Most Illinois workers’ compensation cases are one injury. You slip on a wet floor and hurt your knee. You type too much and get carpal tunnel. You lift a heavy object and throw out your back. You get the idea.
Sometimes though your work injury can cause a new injury. You see it the most when someone has an injury to their arm or hand and end up hurting the opposite arm/hand from overuse because they are relying on it too much.
Another big one is when someone is on crutches and the use of crutches causes a shoulder or elbow injury.
A recent case shows a type of second injury that happens a lot but isn’t pursued enough. A worker had a back injury from catching a patient that the insurance company wasn’t disputing. What happened was that the back injury made it harder for her to get around and keep her balance.
As a result she was walking one day and her leg gave out, causing her to fall. She extended her arms to catch herself and in the process hurt her shoulder.
So now a compensable back injury is also a shoulder injury that is fought tooth and nail by the insurance company. The case went to trial and it was found by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission that “but for” the back injury, the shoulder problem never would have happened.
The concept of “but for” basically means that because the first thing happened, the second thing happened. In general, if you can trace an injury back to the original problem, then it should all be covered by workers’ compensation.
It’s unfortunate that this worker had to go to trial to get her benefits, but as they usually do, the hearing officers got it right.
Another “but for” problem we see is when someone becomes really depressed after a major injury. If you have a serious operation like a back fusion and can no longer get around or work, if you need psychological treatment because you are depressed and had never needed it before, the work comp insurance carrier should pay for it.
This is really one of those “it doesn’t hurt to ask” type situations. If you can honestly tell yourself that but for the original accident these other problems wouldn’t have happened then you need to make it a part of your case.