We always say that you shouldn’t delay after a work injury. Don’t delay in getting medical treatment. Don’t delay in reporting your injury to your employer. And don’t delay in filing a claim. We still believe all these things, but want to point out that if you do delay, don’t assume you’re out of luck. In a recent Illinois workers’ compensation case, an injured employee waited a long time before seeking benefits for his work injury. And he won.

The guy worked for a packing company, loading and wrapping pallets of shrimp. He had to reach overhead to wrap the pallets in plastic. One day he felt a pulling sensation and pain in his shoulder while doing this work. That was in March. He continued to work, even as the injury worsened, until December when he finally sought compensation.

It’s not surprising that they tried to deny his claim due to the lapse in time. When a lot of time goes by, the question becomes whether it’s truly work related. The connection is harder to prove. The employer or insurer will argue that it happened outside of work while the employee was doing something unrelated. And if there’s no accident report or witnesses who remember, you can lose.

In this case, however, the guy self-medicated during the eight months and was unaware that he could file a claim for benefits. Apparently, this was enough to justify his delay in seeking treatment. Also, his doctor and the doctor for the other side both attributed his injury to his work duties, which is very important to any case.

His doctor recommended physical therapy, which didn’t work. The next step was surgery, and the arbitrator ruled that it should be covered. The guy’s credibility seemed to matter a lot, which is true in our experience, as well. So while we would never recommend waiting eight months, if you have waited, you might still have a valid claim.

Illinois law entitles injured workers to full coverage of their medical bills, as well as payment for a portion of lost wages if they are out of work while they recover. If you need surgery or are unable to work, these benefits can make all the difference. If the insurance company or your employer tells you that you aren’t eligible, get a second opinion from an experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorney.