I recently was contacted by an injured Illinois worker with a unique situation. I'll let them explain:
"I was in physical therapy while rehabbing a work related injury to my shoulder. During PT, I was doing lifting and ended up with a hernia. Will the work comp insurance take care of that or is it something else".
First off, in my 24 years of practice, I've seen a handful of injured workers hurt a different body part in physical therapy, but I'd never heard of a hernia happening until now.
Second, any injuries that stem from the original injury are covered under your first work comp case. In other words, this person wouldn't have been in physical therapy if it wasn't for the work injury. Because the hernia can be traced back to the shoulder injury, it should be covered under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act.
This situation is more common than you'd think. We see a lot of injured workers on crutches for a leg injury ending up with an elbow or shoulder injury due to the crutches. People who have injured one hand will favor the other and cause a new injury. A leg injury might make you more likely to have a fall at home. If that happens and you are hurt it just adds on to the original case.
And certainly any injury that occurs during work comp related physical therapy should be covered. You'll need your doctor to agree that the injury happened due to being in PT. In some cases it's easy such as if you have a fall on a wet floor or drop something on your foot. In other cases like this it's unusual, but not impossible to get a hernia during therapy and a doctor's supporting statement will go a long way toward getting benefits.
You can expect that the insurance company will fight any claim of injury due to being in rehab. They don't want cases to get bigger and they don't usually just roll over and pay on claims. That's alright, we don't expect insurance companies to do the right thing. The good news is that the law is on your side if this happens to you. If the medical documentation supports you, you should win.
So if you feel pain during physical therapy, make sure to tell the therapist so it's reflected in the notes. If you have a fall, even if you feel fine at first, make sure they are aware in case things get worse later. And above all, just tell the truth and don't embellish. If you don't report the pain one day because you didn't think it was a big deal, as soon as you think it might be, make them aware of it.
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