Some Illinois workers comp injuries are obviously a case. If you are walking down the hall and slip on a wet floor, tearing your ACL, it’s kind of hard to dispute that. If hot grease burns your face, leaving a big scar, most likely the only issue in that claim is what is it worth?
Other cases aren’t as crystal clear. You might know in your heart that your medical problems are from the job, but proving that at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is a different story.
I thought of this recently when I read about an Illinois worker with renal failure. Renal disease is an injury to your kidneys that can be caused by many factors although the top two are high blood pressure and diabetes. Proving renal disease is related to your job is no easy task.
In the case I read about, a worker testified that he had worked at a rubber plant for more than 20 years and constantly was exposed to numerous toxic chemicals. He gave very specific testimony about an eight year period in which he was exposed to a product called Cure-Rite 18 and inhaled dust from the product as well as had skin contact with it. A co-worker testified and corroborated the testimony and evidence of a study that showed workers were exposed to an excessive amount of these chemicals was entered in to evidence.
Having the study was very important in proving that the worker was exposed to hazardous chemicals. You may know what you’ve been exposed to, but in most jobs you wouldn’t be considered an expert enough in order to testify about the danger they cause. You also wouldn’t be seen as objective.
The second big factor in winning this case was the doctor for the injured worker. He testified that two of the chemicals the worker was exposed to were known to cause the development of kidney disease. This doctor went above and beyond the call of duty. His testimony showed that he did extensive medical research on these chemicals and the harm that they can cause. This persuaded the Arbitrator as did the fact that the treating doctor spent significantly more time with this worker than the IME doctor did.
A chemical exposure case, especially one with a serious injury, is almost always going to go to trial. These are not easy cases to win, but as this case shows, they are winnable when the evidence is on your side and a lot of hard work is done. What’s interesting about this case is that this worker also had diabetes which as stated above is a big cause of kidney disease. That shows how persuasive the doctor was and how well presented the case was a trial.
The real big lesson is that if you have a chemical exposure claim, you better have an attorney with a track record of taking cases to trial in your corner. This was a very defendable case that appears to be have won because the work comp lawyer for this worker did an excellent job. That great work in getting all of the evidence in was literally the difference between winning and losing.