Other than “What’s my case worth?” the most common question I get from injured Illinois workers is, “Do I have a case?” I just read the summary of two recent court decisions that are great examples of how Arbitrators rule at trial.
In the first case, a truck driver alleged that she had carpal tunnel syndrome in both of her hands from her job duties. The insurance company denied her case because she had several contributing factors to her medical problems that are not work related. Specifically she was really overweight and that caused the IME doctor to state that was the cause of her problems.
At trials, Judges rely on how credible a witness seems. In this case the worker testified that she had to repeatedly and forcefully grip the wheel on her tractor which had power steering. She demonstrated how her wrists were flexed when she did that and also talked about the difficulty she had maneuvering the truck in severe weather conditions. This was corroborated by her supervisor. She acknowledged that she had symptoms while not driving but credibly testified that it was worse when driving.
The Arbitrator found her testimony to be credible and awarded her benefits. It was important that her doctor related her problems to her job activities, but also important that her testimony was detailed and by admitting that her wrists also hurt away from work it made her appear more honest even though a reasonable person might think that it could hurt her case.
In the second case, there was no dispute about a foot injury for an 18 year old when a car lift fell on one of his feet. The dispute was around his claim that his other foot became injured because he was putting too much wait on it due to the problem with the first foot. In the medical records, his statements were clear and consistent. Sometimes it’s out of your control what the doctor writes down, but if you don’t tell them about the problems you are experiencing, you are hurting yourself and your case.
The Commission held that because the injured worker was over compensating and shifting his weight around, it made sense that he could hurt his other foot and rejected the IME doctor’s opinion that this problem was caused by him having “high arches.”
The point of both of these cases is that most cases aren’t 100% clean. It’s rare that you have an injured worker who was sitting at a red light and gets rear-ended by a semi truck the day after they had a MRI on their back which showed a clean bill of health.
So you can have a successful case even if there are possible defenses to your claim. Like in these two cases, the opinions of IME doctors that the job didn’t play any role in the injury are often b.s. The law in Illinois is that you have to show your job activities were a cause of your condition. Not the sole cause or only cause.
It’s not surprising that these injured workers won their trial. Because they both testified in an honest manner and had medical records which supported them it would be hard for any Arbitrator to find against them.
None of this of course guarantees a win for you, but it should give you an idea that if you are honest and can show that your job played a role in your injury, you have a great chance at trial of winning your case.