If you are hurt while working on the job, the first and best piece of advice I give is to go to a doctor. It doesn’t require a law degree to tell people that. It’s mostly common sense. If you are hurting, you get help. From a legal standpoint, you can’t prove you are really hurt if you don’t go to a doctor. And the longer you wait to go, the harder it is to prove that your need for treatment is related to the original injury.
In reality though, people want to avoid doctors. I get it. I don’t want to go to the doctor either if I don’t have to. Other people have been hurt at work and seen the problem go away after a few days so they tough it out. They don’t want to report every little thing or get a doctor’s help for it. So a little rest and Tylenol is how a lot of people take care of themselves. If it drags out they will then go to a doctor (side note, I highly recommend that you get to a doctor within a week of your injury).
Other workers use home remedies or other actions to take care of themselves. There’s a fairly well known case from 2016 of a truck driver who got a blister on the bottom of his foot from all of the driving he was doing. He lanced the blister himself and it became infected which led to him needing significant medical treatment. In other words, a minor issue became a major one because of the actions he took instead of seeing a doctor.
There wasn’t a dispute that the blister was work related. But the insurance company for the trucking company felt they shouldn’t have to pay for any other medical care since he made his injury worse with his self care. This case went to trial and ended up at the Illinois Appellate Court. Here’s what the judges said:
Every natural consequence that flows from an injury that arose out of and in the course of one’s employment is compensable under the [Illinois Workers’ Compensation] Act absent the occurrence of an independent intervening accident that breaks the chain of causation between the work-related injury and an ensuing disability or injury.
In plain English, the law in Illinois is that if a problem wouldn’t have happened without the original work injury, then it should be covered as if it’s part of the original injury. A good example of this is a worker who hurts their leg and ends up on crutches. Because of the crutch use, they develop an elbow injury. The elbow injury would be considered part of the leg injury and not only would the worker’s treatment get covered, they’d also get a settlement for the arm injury as well as the leg injury.
In this 2016 trucker case, the Appellate Court found that “but-for” the existence of a work-related blister, the worker clearly wouldn’t have had an infection. This is a common sense application of the law and good news for injured workers.
So while I highly recommend that you go to a doctor if you are hurt at work, if your situation gets worse through self care or you suffer a new injury after following doctor’s orders, you won’t likely get left out in the cold with nobody to pay your bills.