointments. Presently, arbitrators who are serving are the only ones that are not required to be attorneys.
Upon appointment by the governor, the arbitrators will undergo 20 hours of training, including black lung training.
- One of the most significant provisions involve the fact that there would be three arbitrators assigned to each hearing site. Chairman Weisz could not even think of the names of three downstate counties so he used three counties near Chicago as examples. He indicated that the total downstate dockets would be reduced to a total of 12 sites with an average of 3,000 cases per docket.
Each site would have a panel of three arbitrators and cases would be assigned at random to one of the three arbitrators at each hearing site. Chairman Weisz indicated it will be more difficult for individuals to set their cases for hearing because of the fact that three different arbitrators will be handling a single docket. Chairman Weisz indicated that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission was left out of the legislative process regarding input on this provision. Any individuals encountering difficulties with setting their cases for hearing because of this provision should contact their appropriate legislative representatives.
- With regard to the actual signing of the legislation, Chairman Weisz indicated that the governor will sign the amendments with “almost certainty.”
- Employees of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission who have claims pending will be required to refile their claims and their claims will be assigned to an Arbitrator separate and apart from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. This would be an adjudicator or mediator selected by the Workers’ Compensation Advisory Commission.
In the middle of July, a list of three to five candidates who can be potentially assigned to the pending cases for those employees of the Commission will be posted.
- With regard to the substantive provisions, there is a Section that applies to allow unions to opt out of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and have their own adjudications separately.
- With regard to the American Medical Association guidelines to permanent impairment, Chairman Weisz discussed the most recent presentation made by David Menchetti wherein he indicated that the AMA guidelines apply to permanent impairment, but the arbitrators look to disability. Chairman Weisz had a copy of the book on the AMA guidelines and indicated that on page five there is a definition of impairment and disability. Special attention should be paid to the language used on page five of the AMA guidelines.
Training will be provided on the AMA guidelines by potentially two individuals. One is Dr. Scott Kale (sp?) and the other is Dr. Forrest. Both of them have specific training in the AMA guidelines. Dr. Forrest is in Chicago.
- Chairman Weisz also described the concern that downstate arbitrators and their dockets were viewed as a “club.” This is why the provision is contained within the legislation concerning randomly assigned cases. Chairman Weisz recognized that this is going to drag things out. Since the cases will be randomly assigned to a specific arbitrator and that arbitrator may not necessarily be at the hearing site at any given month, it will almost be impossible to have your case asset with any certainty unless a specific arrangement is made with a specific arbitrator concerning your case. Chairman Weisz indicated that if both sides cooperate, they would have a greater likelihood of having their cases heard.
- An additional provision states that the arbitrators will be serving a term of two years and then will be reassigned.
- Chairman Weisz indicated that the likely locations for downstate hearings will be either in Springfield or Collinsville. However, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is evidently planning to sell the Collinsville hearing site so a new location may be necessary. Chairman Weisz also indicated that the initial call may be conducted at some hotel in Collinsville and trials may still be able to take place at the Collinsville hearing site.
- It was pointed out that the governor had planned to sign the new changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation law at the Caterpillar plant at Peoria. However, since there was no provision on causation, the management at Caterpillar was not so receptive to having the governor sign the new legislation at their facility.
- It was noted that the new law will take effect within 60 days of the date it leaves the general assembly regardless of whether or not the governor approves the law. However, one of the attorneys pointed out that the new law has not left the general assembly yet. Therefore, the 60 days may not necessarily apply.
- Another question arose as to whether certain provisions were considered to be substantive or procedural. Chairman Weisz indicated that many of the provisions can be viewed as being either substantive, procedural, or both. This has to do with the effective date of legislation.
- A discussion was held regarding a letter sent from the Commission to certain petitioners by an individual named Ruiz. It had to do with the filing of Affidavits and indicated that attorneys should have filed Affidavits on behalf of their clients.
- With regard to the Illinois Injured Workers Benefit Fund, the State of Illinois has borrowed funds from the Fund and there are no longer sufficient monies within the account to make payments to any of the beneficiaries. Currently, the fines collected would have been sufficient to cover and pay certain beneficiaries. However, since the legislature borrowed money from the fund, there are no longer sufficient funds available. However, the state has indicated that the monies will be paid back to the Fund when revenue is available.
