One secret about Illinois workers’ compensation law is that the first medical visit you have is really important. Because an insurance company can’t make you give a recorded statement or deposition (that’s an Illinois work comp rule), they look for other ways to discover what you have to say.

The easiest way to do this is your first medical visit. If you tell the doctor that you were hurt at home, but later claim that you were hurt at work, that medical report will be used to fight your case.

Similarly, when you go to a doctor for the first time, you have to fill out a lot of forms. One of them has to do with your medical history and your reason for visiting them that day. On that form will be a question along the lines of, “Is Your Need For Medical Care Work-Related?” along with two boxes. One box says yes and the other says no.  They do this for insurance reasons. They can’t bill your group insurance if you check yes.

For an insurance company reviewing your case or a defense lawyer, the first thing they will look for is to see which box you checked. If you check “yes” then they know that they can’t use that against you and will look further to see what you had to say. If you check “no” however, they will use that as a reason to deny your case.

The problem is that many people who check “no” really mean I don’t know. I’m talking about Illinois workers who didn’t have an accident like getting hit by a forklift, but instead have seen their bodies break down due to the repetitive nature of the job. That means people who type all day that have carpal tunnel. Workers who lift all day and have back or shoulder pain. Or someone who has to squat a lot on the job and has knee pain. Or any other repetitive injury.

Workers aren’t doctors and they aren’t lawyers. You aren’t expected to know that your problems are work-related, so it’s understandable that some workers check no when they really mean that they don’t know.

The good news is that if you have a repetitive injury, it won’t necessarily kill your case. When you do the same type of work every day, the time you discover it is work-related has often been interpreted to mean when a doctor tells you so. In fact, we’ve seen cases where a person checks no on the box, but the medical report has the doctor stating that the injuries appear to be due to the job.

The standard for proving a repetitive trauma injury is work-related is that your job caused, aggravated, or accelerated your condition. Most people don’t know that and aren’t thinking about that when they check a box. In fact, most doctors don’t know this standard either. So if you have wrongly checked the box, the best thing to do is make your doctor aware of the legal standard and give them a very detailed description of your job activities.

Of course, there are some cases when people check the box “no” when they are 100% sure that they were hurt at work. They often do that because their boss asks them to lie. That is a terrible idea and can kill a case. The best way to overcome that is by having witnesses to your accident or quickly recanting your false statement.

Is this confusing? It can be. If you have any questions about this topic or anything else related to Illinois workers comp law, you can contact us for free any time at 312-346-5578.