Illinois employees can get workers’ compensation benefits when they are involved in a work related accident or injury. Many assume only work related incidents stemming from a specific or sudden activity, or an ‘acute’ injury, such as wrist fractures, ankle sprains, or shoulder dislocation, qualify for workers’ compensation. The protections of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act are not limited to just these injuries as the Act also provides compensation to employees suffering from repetitive trauma.
Repetitive trauma injuries are caused over time by a doing the same activity over and over or by a sustained and awkward position required from the employee’s job. The most common example is someone who types all day getting carpal tunnel or someone who does a lot of overhead lifting getting a shoulder injury. That said, we’ve also helped a ton of workers who have back injuries and while they never felt a “pop” while lifting, their back has just broken down over time.
Employees have forty-five days from the date of injury to report their injury to their employer for both acute injuries and repetitive trauma type injuries. However, determining the date of a repetitive trauma is much more challenging than it is for a one time injury. This is due to the nature of the injury developing gradually over time. Our clients often notice pain at the end of the work day or week and then feel better after some rest. Eventually though the pain becomes too much.
Cases are often challenged and become the center of litigation to whether an employer was given proper notice by the employee suffering from a repetitive trauma injury. There are two possible methods of determining the date of injury that you should be aware of.
The first method to determining the date of injury would be when a ‘reasonable person’ notices symptoms caused by work. For example, if you felt tingling felt in your hand or arm and do the same type of activity all day and then went to the doctor who told you that your job was causing your problems, you’d be on the clock to report it.
The second method to determining the date of injury is the date when the employee was no longer able to do their job because of the repetitive type injury. Because the employee continued to work, the courts assume the employee already recognized their work related injury.
The bottom line is that to be safe you should tell your supervisor or someone else at work that you suspect a work related injury as soon as you think of it. The longer you wait the bigger the risk of them getting off on some sort of technicality. The best way to do it is in writing, but if it’s verbal make sure you document who you told, when you told them, where you were, etc.
Is this confusing? It can be for sure. Fill out our contact form or call us at 312-346-5578 if you have questions and want a free consult with a lawyer.