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I am a Union member of Plumber & Pipefitters in Illinois. I had a worker's comp claim in 7/2012.

Sublette, IL |

I am a Union member of Plumber & Pipefitters in Illinois. I had a worker's comp claim in 7/2012. It went to court & the award said the claimaint carrier should pay my medical bills & settlement. They are however appealing this. It will not go back to court until Spring of next year. I signed a paper for my Union to pay my medical bills through my insurance & also pay the Loss of Wage Benefit. I would then have to pay them back if I was awarded a settlement. They now refuse to pay my medical or the benefit saying it is a workers comp claim. It is almost a year since the injury & the hosp & dr want their money now. I have about $70,000 in med bills & I cannot pay these. Can I sue my Union for not paying the benefits I am entitled to as a Union Member paying Union Dues

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Attorney answers 4


No, you can't sue the union. Their contract undoubtedly says that if a third party or employer is responsible, they don't have to pay. Typical of these types of deals.

The other side knows exactly what they are doing by stringing you along at best, hoping the commissioners will reverse the decision of the arbitrator, at worst. Either way, you're stuck. I certainly hope you are not doing this without a lawyer, but fear you are based upon how you phrased the question.

If you do not have a lawyer, I suggest you interview one today. It is a tough process and you need an advoate. NOW.

Stephen L. Hoffman
Law Office of Stephen L. Hoffman LLC
Chicago, IL

This answer posted on Avvo is for informational and educational purposes only. There is no attorney-client relationship created or formed and you should not rely on this as legal advice. The suggestion is made that if you wish to protect your rights, you consult with an attorney immediately.


You or your attorney needs to write to the medical providers or the collections people that you are claiming that this is work related and give them your IL WORK COMP COMMISSION NUMBER. The law provides that they must suspend their efforts to collect while your claim is pending. MICHAEL LEBOVITZ

This information should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. It is not intended to solicit clients and does not constitute any type of transaction. Michael Lebovitz expressly disclaims all liability with respect to actions taken or not taken based on the information provided. No attorney-client relationship exists without a signed Attorney Client Agreement.


What happened is that your attorney filed a motion for emergency hearing under section 19(b) rather than under section 19(b)(1). If your attorney had done the latter, it is likely that there would not have been an appeal. Moreover, if there was an appeal, it would be expedited. What's done is done. As my colleagues have told you, you cannot sue your union. If you have a denial letter from workers compensation, you can force group health insurance to accept a claim. Many unions are still self-insured and think they are playing by different rules. You have not disclosed the nature of your injury or how it is that you have $70,000 in medical costs. If you have already undergone surgery, what are your restrictions. There are number of questions here and there are a number of options available to you. If you proceeded to hearing without an attorney, it was an invitation to an appeal. If you do not already have an attorney, you need to hire an experienced workers compensation attorney as soon as possible.

If this information has been helpful, please indicate by clicking the up icon. Legal Disclaimer: Mr. Candiano is licensed to practice law in Illinois and Indiana. The response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The response is in the form of legal education and is intended to provide general information about the matter within the question. Links:



I do have any atty, but I feel he has not done much to help my case. He never returns phone calls, & when he does, doesn't remember what is going on. I did receive a denial letter from Liberty Mutual before we went to court. This was supposed to make my insurance carrier (thru the Union) ok my surgery & pay. I had the surgery, but then afterwards, my ins. co (Union) is now saying they are not paying due to being a Worker's Comp case. We were in court in Nov.of 2012. April 2013 is when we finally got an award from the judge saying clmt carrier was to pay med. bills & award. But, now they are appealing that, and neither will pay my medical bills. My injury was a torn rotator cuff (which they had us working in bad conditions, in a 4ft tunnel, on our knees. No equipment could fit in tunnels, so we had to physically lift 300 pd pipe from ground to shoulders, and then up over our head into carriers) - In doing so, I torn my shoulder. Had surgery to repair, & had to have bicep cut & reattached to another area in my arm. That's where medical bills came from, plus PT. Restrictions right now are light duty, with no heavy lifting above my head. Unknown if I will get full movement & lifting back. Is it too late at this point to get a different attorney? And in doing so, what would I have to pay the current attorney? Thanks.

Charles Joseph Michael Candiano

Charles Joseph Michael Candiano


Thank you for providing the additional information. You're in a tough spot. Now that I understand your injury, it seems likely that you will have permanent lift restrictions, especially with any lifting above your shoulders. This would likely prevent him from returning to your present occupation. As creative as defense attorneys have become, it is difficult to conceive a colorable legal argument that lifting a 300 pound pipe above your head would not be consistent with a rotator cuff tear. Any decision to change attorneys should not be taken lightly. Under Illinois law, the total fee payable to all of your attorneys cannot exceed 20% of your gross recovery. No matter how much money you are willing to spend, the attorneys are prevented, by statute, from taking more than 20% of your recovery, whether you have one attorney or five attorneys. The attorneys have the option of deciding among themselves which attorney is entitled to what percentage of the fee or the attorneys can request that the commission Have a hearing and decide how much money each attorney should get. Again, no matter how many attorneys you hire there is a fixed sum of money available to them. As I'm sure you can appreciate, the incentive for an attorney to devote the time, effort, and money to get the best possible result for you becomes less and less as you hire more attorneys because each of them is going to get a smaller piece of the pie. I am certain that it is not immediately apparent but you but are actually in a good position if you do need to make a change because there is enough of your case left to attract talented and competent attorneys. Before you decide to make a change, you should sit down with your present attorney and give him an opportunity to present your options, long-term, including, but not limited to his experience in negotiating or trying wage differential cases. I never suggest to clients that they borrow money on their case because the interest rates are very high. However, if your only options are to borrow money or face foreclosure and or loss of vehicles, there are more affordable lenders which I would be happy to identify for you. If you do not have sufficient confidence in your present attorney, I would counsel you to speak with more than one attorney before you make a choice because this is likely to be the last time that your case is still financially attractive, crass as that may sound. When you speak with prospective attorneys, make them demonstrate to your satisfaction that they possess the requisite knowledge and resources and will to prosecute your case so as to optimize your recovery. I would contact the attorneys on more than one occasion to make certain that they are accessible to you, either by telephone or by email. Remember, the most common complaint about attorneys is that they do not return calls or cannot be reached by email. Good luck.


It sure sounds like you've had a rough time. That being said, I suggest you contact your business agent and explain the issue. As a Union member you are certainly entitled to benefits. However, give your Union the benefit of the doubt and ask them what can be done.

With regards to your medical bills, assuming these were incurred as a result of your work injury claim, write a generic letter to all the bill collectors, letting them know and provide them with your insurance adjuster's name and telephone number, along with the claim number. Send a copy to the insurance company. If you have an attorney, ask them to help you.

Good luck.

Please be advised that the advice provided does not create any attorney/client relationship; that due to the various state laws that the information provided is a general overview of work comp law, which might not be applicable to you, based upon the laws of your state. We will not file anything on your behalf nor protect any statute of limitations which might arise and recommend that you IMMEDIATELY consult legal counsel for advice.