A recent Illinois workers’ compensation case was resolved – in favor of the injured worker – after several appeals. The worker had fallen down the stairs, injuring his back. The appellate court determined that he was eligible for workers’ compensation benefits for his back injury despite the fact that an unrelated knee injury caused him to fall.

The worker was an employee of the Villa Park police department, and he had recently injured his knee when he slipped and fell at a vacation home. He was able to work, but was not fully healed and had scheduled knee surgery for several months later. Between the time of the knee injury and the surgery, this employee fell down the stairs at work. He said that his knee gave out while he was walking down the stairs. He injured his lower back when he fell.

There were other factors that led to the denial of benefits and the appeals in this case, but we want to highlight the fact that, in the end, this man did receive compensation, despite the fact that he fell because of a knee injury that was completely unrelated to his job.

In Illinois, the law is that if you have a pre-existing condition, and you re-injure yourself at work, or something happens on the job that makes that old injury worse, you can still file a claim for workers’ compensation. This is true even if your work injury is more severe because of your pre-existing condition than it would have been otherwise. It shouldn’t matter.

For example, if you have existing back pain, and you get into a car accident while driving the company vehicle to see a customer, injuring your back so much that you can no longer work, benefits definitely should be pursued. Even if your injury would have been fairly minor if your physical health had been 100% to begin with, you should be entitled to benefits.

It doesn’t matter what condition you are in when you walk into work in the morning. If something happens during your workday to make you worse off than when you came it, you should be covered. Of course, you also have to meet the basic requirements, such as the requirement that your injury must arise out of and in the course of your employment.

Don’t take the “advice” of your employer or their workers’ compensation insurance company. Don’t let them tell you that you can’t get benefits because of something you did or some existing medical condition you have. Talk to an attorney who has represented hundreds of injured workers and get their take on it.

The other interesting part of this case is that the man didn’t slip on anything on the stairs.  Instead, his knee just gave out.  Usually that means you’d lose your case because you didn’t have an accident, but in this situation the man had to go up and down the stairs many times a day.  The Court said that because of this increased activity, he was at a greater risk than the general public when it came to being in an accident on the stairs.  Based on that, he won his case.

By Michael Helfand