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Get attorney’s help when settling injury cases

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Sometimes, employees who are hurt while driving company cars have two separate claims against their employers: one for possible negligence involving the automobile, and another involving workers’ comp benefits for an on-the-job injury.

If you decide to settle the negligence claim, have your attorneys review the settlement agreement. They may be able to wrap up the workers’ comp claim at the same time—by having the Illinois Industrial Commission (IIC) approve a comprehensive settlement.

If the IIC doesn’t approve such a settlement, the employee can still pursue a workers’ comp case, according to a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision.

Recent case: John Van Cleve was severely injured when a motorist forced him to drive his company car off the road. Van Cleve settled an underinsured automobile claim with his employer, Maxit Corp., for more than $800,000. The settlement purported to settle all claims related to the accident.

Van Cleve still pursued a workers’ comp claim against his employer. Maxit settled for $200,000, but then changed its mind, asking the court to open the second settlement and refund the money because the first settlement was supposed to cover all injuries relating to the accident.

The Illinois Supreme Court disagreed with Maxit’s contention that the first settlement covered everything. It said that Illinois law requires the IIC to approve all workers’ compensation settlements. Since that hadn’t happened, the workers’ comp case could continue. Van Cleve will now try to recover more than the $1 million he had already agreed to accept. (Maxit v. Van Cleve, No. 105532, Supreme Court of Illinois, 2008)

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