A lot of times the callers to our office don’t even know if they have a case. Often they notice pain while working or someone has told them to look in to work comp benefits, but they haven’t had a specific accident. In other cases they are told (usually by an insurance adjuster) that they don’t have a case due to a pre-existing injury.
So how do you know if you have a case?
There are a lot of exceptions, but generally speaking you can bring a claim if you can prove that your job activities caused, aggravated or accelerated your physical problem.
The key word here is “OR.” In other words if you have a pre-existing condition, but a job accident or activity accelerates that problem, you still can get benefits. Now if you’ve been treating weekly for back pain for six months and then claim you hurt your back worse today at work, you’d need something along the lines of before and after MRI’s to prove your case. On the other hand, if you last saw a doctor for back pain four months ago and had no appointments scheduled to see your doctor, if your back popped while lifting a box today, you’d have a much stronger case.
If you re-read that last paragraph, it in a nutshell explains that you win if you can prove your job aggravates OR accelerates a problem. So how do you prove it?
The best and often only way to do so is to have a credible medical doctor write a report that states your condition was caused, at least in part, by your job duties. This is usually where a lawyer comes in.
Most doctors don’t know the law and can actually torpedo a case due to their lack of understanding. Attorneys will either draft a letter to the doctor explaining the law or instruct the injured worker exactly what to ask. We don’t want the doctor to lie, we want the truth. But the truth has to be based on the law in Illinois. For example, if you have a hurting back and ask your doctor did your job cause your back problems, they’ll probably say no if you are older, overweight or have any history of back trouble. And they’d be right.
On the other hand, if you asked the same doctor if your job duties contributed to your back problems and made sure to explain what you did on a daily basis, how often you did it and how long you’ve been doing it for as well as what you notice when doing that job, it’s much more likely that the same doctor would agree that your job contributed to your condition.
That explanation of the law is often the difference between winning and losing a case. And if your injury is from repetitive trauma like carpal tunnel syndrome or degenerative disc disease or if you’ve ever treated for the same problem, you need your doctor to understand the law if you want to win benefits.