When previous work injury flares up

Work accidentSustaining an injury in the workplace can be a trying experience for Illinois workers. Beyond the pain and fear associated with traumatic events, navigating the workers’ compensation process can also be a challenge. As any Chicago work injury lawyer knows, even standard workers’ compensation cases feature nuances and complexities. The uncertainty of the ultimate consequences of an injury adds another dimension of problems.

For example, the life cycle of a workplace injury can be difficult to predict. In some cases, the effect of the injury may immediately manifest itself. The injury is then treated, which permanently resolves the effect of the injury. However, in other cases, the process may be far more complicated. Effects may take a long time to show up. Prescribed treatments that appeared to work initially may not have permanently solved the problem.

Consider the hypothetical case of a construction worker. Suppose that he slipped and fell at work years ago and received workers’ compensation for the apparent damage to his back. Years later the effects of the original back injury return, only more serious than before. What can be done in this case?

Settlements limit options

According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, what can be done may depend largely on any previous settlements outside of court. Approved settlement contracts generally terminate the employee’s rights to any future cash or medical benefits. This is the case despite any injury complications that flare up later. Workers wishing to preserve the right to seek additional benefits if a condition worsens may need this explicitly stated in the settlement contract.

The decision of whether to settle can already be a difficult one. Injured workers and their attorneys must choose between a certain payment now and an uncertain, potentially higher, payment through a trial outcome. As any Chicago work injury lawyer is aware, the possibility of future medical needs adds to the importance of this decision. Precluding compensation for later complications could expose workers to a significant liability.

Trials are more flexible

If, however, benefits were received through a trial outcome, further options are available for an injury that worsens later. According to the IWCC, medical treatment must be provided whenever it is needed to treat the workplace injury, even years later. If employers fail to comply with this provision, the IWCC may be petitioned to resolve the dispute.

In Illinois, it is possible to prepare for and receive additional benefits when old injuries flare up. However, important and sometimes complicated decisions and procedures are required throughout the process. For this reason, workers in this situation may wish to consult with a Chicago work injury lawyer.