One of the biggest myths that injured Illinois workers have is that if you have a pre-existing injury, you can’t file for workers comp. That’s simply not true.

I saw an extreme example of this recently with a guy that called my office about a back injury. He told me that his job had been really making his back ache of late. He does a lot of tile work which involves very heavy lifting. He hadn’t gone to the doctor about it because he didn’t think he could get worker’s compensation benefits.

The reason he thought that was because he had previously had back surgery and then hurt his back further when he was hurt in a motorcycle accident. The way he said it made it sound like this all happened in the last year and if that was the case, then yes his pre-existing problems could be relevant.

But as we talked further, I learned that he originally hurt his back in 2010 and last saw a doctor for back troubles in 2013! That problem was a lifetime ago.

Under Illinois workers compensation law, you will receive benefits if you can show that a job causes, accelerates OR aggravates a physical condition. So even though he may have some scar tissue from that surgery, the very clear reality is that he’s been healthy and more importantly, treatment free for ten years. A decade!

So in his case, the job is clearly aggravating his problem. He’s made a huge mistake by not getting to a doctor yet, but that’s fortunately a problem that can easily be fixed. He just needs to go to an orthopedic doctor and tell the truth which is:

  1. I hurt my back in 2010 and had surgery.
  2. I stopped treating in 2013 and haven’t been back to a doctor since.
  3. My back has felt fine until the last few months.
  4. At my job I lift a lot of tile. It’s very heavy and I notice while I’m doing it and at the end of the day my back is really sore.

And the case will go from there. That’s a winning Illinois workers compensation case. Some hack IME doctor might state that the problems are all due to the surgery, but there’s no credible defense to this case. That’s true due to the lack of need of medical care and the continuous heavy duty work he’s doing.

And note that it doesn’t have to be a ten year gap. If you can prove that your job is making your condition worse, you should win. If you last treated a month or two ago, you can still win if a MRI or other diagnostic test shows a physical change. And if it’s been a year or more, your case isn’t much different than the guy that had gone ten years without needing to see a doctor.

Your employer “takes you as they find you.” In plain English that means that if you have prior problems that their job makes worse, it’s not a defense that long ago you had hurt yourself.

That doesn’t mean that every problem you have is a case. But it does mean that old physical injuries don’t automatically kill your case. You should always seek out an attorney to see what options you have. If you’d like to discuss a case with us for free and in confidence, please call us any time at 312-346-5578.