Illinois Work Injuries in Confined Spaces


Typically speaking, if you sit at a desk all day or walk around for work, if you develop neck problems you will have a hard time showing that your job increased your risk of injury. If you can’t do that, you can’t win work comp benefits in Illinois. That can be frustrating. I sit at my desk most of the day and certainly have felt neck pain looking at the computer. But those types of jobs allow you to adjust yourself as needed. If they do that then it’s hard to show the job duties increased your chance of injury.

There are, of course, many exceptions to this, including jobs that make you work in tight or confined spaces. By definition, when you are in a confined space, you can’t move around as freely. If that’s the case then there is a greater likelihood that you could hurt yourself even if you aren’t doing rigorous activity.

In a case I just read about, a mechanic in DuPage County ended up with a severe neck injury and a cervical fusion surgery even though he didn’t have an accident. He did have a heavy-duty job with a lot of lifting of heavy equipment.  And in doing so, the evidence showed he often had to do this lifting at awkward angles or really tight spaces. The Arbitrator found this really persuasive and awarded significant benefits.

What was really interesting about this case is that the insurance company tried to fight it by producing 19 work orders that were not heavy and didn’t involve confined spaces.  These 19 orders were over an 18 month period and I think their attempt at a defense made them look worse. Nobody was claiming that he only worked in tight spaces or always lifted at awkward angles. He would of course try to avoid that whenever possible.  Showing that common sense fact to be true essentially implied that most of the time the work was challenging because of course there were hundreds, if not thousands of work orders done during that time period.

Like other repetitive trauma work accidents in Illinois, this wasn’t a slam dunk case, but one that if you have credible medical evidence and credible testimony you should win.  You need an orthopedic doctor or neurosurgeon to understand what your job duties involve and state that your job contributed to your condition, even if it wasn’t the only factor.

I’m not saying the insurance companies never win these cases, but they fight them so much and lose so much at trial that it’s kind of maddening that they act that way. They know that many people will get frustrated and just go away and that some lawyers aren’t really trial attorneys. If you have a repetitive trauma case, your lawyer better handle trials. If not you probably won’t get what you deserve under the law and it will put your health at risk.

By Mike Helfand

Courtesy of Illinois Workers Compensation Law Blog

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