One interesting fact about Illinois Workers’ Compensation law is that it changes all of the time. The basic principles remain the same, but either new laws get passed or new cases interpret existing law to change how we’ve always viewed things or establish for the first time how a certain aspect of a case should be handled.
Covid has had a similar affect. It used to be that if you got injured on the job, but didn’t get medical care for many months it would essentially kill your case. The longer you wait, the harder it is to prove your need for treatment is related to the original accident. A delay of a couple weeks doesn’t usually hurt injured workers, but a delay of many months can.
With Covid though, many people are understandably afraid of going to the doctor or hospital. Instead they treat themselves with pain killers, ice, rest, etc. For some that’s enough, for others it is only a temporary fix and eventually the pain becomes too much.
Take for example a very nice man who called me recently regarding a fall at work in March. It happened right as the pandemic was hitting. While he reported it to his employer right away, he read warnings to avoid exposure if you have any underlying conditions which he does. He works in a managerial role so he’s able to continue working, even it’s remotely. He has a shoulder injury that is getting worse and finally has decided that it’s too much pain to not see a doctor.
His case is no slam dunk, but where before I would have told a potential client with a five month delay in getting medical care that I can’t help them, in this case I might be able to. I told him he should get with an orthopedic doctor right away, tell the doctor how they hurt themselves, what they’ve been doing to treat it and ask two questions. The first question is what is the diagnosis? The second is does the doctor believe the problem is at least partly related to the work accident.
This gives us something to work with. Arbitrator at the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission are not dumb and certainly apply common sense to most of their rulings. If this person has a credible doctor in their corner and comes across as authentic in person as they did on the phone, the Arbitrator will believe that they were hurt at work and avoided the doctor because of Covid. That’s of course the truth, but the truth doesn’t always prevail.
The bottom line is that if you can get to a doctor, please do so, for your health. I’ve personally been to a doctor five times since March and in my opinion it’s very safe due to masking and cleaning. Some doctors will also examine you by Zoom or outdoors. Nothing is 100% safe, but it does seem that there are realistic work arounds with this.
You can’t bring a work comp case without medical care, but the good news is that a delay in care, at least for now, doesn’t end your case.
As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.