When You Are Hurt At Work And Then Get Hurt Outside Of Work
When you are injured on the job in Illinois and need ongoing medical care, you aren't expected to wrap yourself in bubble wrap and live the life of a hermit until you all better. You live your life within your medical restrictions. If you have a knee injury you don't play flag football. But you can of course walk at the store. If your back is injured you shouldn't be doing any heavy lifting. But if your child needs to be physically picked up so you can comfort them, you do it.
Along the same lines, there was a recent case involving an industrial equipment repair technician that shows that if you are hurt at work and then get hurt outside of work, it doesn't mean the end of your work comp case.
In this claim, the worker hurt his back while lifting a 90 pound box and herniated a disc in his back at L4-5. He had surgery and after a period of physical therapy was able to return to his job on a full duty basis without restrictions. His work comp case was still pending when he went to a family member's house. While there, he bent down to pick something up and felt his back lock up. His old symptoms returned and were even more severe than before. A new MRI showed a renewed disc herniation at L4-5.
Predictably, the insurance company pounced and denied any further medical benefits. The case went to trial and the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission found in favor of the injured worker.
The basic reason why he won is because under Illinois law you have to determine if the second injury would have occurred without the first. In this case, his back was in such a weakened state that bending over would not have otherwise hurt him if he wasn't originally injured when lifting the box.
You prove this by taking the deposition of your surgeon. A treating doctor who knows your condition is the most credible person to state what happened. In this case, the surgeon said that after the type of back surgery he had, this worker was more susceptible to a re-injury within the two years following the surgery.
It was a big win as in the end he was awarded off work benefits for 97 weeks and more than $80,000 in medical bills. And he still has to settle his case.
Bottom line is if you re-injure yourself and it's not at work, that doesn't mean you can't still claim it as part of a work comp case.
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