Workers’ compensation is a system that was set up to help workers who suffer a work-related injury. Illinois law says an injury is considered work related if it arises out of and in the course of your employment. You don’t necessarily have to be at your work location or doing your exact work duties, but a connection to your job is required in order to qualify for benefits.

Many times, it’s not as simple as a single incident that causes an isolated injury. Workers’ compensation cases often get messy if there are pre-existing injuries, secondary conditions and other complications. It can seem like a can of worms. You hurt your back at work while lifting something heavy, but you already had an old back injury from a car accident ten years ago, and then while you’re recovering you develop a separate yet related injury to another part of your body. Or maybe you develop hypertension as a result, or suffer a complication from back surgery.

The law in Illinois says that pre-existing conditions and secondary injuries do not disqualify you from receiving workers’ compensation benefits. You get benefits if your job causes your injury. And you also get benefits if your job makes an old injury worse. So in the example with the existing back injury from a car accident, you can still get your treatment covered if you re-injure your back or aggravate your injury with something that happened on the job.

The same is true of a secondary injury. A surgery complication, or hypertension, or any other injury that comes up will not disqualify you. If it’s related, that secondary injury will be covered. If it’s a completely unrelated injury, it might not be covered but it shouldn’t hurt you, either.

All of these layers can be confusing. And the insurance company that pays workers’ compensation benefits isn’t going to ensure that you get everything you’re entitled to; that doesn’t help their bottom line. You have to look out for yourself. Don’t let your employer or their insurer tell you that something isn’t covered or that you don’t qualify. Get that information from an experienced attorney whose job it is to get you all the benefits provided under Illinois workers’ compensation law, regardless of pre-existing injuries and other complicated circumstances.

By Michael Helfand