When you get into workers’ compensation cases there are so many abbreviations that become second nature for attorneys, but can at first be confusing for injured workers if they haven’t heard of them before. MMI, IME, FCE, TTD. Those are just four of the terms that come up a lot in Illinois work comp cases that the average person on the street doesn’t know about and shouldn’t be expected to.
Another one of those terms is RSI which is short for repetitive stress injury. There are two main causes of injuries at work. One is a one-time event. That would be something like slipping on a wet floor and breaking your leg or lifting something heavy and feeling a pop in your back. There is a specific time and place you can point to as to when you were injured.
RSI cases are due to doing the same or similar activities at work for an extended period of time. The repetitive nature of the activity and the frequency can eventually cause your body to break down. There are so many examples, but the most common ones include:
- Typing for most of the workday and getting carpal tunnel.
- Continuous heavy lifting that leads to a back injury.
- A lot of overhead work that causes a problem with your shoulder.
- Working on an assembly line and using your arms/hands a lot. This can lead to injuries from the fingers all the way up to the neck, but the most common problem occurs in the elbows.
There are of course other repetitive activities that can cause a body to break down. Sometimes these problems get better with rest or modifications such as an ergonomically correct workstation or wearing wrist guards. More often than not though either there is no modification that can be made (if you lift all day, a back brace isn’t going to solve a problem) or your body is beyond the point of being fixed without medical treatment.
Many of the people we have helped with an RSI in the past try taking Advil until the pain gets too much to bear. At that point, they usually go to the doctor.
When it comes to Illinois workers’ compensation cases, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that a carpenter who works overhead all day and has a shoulder injury was hurt at work. But despite that, insurance companies for work comp are ruthless and will often deny RSI claims from the get-go. And if they don’t they will use another abbreviation (IME) to fight you. IME stands for independent medical examination and that’s when they send you to a doctor of their choice for an opinion that your condition isn’t work-related.
Other sketchy tactics they use include saying that you had a pre-existing condition (often that shouldn’t matter or is irrelevant), that you’re heavy or diabetic (a popular one for fighting carpal tunnel cases) or that your job couldn’t cause your injury. They also might try to make you give a recorded statement or send a nurse case manager to your appointments. Those things shouldn’t happen.
To win these cases, there are some important things for you to know:
1. The moment you suspect your injuries are work-related, let your supervisor know. Another defense insurance companies use is that you didn’t notify your employer in time. We can usually get around that by saying you didn’t know for sure until you saw a doctor, but it’s still important to tell your employer ASAP.
2. See a doctor. Advil isn’t medical care. These injuries get worse if untreated. If you need rest, have a doctor take you off work. If they feel it’s work-related you’ll get TTD which stands for temporary total disability. In plain English, it means you’ll be paid for your time off of work.
3. When talking to your doctor, make sure they understand the true nature of your job duties. Don’t assume they know what you do. They probably don’t. Don’t say, “I’m a secretary.” Do say, “I’m a secretary. I type seven hours in an eight-hour day, five days a week. I’ve been doing that for 11 years. It’s a really fast-paced job and it’s not uncommon for me to type 80-100 pages a day, and I’m making a lot of corrections for my boss on those pages. The workload lately has been heavier and for the last month, I’ve been working about 15 hours a week of overtime. I notice pain in my wrists at the end of the day. It’s worse toward the end of the week. I have numbness and tingling in my fingers at the end of the day and at random times throughout the day too.” Hopefully, you can see that this extensive detail paints a clearer picture. You should do that no matter what your job is.
4. There’s no test for how long you have to have been doing the activity to win an RSI case. That said, the longer you’ve been doing it, the better. In other words, it would be hard, but not impossible, to make an RSI case if it happens a week into the job. You should also know that while you can bring a case after you leave the job, the longer you go without working before you file or see a doctor, the harder it will b to win.
5. Talk to an attorney. This isn’t some bogus sales pitch for you to hire my firm or someone I recommend. Most RSI cases get denied at some point by an insurance company. You have to be prepared for this and that means having an attorney. There is so much we can do for you right away including making sure the job duties description you give to your doctor makes sense and getting the nurse case manager off your case.
6. Don’t freak out. Easier said than done I’m sure. As I was writing this, I got a call from a guy with an RSI that is being wrongly denied by Walmart. His doctor has him off work and they are telling him he needs to come back. So of course he’s worried. These cases do get fought, but as long as you follow our advice and don’t have something odd (e.g. getting in a non-work-related car accident the day before you first went to the doctor) you usually will prevail. And while we can’t guarantee a result, after 25 plus years of doing this, we can usually tell you over the phone or soon thereafter your chances of winning the case.
If you’d like to speak with an attorney for free, please call us any time at 312-346-5578. We cover all of Illinois and will give you direct, honest, and compassionate advice.