While every Illinois workers compensation case is different, there are certain factors that we look into when we give you a free consultation that will help us determine if you have a case that we or any other lawyer would want to pursue.

One of these factors is how long did it take you to see a doctor after your accident? If it’s beyond a month it could start to create problems. The longer you go without seeing a doctor, the harder it gets. Other issues include your medical history, how the accident happened, what witnesses will say, and prior work comp cases you may have brought. But there’s one issue that above all others seems to make or break whether or not you win a case. And it seems so small, but it’s really not. I’m talking about the first doctor’s visit and what you tell them in regard to how you got hurt.

It’s assumed that when you go to the doctor you are going to tell them the truth. You are usually given a medical history sheet to fill out that asks you to detail why you are there that day. Some of them have specific boxes that ask you to say whether or not it’s a work injury. They do this for insurance billing reasons.

Even without the form, the nurse and/or doctor will take a medical history from you. They are unbiased and it’s also assumed that they will accurately write down what you tell them (sadly that isn’t always true).

So if in the medical history section of the form you state that you hurt your back lifting a box at work, that provides credibility to you in bringing a workers compensation case. Same if the doctor documents a work-related injury like that or even just says something as basic as “patient states they were injured at work.”

On the other hand, if in the form you state that you don’t know how you were hurt or that you hurt yourself shoveling snow at home or in some other non-work related way, it can kill any case for work comp. The same is true if the doctor or nurse writes down that you weren’t hurt on the job.

Some people lie to the doctor because their boss pressures them to. Others honestly don’t know how they were hurt (think repetitive activities causing an injury). Some are just lazy in filling out the forms. Whatever the reason, the insurance company is always looking for a reason to deny your case and this is the first and most common way they will do it. It’s also the first thing that defense lawyers look at when evaluating a case and any possible defenses for their insurance company client. And good lawyers for injured workers will ask you what you told the doctor.

While this issue at the first medical exam can blow up your case, it doesn’t have to end it. Some reasons it might not happen include:

  • You saw a different doctor shortly after the first one who you gave the proper medical history to.
  • English isn’t your first language so you had trouble stating what happened in a way they could understand.
  • Your accident was witnessed and/or on video and your injury couldn’t have happened any other way. Think of someone who breaks their leg when they are hit by a forklift or has a crush injury to their hand.
  • Someone testifies that your boss pressures people to lie to their doctor about how they got hurt.
  • The doctor or nurse agrees to correct your medical history based on their error.

We always emphasize to injured workers to be honest. Mistakes or bumps in the road happen. You have to be your biggest advocate and that includes making sure you write down how you got hurt. We recently turned down a case for a guy with a major hernia injury because he gave a medical history stating that he was hurt at home a year prior. He otherwise would have had a great case and as a result, will lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in benefits.

And as always, if you have any questions or want help with a case, contact us for free at any time.