Illinois workers’ compensation law is great because the benefits protect workers and the law itself usually applies common sense. The Illinois work comp system though can be frustrating because insurance companies will make ridiculous denials of claims because that’s their business model.
Take the case of a Rockford area welder who had to go to trial on a case for a shoulder injury. You don’t have to know a ton about being a welder to know that they use their arms all day. You also can probably guess that the job involves a lot of overhead work, reaching, lifting, using heavy tools, etc. So if I told you that a welder got a shoulder injury, most people would say that makes sense.
Work comp insurance companies aren’t most people. In this case, the welder started his normal job at 5:30 a.m. and was assembling platform staircases. He went to a machine to get grinding pads. This involved entering a code to access a door. While doing that he felt his right shoulder pop out.
While the activity of entering the code is rather easy, it doesn’t take a genius to put together that the job itself weakened his shoulder to the point that a shoulder dislocation could happen from reaching out with his arm. And even if the job didn’t weaken him (it did), part of his job duties was to reach with his arm and that put him at risk of injury.
The insurance company forced him to trial. Fortunately, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission found in his favor. And they did so by applying common sense. They specifically noted in their ruling that prior to his shoulder dislocating, the welder was doing a lot of overhead reaching and putting his arms back behind his body. They correctly noted that these types of movements made a dislocation more likely to occur.
Instead of helping this guy get healthy, the insurance company paid a bunch of money to a defense attorney to fight the case and ultimately it was for nothing. The good guy won in the end and common sense prevailed as it usually does. But that doesn’t change how maddening it is that he had to jump through these hoops at all.
Fortunately for this injured worker, he hired a real trial attorney. It’s shocking to me how many lawyers for injured workers won’t take cases to trial. This one got a hearing and a result relatively quickly and that means his lawyer was aggressive.
So the moral of the story is if you are a welder, a nurse, or any other worker in Illinois, even if you think your benefits will never be denied, when you hire a lawyer you had better make sure that they take cases to trial when needed. If this guy had hired the wrong firm, his end result would have been much different.