I was Injured Working for an Out-Of-State Company

Question:

I broke my wrist on May 7, 2002 and was later found to have scapholunate dissassociation. I had to have 3 pins put in my wrist. I have only missed 1 day of work and have been on light duty. I am an ironworker and the job may be over before I am off of light duty. What are the company’s responsibilities as far as putting me on weekly dissability when they leave town? I work in Champaign, IL and the company is from Wisconsin.

–Kenneth

Answer:

You are quite fortunate. You work in Illinois, but you live in Indiana. Therefore, fortunately, Illinois law applies, rather than the unduly restrictive, conservative Republican Indiana law. Indiana law is a travesty and an embarrassment. Indiana government cares little for the injured and has disgraceful laws that do little to no justice. In Indiana, people lose their careers, wives and family due to injury. Companies are rewarded for treating their employees like a product or a replaceable cog. And, therefore, that is what they routinely do.
Fortunately, Illinois law applies. We have noticed the Democratic party seems to take much better care of the injured worker and much better care of the working man generally. They permit injured people to recover at least a somewhat dignified amount of compensation and permit them to be part of a union where they can have some leverage to negotiate a fair wage. This creates a much stronger middle class and a much wealthier state (as we see around the nation in the Democratic-controlled states).
I am surprised to hear that there is light duty work available for an ironworker. That is extremely unusual. There is usually no light duty ironwork available. The good news is that under Illinois law the employer’s insurance company cannot escape their requirement to provide you reasonable financial assistance to support you while you are incapacitated due to the accident. Here are some things to remember.
1) If the light duty job ends and you cannot return to regular duty ironwork elsewhere, then the insurance carrier must pay you weekly compensation equal to 2/3 of your average weekly wage (there is a cap on this however).
2) If you obtain a lesser paying job, the insurance carrier has to pay you a wage differential.
3) You can rest reasonably secure knowing that the employer cannot escape their responsibility by playing manipulative games, like give you light duty jobs, firing you, ending a job, claiming there is no work available.
Ironwork is the most difficult of trades. It’s a heavy-duty profession that pays well and has a good pension system. Does the Workers Compensation system provide adequate compensation for ironworkers? No, it does not, due to caps. But, at least it permits the ironworker to survive and not lose everything while he recuperates. Its not satisfactory, but it is better than state laws like Indiana’s or the southern states in this great nation.
If your injury is career ending, it’s extremely important to evaluate whether you have a third party claim (a claim against a company other than your employer who was negligent, like a general contractor or fabricator).