One of the truest things about Illinois workers’ compensation law is that if an insurance company thinks they have any reason to deny your case, they will. Something else that is true is that they often deny cases, and it will turn out that their legal reasoning is flawed.
This happened recently to an employee in Illinois whose job required him to maintain and monitor equipment at a refinery. As part of his job he had to up and down the stairs. One day while doing this work his knee buckled. It turned out he had torn his meniscus.
The insurance company denied his case because generally speaking under Illinois law, if you are walking down the stairs and your leg gives out, you don’t have a case. You have to show something about your job increased your risk of injury. Usually that means showing that there is a defect in the stairs such as it being wet, slippery, torn carpet, etc. Because there was no defect, they rejected his claim.
A further look though showed why he had a good case. This was no ordinary staircase, but instead a spiraled and angled one. It was part of a work area not accessible to the general public, and even employees required special clearance to be on it. Climbing to the top required going up 92 steps on an angle and he did it twice that day. Beyond this his job involved climbing, twisting, pivoting, squatting and getting into awkward positions.
So the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission determined that this was no ordinary climbing of stairs. The type of stairs themselves created an increased risk of injury as did the general job duties. Since there was no record of any prior knee problems or outside activities that could have caused this injury, they ruled that his job did play a role in his injury and awarded him benefits.
I don’t know who the lawyer was in this case, but they did a great job. Many lawyers wouldn’t have the guts to take this case on because there was no fall on the stairs. They did a deeper analysis and also did a great job of prepping their client for trial. I say this because it’s clear he testified very descriptively as to what his job duties involved.
This is a great example of why you should never just accept a rejection from an insurance company. It’s one of the rare times that they weren’t out of line in rejecting the case, but at the same time a deeper look shows that they were wrong. It also shows the value of having an experienced attorney in your corner. I know many lazy law firms that would have not taken this good case or told the client to take a compromised settlement.
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