A recent caller to my office was somewhat freaking out. She had hurt herself while working on a Saturday, but as of the following Tuesday she hadn’t gone to a doctor or the emergency room. She was hoping that her foot would start to feel better and like many of the people that we talk to, she wanted to just keep working and not have to deal with it. That is an understandable position and usually the sign of a hard working client.
Now that she realizes her problem is getting worse, she wants to see a doctor. But a friend of hers told her that if you don’t go to get medical help within 24 hours of your injury, you aren’t allowed to get workers’ compensation benefits.
Allegedly that is the law in some other state, but it’s not the law in Illinois. There is no time limit as to how quickly you have to see a physician, but I will say that the longer you wait, the harder it is to prove your condition is related to the original accident.
The reason behind this is that if you are on a witness stand some day and tell the Arbitrator that you hurt your back in April, but didn’t see a doctor until October, he/she will look at you with skepticism. All of the Arbitrators are experienced and know how painful a back injury can be. So if you say that you were able to go six months without any medical intervention, it will raise suspicions that something happened in between that really caused your trouble. This doesn’t end your chances at a case, but certainly can hurt them.
I hate going to the doctor and other than bugging a buddy that’s an ER doc for advice, I usually just try to figure things out on my own. So that makes me somewhat of a hypocrite because my advice to you is to never try and tough out an injury that is bothering you for more than a couple of days. Perhaps the pain will go away, but it’s also possible your delay in treatment will cause you to get much worse. If you go to the doctor, worst case scenario is that you waste an hour or so of your life because you get better right away. Best case scenario is your injury doesn’t get out of hand and any potential case doesn’t end up in litigation because you created a potential defense. Doesn’t it make more sense to just get checked out?
The other lesson from this phone call is that you should not take legal advice from friends that are not attorneys. They likely have your best interests at heart, but don’t always know what they are talking about. In this situation, the friend didn’t know that the laws are different from one state to another. Many other times people confuse what the law actually is because they are going off something that they heard or improperly comparing their experience to yours. So ask a lawyer. We’ll always talk to you for free and so will many other firms.