One thing I hear a lot from people call me with Illinois workers’ compensation questions goes something like this:
I hurt myself at work and my case has been denied. I have no idea why. My cousin had the exact same type of injury and they got all their benefits and a $60,000.00 settlement. Why aren’t I getting paid?
In most cases, the answer is that your injuries sound similar, but the facts around the case are way different when you take a closer look. In other words, you can’t compare what happened to you to someone else. Even if it’s a co-worker, you come in to the case with a different history, especially medically.
This thought popped in to my head the other day when a read the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin case summaries. It’s a monthly report of newly reported cases from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. It’s a great guide as to why Arbitrators rule the way they do and to learn about new laws. If your attorney isn’t reading those updates they aren’t prepared to properly represent you in my opinion.
In one of the recent ones, there were two cases about Illinois workers that experienced severe mental trauma at work. The first person was a witness to a major electrical explosion. The second person had guns pointed at them. The first person testified it was the worst moment of their 26 year career and that loud noises startle him. The second person also alleged post traumatic stress.
There was one big difference in these cases beyond the facts. While both cases established a work related accident, the worker who experienced the explosion never sought medical treatment. The second sought treatment with a psychologist who treated him for anxiety and depression related to the mental trauma at work.
You can’t win an Illinois workers’ compensation case without medical evidence. You aren’t a doctor and you are biased in the eyes of the Court so you can’t offer medical evidence. You can talk about your experiences or pain you’ve had, but you can’t offer a diagnosis as to what’s wrong with you even if you 100% know it.
This is especially true for mental health injuries as they can’t be seen. You can’t self diagnose a broken leg, but if you had one you’d also have to see a doctor because you can’t walk. Some people can experience severe mental trauma, but for whatever reason choose not to seek help.
The medical evidence you get is usually the most important part of any case. If you don’t treat, it will be hard to win. If there is a delay in treatment, it will be hard to win. If there is a gap in your treatment, it will be hard to win. If you lie to your doctor it’s going to be really hard to be victorious.
Interestingly enough, while it’s probably worse mentally to be robbed at gun point than to see an explosion, if the person robbed didn’t go to a psychologist, they would have lost. And had the person who saw the explosion gone to a mental health doctor, they would have won.