One of the basic facts about Illinois work comp law is that you have to prove that your injury is “causally connected” to your job. In plain English, that means your injury is related, at least in part, to your job activities.
There are a few different ways to prove this. Sometimes your words alone are enough. For example, if you work in a factory and a forklift runs over your leg, and you suffer a fractured ankle, your statements alone about what happened and that you had no prior ankle problems are likely enough to win a case.
In most cases though, you need an opinion from a medical doctor (usually an orthopedic doctor) that your injuries are causally connected to your work activities. It’s especially needed when you have a repetitive trauma case. That’s a claim when you don’t have a one-time injury, but instead are saying that your injury is due to having to do the same tasks over and over at work. For example, you could have a back injury from your months/years of heavy lifting or carpal tunnel from typing all day.
While you may know in your heart that your repetitive job activities led to your problem, that’s not evidence. You need a causal connection from a doctor in that case which essentially means that they will put in writing that your job caused, contributed to, aggravated, or accelerated your injury. Quite often that will lead to them having to give a deposition under oath where the insurance company lawyers will be able to ask them questions about their opinion.
Some lazy Illinois work comp lawyers will simply tell their clients to ask their doctor if the injury is work-related. That’s technically the right advice, but without guidance, you could lose a winnable case. I say that because if at the deposition your doctor can’t describe what your job duties are, you are likely screwed.
So when you ask your doctor if your injuries are work-related (or in some cases if your lawyer sends them a letter asking for an opinion), it’s EXTREMELY IMPORTANT that your doctor has details of what you do.
In other words, don’t just say “I’m a laborer,” or even, “I do a lot of lifting at work.” Be detailed and honest. For example, if you work in construction, this is what your orthopedic doctor needs to know:
- I’ve been doing construction work for 24 years, the last 12 with the same company.
- I’ve been a concrete laborer the entire time.
- A typical workday is 10 hours, and I work 50-60 hours a week.
- I kneel on average for 8-10 hours a week. I know that because I’ve kept track.
- Lifting is a big part of my job. I lift between 1-4 hours every day, items weighing anywhere from a few pounds to team lifting of hundreds of pounds. It’s not uncommon for me to carry–by myself–items that weigh between 20-60 pounds.
- At the end of the workday, my back has been sore for the last six months. Finally, when I came to see you it was so bad that I felt that I need medical care.
- When I smooth the concrete, the tool I use weighs 10 pounds and I have to reach and push thousands of times.
- I apply waterproofing and sealant. Those items weigh 80 pounds, and I do this approximately 10 times a month
The list can go on and on. The more details, the better. It enhances the credibility of your doctor’s opinion. And it’s likely that the insurance company hired-gun doctor won’t have such details. So that will allow your attorney to tear them apart at a deposition. This type of list should be given for any job that you are doing.
When giving this job description, don’t lie and don’t exaggerate. You don’t want to create a situation where your boss comes in and contradicts what you told your doctor.
If your attorney isn’t giving you this guidance then they aren’t doing a great job for you. If you have any questions about this process and want to speak to an attorney for free, please call us at 312-346-5578.