We always tell people to worry about their health first if they have a work accident or are involved in a similar incident that ends in an injury. It’s so important to get medical attention and not ignore the pain. It’s equally important to follow your doctor’s advice and go back to them if things change or you get worse.

All of these suggestions are especially important if you have a neck injury. A neck injury can get significantly worse if left untreated, and in the worst-case scenario your injury can become permanent as a result of not being treated. Nerve injuries to the discs in your neck can require neck fusion surgery, after which the nerves have about a year to regenerate. After that, the extent of your recovery is over, meaning that at that point you’re as healed as you’re going to get.

Unfortunately, we’ve seen cases where injured workers don’t get the treatment they need for a neck injury and end up with a permanent impairment, including constant pain and the inability to ever work again. We’re not trying to scare you, but we want you to learn from what we’ve seen. These cases can be serious. Even those with treatment can leave a worker with a permanent disability.

If you are having trouble getting treatment approved through the workers’ comp insurance company, don’t give up. Talk to a lawyer right away. Your attorney, if they know what they’re doing, can force the insurance company to pay what they’re supposed to. Judges don’t oversee these cases. Instead, they are handled by arbitrators who have a similar role. Disputes that can’t be resolved are presented to the arbitrator at a hearing. If the arbitrator agrees with your doctor they can order the insurance company to cover your treatment. The key is getting one of these hearings as quickly as possible.

Any time there is a serious injury with the potential of permanent disability, we suggest hiring an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorney to look out for you. Because of the seriousness of a neck injury, we don’t suggest settling the case on your own. When a case settles, medical coverage is closed. You don’t want to settle for too little or too soon, and the insurance company certainly won’t be giving you any tips on how to get all the benefits that are available.

By Michael Helfand