When it comes to helping people with Illinois workers’ compensation cases and questions, we look for trends. For a time, nurse case managers were being very disruptive. They still can be, but it’s calmed down a bit. Other times a lot of companies were calling employees independent contractors when they really weren’t. That still happens, but some companies have realized they can’t get away with it.

Another trend we see lately is companies really pressuring you to only treat with the company clinic doctor. They have a right to ask you to do this, but can’t (in most cases) make you do this.

This happens with large employers who are self insured, meaning they pay out all of their work comp costs. Think of large companies or the City of Chicago. They contract with outside medical providers who are motivated to keep costs down and favor the employer because if they lose that contract they lose a lot of money. And a lot of their workers will probably lose their jobs.

So what we see there is even when they give an injured worker treatment, they are cutting corners. They might provide physical therapy for you, but would limit it. Or as in the case of one injured worker that recently contacted us, they denied a MRI even though he had been dealing with a shoulder injury for six weeks.

The solution for this worker was pretty straight forward. They needed to be referred to an orthopedic doctor of their own choosing who would look out for their best interests. Almost every Illinois work comp case needs an orthopedic doctor, especially if it drags on for more than a couple of weeks.

Orthopedic doctors specialize in injuries to your muscles. So that can be back, neck, elbow, shoulder, wrist, knee, foot, hands, etc. Insurance companies don’t like them because they are more expensive than a family doctor, but that is because they are true specialists. And if you have shooting pains down your leg from a back injury, down your arm from a neck injury, can’t lift your arm due to a shoulder injury, etc., an orthopedic doctor is a must.

You want someone who deals with your type of injury every single day to be responsible for your medical care. They may suggest physical therapy. They might suggest a MRI. They could recommend a steroid injection (that solved my problem when I had a shoulder injury). Or they could tell you to have a surgery. Whatever they suggest, it will based on years of specialized training and treating similar patients.

In other words, an orthopedic doctor gives you the best chance of making a good recovery and getting back to a healthy, pain free life. It’s no different than getting a work comp lawyer who just does work comp as compared to someone who is doing divorces, DUI’s, real estate closings and more.

The good news is that there are a lot of great orthopedic doctors in Illinois, so finding a good one should not be a problem. And every work comp attorney I know can tell you who the best ones are in your area for your type of injury and the handful that you should avoid.

Bottom line is that you should not get stuck seeing some generic company clinic that has a motivation to not look out for your best interests. And if they tell you an orthopedic doctor isn’t needed, it’s likely a lie to save their client some money.