- With regard to furlough days, the Chairman indicated that those are unfair and apply only to arbitrators and supervisors who are non-union employees. He urged the governor to do away with furlough days. However, no response was received by the governor’s office.
To see the Draft Summary provided by the Chairman, click here.
Before you hire any lawyer, you want to get all of the minor details our of the way to make sure that everyone will run smoothly along the road. This is way many individuals go through a research process before they select an attorney. However, once you have narrowed down your decision, don’t forget to ask those important questions that will ensure that the time you spend working together will run as smoothly as possible.
How Do You Bill?
Many people are afraid to talk billing and cost up front. However, it is an important issue. You need to be aware of how and when you will be billed so that you can plan for it. This is one of the first questions you should ask your lawyer. You do not want a bunch of surprises down the road, so ask specifics. Will you be billed a flat fee or an hourly rate. Even ask for an estimated cost if you want to.
How will you respond to me needs throughout the case?
This is another great question. As the client, you will have needs that the lawyer will need to meet. Make sure you understand how the client plans on meeting these needs. Hopefully the lawyer will be able to make you feel like a priority even though they obviously have other cases to worry about.
What happens if you die or retire?
This may sound like an odd question, however it is an important one to consider. Imagine investing money in the case with the lawyer and finding out that he or she died before the case was settled. What happens to your investment and/or the case? Although this is an uncomfortable subject to bring up, make sure that you do. It will protect your interests in the event of a tragedy. The client should always be taken care of no matter what happens.
Everyday people hire lawyers to help them solve life’s problems. Today’s lawyers are skilled in a number of different specialties and chances are you can find one to help you overcome the battle you are facing. Remember, odds are in your favor if you hire a lawyer. It is usually wise to have them help you rather than trying to do it all on your own. However, before you hiring the first lawyer you come across on the internet, here are some things to know.
Know Their Experience
First, make sure that you know your attorney’s experience. One of the reasons you are hiring the attorney is to make sure that someone is representing you who is more apt at handling the battle you are confronting. Someone that lacks experience may not be the best decision for an attorney to represent your case. It will be important that they understand what they are up against.
Cost And Worth
Next, understand that you get what you pay for with a lawyer. These individuals are professionals for a reason and that is why they can charge the rate that they charge. Don’t avoid someone that seems expensive right away. If this lawyer is the best fit for you, it may be worth it for you. In the end, you may get the most money back because they know how to fight your case best.
Look For A Specialty
Lastly, when you are looking for an attorney, make sure that they have experience with the type of case you need help with. Not all types of cases are the same. And just because someone is a lawyer, it does not mean that they will be the best person available to help you. Therefore, consider finding someone who specializes in the area you need.
If you are considering hiring a lawyer, than you obviously need reasons to get you off the fence and into you attorneys office. Hiring a lawyer will ultimately be a good thing in nearly all situations. And it will hurt nothing, at least talking to someone about the possibility of working with one. Here are some things to consider.
Peace Of Mind
One of the most obvious reasons to hire a lawyer is to provide you some peace of mind. A lawyer puts you in the best position for a good outcome from the case. You will obviously be much better off than fighting the case blindly on your own.
Don’t Go To Court Alone
Another big reason to hire a lawyer is so that you don’t go to court alone. Imagine going to the hospital and just checking in with the nurse, not the doctor. That is like going to the court and checking in with the judge and not an attorney. Make sure you take a lawyer with you to court. You will be better protected, the outcome will be better, and you will definitely be happier than sitting there by yourself.
It Can Be More Expensive Not To Hire One
Logic often tells us to avoid paying for things – we try to solve problems on our own. However, if you consider the scenarios where accountants have saved clients several dollars on their tax returns then you might be interested in the professional skills of an attorney. These skills are similarly in their economic worth. While they may cost something, the overall value is worth it and will end up saving you money in the end.
Lastly, hiring a lawyer will minimize your risk. There is less chance of something going wrong with a lawyer by your side and a greater chance that that odds will fall in your favor.