A great piece of advice for anyone who may have an Illinois workers’ compensation case is to not take every medical term that you hear literally or to assume what one means. A lot of medical terms can be confusing or not apply to work comp law in Illinois the way you’d think they would. A great example of that is degenerative disc disease.

In general, as you get older your joints will wear down a bit. That can happen in your knees, your arms and of course your back. It’s basic wear and tear that results in a form of arthritis which can cause pain. Sometimes the pain is minor and other times it’s life altering and requires significant medical treatment.

This type of wear and tear arthritis in the back is called degenerative disc disease (DDD). There is no one cause of this problem, but it’s often just from acts of living. Over the course of your life, you do a lot of lifting, you could be in an accident or have a fall, you could sleep wrong, etc. All of these activities together can cause arthritis and your spine to break down.

Because it says “degenerative” and is a breakdown of the spine, I’ve seen work comp insurance adjusters and employers tell their workers that this problem isn’t part of work comp. It most recently happened to a nurse who called me and had been told she couldn’t file for work comp.

Of course this is a lie and anyone can file for work comp. And for people like this nurse who have been lifting patients on a regular basis for 20+ years, it of course is common sense that part of the breakdown of her body that has been diagnosed as DDD is caused by her job.

Now the job isn’t the only factor of course as she’s done lifting in other parts of her life and was in a car accident as a teenager. But the job has clearly been a contributing factor and under Illinois law, that is all she needs to show in order to be eligible for work comp benefits. Your job doesn’t have to be the only cause or even the main cause. It has to just play a role.

In this case I’d argue that her work has been the main cause and she also first noticed pain when lifting a heavy patient without help. But even without that, her job involves so much lifting and has been going on for such a long time that it would be absurd for anyone to claim it had nothing to do with her back breaking down.

We love these cases as they are ones that can often be turned around quickly and where we can help injured workers. If you’d like a free consult, please call us at 312-346-5578.