The Flight Attendant’s Guide To The Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act
This Handbook is designed to be a resource to advise and educate Flight Attendants of the rights and benefits to which they are entitled in the event they sustain a work related injury. While this Guide is not a substitute for the advice of a competent attorney, it is intended to give Flight Attendants a brief explanation of their legal rights as well as illustrate potential pitfalls that can arise which allow the Airlines and their insurance representatives to contest claims and deny benefits. Please note that all information contained in this Guide is valid as of the date of its printing. Please contact us in the event you sustain an injury at work so that we may advise you on how to protect your rights based on the most current Illinois law.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has jurisdiction for all claims resulting from injuries in which:
A. The injury occurs within the State of Illinois or
B. The Employee’s contract for hire was entered into within the State of Illinois or
C. The Employer’s principle place of business is within the borders of the State of Illinois
Jurisdiction as it pertains to a Flight Attendant is usually established as a result of where he/she is “based.” Flight Attendants who are Chicago based can usually pursue Illinois Workers’ Compensation claims regardless of where they live, if they are injured in-flight or on a layover in a different State or a Foreign Country. Illinois may have jurisdiction over the claims of United Airlines Flight Attendants who are not based in Chicago pursuant to their collective bargaining agreement, however this issue has become complex since the United Airline/Continental merger. Please note that each state has a different Workers Compensation Act and many of these states provide benefits which are much less favorable than those in Illinois. Some claims can have jurisdiction in more than one state. Please call us to discuss issues involving jurisdiction of your claim.
Not all injuries which occur within the work place are compensable. Compensable refers to a type of injury which entitles the Flight Attendant to payment of benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act. In order for an injury to be compensable, it must arise from a risk causally related to the Flight Attendant’s employment. In most instances this means that the injury must be the result of a specific exertional activity (e.g. lifting) or a sudden unexpected event caused by an occupation hazard (e.g. slip on liquid or trip). Injuries which occur as a result of nothing more than everyday movements of the body can be determined to be non-compensable and will be denied by the Airline.
(a) Flight Attendant reaches up to open overhead and feels pain in shoulder. This claim is likely to be considered non-compensable.
(b) Flight Attendant is lifting a passenger’s carry-on into the overhead and feels pain in shoulder. This claim will likely to be considered compensable.
(a) Flight Attendant feels pain in back getting out of jump seat after take off. This claim is likely to be considered non-compensable.
(b) Flight Attendant loses balance as a result of turbulence while getting of out of jump seat and feels pain in back. This claim is likely to be considered compensable.
The case law pertaining to repetitive injuries sustained by Flight Attendants as well as injuries sustained at commuting airports and on domestic and international layovers is complicated and constantly changing. We have numerous years of experience in handling these specific issues. Please call us as soon as possible after your injury to discuss your situation so that we may best advise you how to protect your rights.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act requires that an injured employee notify the employer of the injury within 45 days of the date of the accident. From a practical standpoint most injuries that are reported more than a day or two after they occur will be contested and probably denied by the Airline. The basis of this denial will not be on the grounds of violation of the 45-day notice requirement but rather on credibility. Accordingly, it is recommended that a Flight Attendant report even minor injuries immediately in writing to the appropriate representatives of the Airline.
Recorded Telephone Statements
In almost all instances shortly following a reported injury, the Flight Attendant will receive a telephone call from an adjuster from the Airline’s insurance administrator. The adjuster will request the Flight Attendants permission to take a recorded telephone statement. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act does not afford an employer the automatic right to take an injured worker’s recorded statement. Such statements can only be obtained voluntarily. Contrary to what the adjuster may say, the sole purpose of the recorded telephone statement is to attempt to discover a basis to deny the claim. Since the statement can only be obtained voluntarily and since its only potential value is to the Airline for the potential denial of the Flight Attendants’ claim the rule here is simple:
UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES EVER GIVE A RECORDED TELEPHONE STATEMENT WITHOUT FIRST CONSULTING AN EXPERIENCED ATTORNEY.
An injured Flight Attendant can seek medical treatment from two (2) physicians of their chain or referrals. Contrary to what they are often told flight attendants do NOT have to treat with Airline or Insurance Company Physicians.
Lost Time Benefits
When a Flight Attendant is disabled from work, they are entitled to receive tax free benefits equal to 2/3 of their average weekly salary. The amount of the weekly check is based on the average of the 52 week period prior to the accident. The benefits are to commence on the 4th day of the lost time and if the Flight Attendant is off for a total of 14 days or more, the Airline must pay the 3-day waiting period. It should be noted that payment at benefits or medical bills is not a legal admission of liability. The Airlines can totally dispute any case at any time regardless if benefits have been paid or not. Likewise, benefit rates are often calculated incorrectly resulting in significant underpayments. Please contact us to determine if your benefits are being paid correctly.
Federal guidelines preclude a Flight Attendant from being returned to work following an injury unless they have no restrictions and are able to perform the full range of their duties. If Flight Attendant has been released to light duty and the Airline cannot or will not accommodate him/her in a different capacity it is usually the obligation of the Airlines to continue to pay lost time benefits until a full duty release has been obtained as long as the Flight Attendant can prove that they are otherwise unemployable. It is the Flight Attendants’ burden to prove that he/she are otherwise unemployable and the rules regarding this are complex. Please contact us to discuss this further.
When a Flight Attendant has concluded medical treatment, he or she may be entitled to an award or settlement for the residual disability that remains following their injury. The recent changes made to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act in May of 2011 changed the way permanent disability is determined in all claims for injuries which have been incurred after September 1, 2011. The use of the AMA listing of impairments as one relevant factor in determining disability as well as other new standards, make comparing to what friends or co-workers may have received in the past no longer a valid benchmark. Now more than ever the amount you receive can only be maximized by settlement negotiations or trial by an knowledgeable attorney.
Third Party Claims
If the injury to the Flight Attendant is caused by the negligence of a person or persons other than another employee of the Airline, the Flight Attendant may have a civil claim against this party in addition to their Workers’ Compensation Claim. Please contact us to discuss this type of additional claim.
Social Security Disability Claims
A Flight Attendant who is permanently disabled from returning to work can also file for Social Security Disability Benefits. The rules governing Social Security as it pertains to work related injuries has changed substantially over the last few years. For example, the Social Security Administration can now make a claim against a portion of a worker’s compensation settlement. If a Flight Attendant has a work related injury, it is recommended that he/she do not file for Social Security Disability Benefits until conferring with an attorney.
About The Firm
Attorney Gregory J. Saunders has 31 years of experience in handling claims for Airline Industry employees. He personally has handled hundreds of cases for Flight Attendants for every major Airline as well as Mechanics, Ramp Service Reservations and other types of employees.
Saunders, Condon and Kenney does not advertise. The vast majority of cases that come to the firm are referred by former satisfied clients or union officials who are familiar with the high quality of aggressive representation the firm provides. Mr. Saunders handles each Flight Attendant case personally and gives them the benefit of his expertise and experience.
Mr. Saunders provides all of his clients with his personal cell phone number and prides himself on the fact that all of his clients can reach him whenever they need to. Mr. Saunders’ partners Mark Condon and James J. Kenney likewise have a combined 70 years of experience in successfully handling Workers Compensation, Personal Injury and Social Security Disability throughout the States of Illinois, Indiana, and Iowa.