One common, but often bogus defense presented by insurance companies in Illinois work injury cases is that the injured worker had a pre-existing condition. You’ve probably read some posts on my blog that discuss this, but it’s not unusual for them to allege some dormant injury from a 10+ year old accident is the real reason you need medical care. Fortunately those defenses don’t usually work when it’s obviously absurd.
That line of fighting can work for them when you were already under a doctor’s care for a particular injury and allege that a job accident made it worse. It’s common for a worker to have back or shoulder problems and then feel that heavy activity at work or a one time accident made their situation dramatically worse. If you went to the doctor last week for treatment and then say that you got hurt today, you can bet that your case will be denied. That doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t win, it just means that there is work to do.
In those cases, there are a few ways to show that your injury has gotten much worse and that you didn’t just suffer a temporary aggravation. The first way is your own testimony. You can discuss how your pain is different. For example, you might have had shoulder pain before, but been able to do stuff like play tennis. If you have trouble brushing your hair now, it shows that the problem is much worse. The second way would be statements by your doctor. What they notice about you before and after an injury from their exams says a lot.
But the best way to prove an injury got worse at work is via a diagnostic test like a MRI. If you had a MRI three months ago that shows a bulging disc at one level and now shows a herniated disc at a completely different level, that is pretty objective evidence that something new happened. It’s very hard to explain away any reason other than the job that you’d have this new finding. The same would be true if you had a partial rotator cuff tear that turned in to a full thickness one. There could be other explanations, but the MRI will weigh heavily in your favor.
Even if you didn’t have a pre-injury MRI, a post accident one can prove that your symptoms have greatly increased. Your doctor might state that there was no reason for a MRI previously until your symptoms dramatically worsened.
On the flip side, if the MRI findings are the same, that can be used against you to show that the injury really didn’t get much worse. That doesn’t mean you have no chance. It does mean you’d need a really credible doctor to explain why the similar findings are resulting in increased problems for you.
And in some cases a MRI can be completely normal, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t injured. Quite often under the knife at surgery, the true problem arises.
I’ve had multiple MRI’s in my time and don’t think they are any fun. But when it comes to proving a work related injury in Illinois, they are really a useful tool.