I’m now in my 26th year of being an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney. I haven’t “seen it all” because everyday insurance companies come up with new ways to try to wrongly deny injured workers of benefits they are entitled to. And technology and unforeseen things events like Covid will continue to change how the Illinois Workers’ Compensation system works. The key is to be prepared and willing to adapt. If your lawyer is afraid of technology, they will likely struggle.
Illinois workers comp lawyers kind of play a game of whack-a-mole when it comes to advocating for injured workers. You beat back one ridiculous defense to a case that happens over and over and a new one pops up. The latest I’ve seen happened in a case against an Illinois transportation company. A truck driver hurt his shoulder while moving a pallet that had shifted during a ride. Doing so caused him to completely tear his rotator cuff.
Does the accident I described to you sound straightforward? It should and benefits should have been immediately paid. They weren’t and this poor worker had to go to trial. It turns out that when he applied for the job, he failed to disclose a prior injury to that shoulder more than ten years ago. He also didn’t disclose a left arm injury from 1993 and an ankle injury from 2015.
As a result, the employer, through their insurance company, argued that since he wasn’t honest during the interview process, he must have lied about how he got hurt at work. That whole line of thinking is absurd. Their defense is basically, “you lied once, so you don’t have the right to ever bring a workers comp case.”
Now mind you, there is literally no other defense to this case. There are no witnesses or medical experts who dispute how he got hurt. He went to the doctor in a timely fashion, reported the accident right away to his boss, and gave a consistent history of how he got hurt to all of his medical providers.
The good news is that when this case went to trial, the Arbitrator slapped this dumb defense down. He gave no weight to the failure to disclose prior injuries. That is clearly the right finding as this case is only about was the worker hurt when he said and how he said it happened. So all back pay, back medical, and prospective medical were ordered. The insurance company didn’t stop there though. They appealed to the Commission. They lost that appeal in a unanimous decision.
The lesson from this case is that insurance companies are always looking for a reason to fight your case. Even if they accept your case at first, you should know that if they get any reason to fight you, they will. They aren’t “doing right” by you or looking out for you. And in some cases, they will grasp at the thinnest straw to try and hurt you.