Let’s say you’ve been injured on the job, and you are unable to work as a result. You are collecting TTD (temporary total disability) payments while you recover. Your doctor believes that you need surgery in order to fully get back to normal, but that you aren’t healthy enough to undergo that surgery due to hypertension. Naturally, you are worried about your benefits.

First of all, the law in Illinois says that you should continue to get TTD until you are at “maximum medical improvement,” which means you are fully recovered or as good as you’re going to get. This is true even you don’t have surgery. If there is another treatment option, you should be allowed to pursue that one instead. You can’t be forced to have surgery, even if your doctor recommends it.

When an unrelated condition affects your work injury, it doesn’t mean you will lose your workers’ compensation benefits. Let’s say your hypertension, which is not work related, makes your work injury worse than it would be otherwise. You still should be covered by workers’ compensation. If you have a work-related back injury and then get into a car accident that makes it much worse, you still should be covered.

Pre-existing conditions, secondary injuries and other complications can make your case more difficult. If your benefits are denied outright or stop after they’ve started, you might need an attorney who can request a hearing in front of an Illinois workers’ compensation judge (called an arbitrator) and argue your case.

But remember that the insurance company “takes you as they find you.”  This means that you don’t get punished for having other problems that make your work injury worse.  The most common example is someone who is overweight and takes longer to recover from a back injury.  They don’t lose their benefits because they might be pre-disposed to have back trouble. 

That said, even if you get cancer while rehabbing a knee injury, you only lose your lost time benefits if a doctor will state that your knee is good enough for you to work full time.  If the doctor instead says that your cancer is preventing you from fixing the knee then they will have to keep on paying you, even if that lasts for months or years.


By Michael Helfand