One thing that I don’t think my injured workers in Illinois think about is that professional athletes are covered under the same Illinois work comp laws that they are. And because they often have major injuries, their cases can be a road map for how “regular” workers can win their cases.

Now you’d have to be a pretty big Chicago Bears fan to know who Fadol Brown is. He was signed to the practice squad in October of 2019 and never actually played a game for them. Two weeks after signing, he ruptured his patella during practice and underwent knee surgery a couple of days later.

Of note is that prior to signing with the Bears, he had played for the then Oakland Raiders and suffered a right knee injury with them as well. It was also a patellar tendon injury. But after that injury, he returned to football and normal activities and did not have any problems or treatment to that knee for over two years. And then prior to signing with the Bears he was able to pass a pre-employment physical.

So to any person with any common sense, the practice accident was an acceleration of a pre-existing condition and clearly should be covered as compensable under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The Bears fought it and lost in court at arbitration. They appealed and lost that too and ultimately Brown was given a large settlement in the six figures.

The lesson for any worker in Illinois is that you can have a prior and significant problem, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a work comp case if your injury gets worse. In this case, he was able to return to full duty work of being a football player and was treatment free for two years. The new accident required surgery which is a clear escalation of any problem that existed previously.

It should be no different for any other worker in Illinois. Imagine a construction worker with a back injury who received some physical therapy two years ago. Today on the job he’s lifting some steel and his back pops. He gets a MRI which shows a herniated disc and eventually has surgery. In the last two years he hasn’t seen a doctor once for his back. That should clearly be a great case that no insurance company can credibly fight.

Or picture a secretary who had a cortisone injection for carpal tunnel syndrome two years ago and has not seen a doctor since and has been able to work the whole time. During a busy time at work she works an extra 20 hours per week over three weeks and her carpal tunnel symptoms come back. This time they don’t get better and she needs surgery per her doctor. Just like the football player, she was hurt, got better, continued to work and then had an incident that made her problem much worse.

The bottom line is that while every case is different, don’t let insurance adjusters scare you in to thinking you don’t have a case because of some prior problem. Especially if you’ve been treatment free for a bit and able to work, the odds are likely in your favor.