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GWC Attorney Harris Elliott

GWC attorney Harris L. Elliott has obtained a favorable trial award for a union carpenter who was wrongfully denied workers’ compensation benefits after being injured on the job.

Union Carpenter Seriously Hurt in Job Site Fall

On January 15, 2019, GWC’s client, a 55-year-old union carpenter, arrived at an Indiana job site where he had been employed for six months by an Illinois-based construction company. During his shift, the carpenter slipped and fell on compacted snow while walking towards the restroom. When he got back up, he experienced intense lower back pain and properly notified his foreman as required under Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation laws.

The client and his wife left two days later for a previously planned trip to Mexico, of which his employer had been made aware well in advance. He met with an orthopedic specialist on January 25, the earliest appointment he could obtain upon his arrival in Mexico. After ordering and reviewing an MRI of the client’s low back, the doctor determined that the client had disc extrusions and spondylolisthesis at L4-L5 and L5-S1. Given the serious nature of the client’s lower back injuries, the doctor informed him that he could no longer work as a union carpenter and would require injections and possible surgery.

The carpenter returned from Mexico after approximately four weeks and informed his employer that he could no longer work due to his injury and would seek further medical care.

Client Devastated by Denial of Claim

Despite the union carpenter immediately reporting the work accident to his supervisor and receiving ongoing medical care for his injuries, the employer’s insurance company denied his workers’ compensation claim. The carrier cited the client’s trip to Mexico and the several-day delay before his initial physician’s appointment as the primary basis for their denial given that any failure to obtain medical treatment immediately after a work accident frequently constitutes a “red flag” for insurance companies.

Additionally, the insurer insisted that the client’s injuries were not causally related to the accident because he had received chiropractic treatment for lower back pain approximately two years earlier. The company also disputed the fact that the incident occurred in the course of the client’s employment and claimed that he did not give timely notice of his work injury.

On the basis of these arguments, the insurance carrier refused to provide the union carpenter with workers’ compensation benefits, including payment for reasonable and necessary medical treatment and Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits, which are typically paid to the employee when they are unable to return to work due to an on-the-job injury. This denial was emotionally and financially devastating.

“Practically overnight,” said Mr. Elliott, “my client went from being the primary breadwinner to someone who was unable to support his family because of his injuries.”

GWC Successfully Overcomes Defenses at Trial

The client came to GWC at the recommendation of one of his union officials after his case had initially been rejected by another well-known injury firm that represents building trade workers. The client indicated that when the first firm turned down his case, they explained to him that they couldn’t help him because he worked exclusively in the State of Indiana and, therefore, Indiana law applied and he could not pursue his case in Illinois. Upon further discussion, it became apparent that the client was actually hired in Illinois by his union carpentry employer and despite what the first firm had told him, there was a chance that the client would be able to obtain workers’ compensation benefits in Illinois. While there were no guarantees of success in spite of the insurance company’s defenses and the jurisdictional questions, given all that the client had been through, Mr. Elliott and GWC refused to turn their back on him and agreed to take on his case.

Almost immediately, GWC filed a workers’ compensation claim in Illinois, one of the most favorable states for claimants, on the basis that the client had been hired by his employer in Illinois. Despite the challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, including time limitations, social distancing, and mask requirements, Mr. Elliott took the case to trial, where he successfully rebutted the insurance company’s objections, drawing upon witness testimony and medical evidence to make his client’s case.

Based upon GWC’s arguments, the arbitrator proceeding over the trial concluded that the union carpenter gave proper notice to his employer, sought treatment in a timely manner, and that his treatment was reasonable, medically necessary, and causally related to the accident. As a result, the arbitrator awarded GWC’s client and ordered the employer to pay for over a year of weekly TTD benefits, past medical bills, and future medical treatment relating to his back injury, including surgery.

“My client and I were both thrilled that after a year of uncertainty, we were able to bring his case to trial in the middle of a pandemic and ultimately prevail,” said Mr. Elliott, “and it was especially satisfying to be able to give my client such great news before the holidays.”

GWC Gets Workers the Benefits They Deserve

Workers who are hurt on the job may be entitled to a number of benefits under the law. But all too easily, these benefits can be disputed because of circumstances beyond one’s control. As a result, employees may find themselves financially exposed, without the means to get necessary medical treatment, and with seemingly nowhere to turn. Fortunately, as thousands of injured workers have discovered over the years, there is somewhere they can turn to obtain the benefits they are owed – GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.

With more than $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the premier Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury law firms in Illinois. Our dedicated Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers can help overcome even the strongest insurance company denials in order to get you and your family the justice you deserve.

If you have been injured in the workplace, please contact GWC today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our workers’ compensation attorneys. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.