The cleanest type of Illinois workers compensation case is when you are hurt in a clearly defined job activity, it’s witnessed, you don’t have drugs in your system, you get medical treatment right away, and you follow what your doctor recommends.  Not to say that type of scenario can’t result in a contested case (most likely via a hired gun IME doctor), but it would be hard to dispute at least that you were hurt on the job.

Not all cases are clean of course, and people don’t formally file them, or even seek medical treatment, for all sorts of reasons.

A recent caller to my office worked in a warehouse and had to do a lot of overhead lifting.  His shoulder began to hurt him and he let his supervisor know about it.  The supervisor said, “now is not a good time for a work accident” because they were in a busy season where they needed the warehouse workers to be available for overtime.  So the worker popped a lot of pills, worked the OT, felt more pain, took more pills, had more pain, noticed the pills weren’t working anymore and then saw his production slip.

As you can guess, because he wasn’t working efficiently they fired him.

He called me a week after he got terminated in a lot of pain and freaking out because he doesn’t have health insurance.   He had yet to go to the doctor.  I told him it’s a good news, bad news situation.

The good news is that he notified his supervisor that he was hurting while he was still on the job so they have proper notice of the problem. The other good news is that if it is a work related injury, he doesn’t need health insurance because it will be covered under their work comp insurance.

The bad news is that it looks suspicious any time someone files a claim after they get fired, especially if they haven’t gone to the doctor first.  It’s not a case you can’t win, but you can bet that it will be met with resistance and you would absolutely need a lawyer.

I advised him to get to the doctor ASAP. The longer you wait and still have problems the more likely their insurance company will argue that you must be hurt from someone else.  I get that he’s looking for a new job and has worries, but if he has a major injury (he suspects a torn rotator cuff) then he’d be in real trouble if it’s not a case.  Go to the doctor and be honest. In this case that means telling the doctor what your job details involved, how much you lifted and how often and what you noticed while working.  Then ask if the job contributed to the shoulder problems in any way.

He’d been off the job for a week. Winning a case based on treatment started today is harder than if he started a week ago.  If he waits one more week it will be way worse.  Nothing is more important than your health so even if you no longer work for the company, get to the doctor.  As far as the work comp case goes, it will be more difficult, but certainly not impossible and in a case like this where he reported it before he was terminated, was working long hours and had a job that would lead to that type of injury, I would be surprised if he didn’t win the case.