About twice a month I receive a publication which highlights recent cases that have gone to trial and been appealed at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. It’s a must have for anyone who is serious about keeping up to date on the law at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.
What I’ve noticed over time is that in general it seems like the Judges are getting the cases right. There are certainly some that are more worker friendly or insurance company friendly than others, but for the most part I get their reasoning and can see how they came to their conclusion. This is a good thing as you just want fair results.
I don’t agree with all of them of course. In one case, which we were not involved with, a laborer was required to wear steel toed boots as part of his dress code. Unfortunately for him they were too tight and due to walking in them he developed a couple of blisters. For most people that wouldn’t be a big deal, but he is an insulin dependent diabetic and a blister can lead to serious problems. That’s what happened here as one of his toes became infected and was amputated.
He lost his claim for benefits because the Commission felt the cause of his problems weren’t the steel toed boots, but the fact that they were too small. They felt that this was a problem that was within his control as he bought the boots.
My argument would be that he never had blister problems before this and had never worn steel toed boots before. There is no way he would have been in those boots if it wasn’t for his job as the general public doesn’t wear that type of equipment. To me that puts him at a greater risk than the general public for an injury and under our laws makes this case compensable.
Contrast that with another one that went against the worker, but I think they got it right. A treating doctor kept a worker off of work, but wasn’t actually examining him. His notes reflected that the worker would say he didn’t feel well and the doctor would say that means he can’t work. It sounds to me like this was a doctor’s office which tries to see as many patients as possible without actually providing exams or much treatment. The employee got burned because the doctor wasn’t credible.
We rail against IME docs who are hired guns, but this treating doc seems to be just as bad. In the long run this is a good decision for injured workers because if you have a good, credible doctor in your corner then you are likely to prevail.
The big picture lesson from these cases is that if you have a good claim with the facts on your side, don’t be afraid to go to trial. It does take time and there is no guarantee of a win. But it does seem that most cases have fair results and that’s all that anyone can really want.
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