If you have an injury at work, you have rights under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation law: the right to pick your own doctors, the right to have your employer pay all of the medical bills (without any co-pays), the right to be paid weekly benefits if you are unable to work, and the right to pursue a settlement once you have finished medical treatment. But what if the problem is considered a pre-existing condition? In Illinois, any pre-existing condition which is aggravated or made worse by an injury is covered under workers’ compensation. As the Illinois Supreme Court described, “When workers’ physical structures, diseased or not, give way under the stress of their usual tasks, the law views it as an accident arising out of and in the course of employment.” Translated into English, this means that where an injury is an aggravation of a pre-existing condition, it may be completely covered without anything taken away because of the prior condition. Even if some of the symptoms are from a pre-existing condition, as long as that condition was aggravated, exacerbated, or made worse by the new injury, then the injured person may be entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits.
A classic example of this can be found with rotator cuff tears. The “Rotator Cuff” is the term for four muscles in the shoulder which stabilize the shoulder and help move the arm. The rotator cuff can be torn by any number of things, including lifting injuries, traction injuries (such as reaching out to avoid a fall), or by wear and tear over time. Sometimes people can have tears in the rotator cuff and don’t even know it because tears of the rotator cuff are not always painful. Sometimes a person has an injury at work to his or her shoulder and discovers that he or she now has pain because they have aggravated a pre-existing rotator cuff tear; but now this person is unable to do the lifting that they used to do at work because of the rotator cuff tear. This is a situation where an injured worker qualifies for workers’ compensation because they have aggravated a pre-existing condition.
Katz Friedman recently dealt with this situation in a recent case for client “E.C.” She was simply doing her normal job when she lifted something heavy and felt a stabbing pain in her shoulder. An MRI showed that her rotator cuff had a large tear which had been present before her injury, though she had never noticed a problem before. Katz Friedman fought for her, took her case to arbitration, established that her injury was covered under workers’ compensation and was able to negotiate a settlement for her.
IN-PLANT DOCTORS CLAIM INJURY IS “ARTHRITIS”
For decades, Katz Friedman has proudly represented manufacturing workers including United Auto Workers (UAW). Larger manufacturers throughout Illinois like Ford Motor Company in Chicago; Caterpillar Inc in Decatur, Mapleton, Peoria, and Pontiac; John Deere in Moline and East Moline; and Stellantis (formerly known as Chrysler) in Belvidere, often have in-plant doctors examine the workers, ignore the injury, and deem the condition to be “arthritis.” Many times the injured worker is wrongly denied benefits and his or her workers’ compensation rights.
But what if the injury causes arthritis to set in? Or what if there was pre-existing arthritis which was made worse by the injury? If the injury made the arthritis worse, then the treatment of that arthritis should be covered by workers compensation. And if someone cannot work because of that arthritis, that should also be covered under workers’ compensation. For example, sometimes a knee injury can result in the aggravation of pre-existing arthritis. Someone who never had any problems with arthritis can have a knee injury and then find that they are now suffering from the arthritis. The arthritis was pre-existing but it was aggravated by the injury. For example, one Katz Friedman client, Linda M., fell onto her knee and fractured her knee cap. When the fracture healed, she was unable to go back to her normal job because she had arthritis in her knee which was pre-existing. The insurance company tried to cut off benefits and refused to pay for further treatment. Katz Friedman was able to force the insurance to pay for her inability to work and for further treatment of her knee!
KATZ FRIEDMAN CAN HELP
Whenever someone has a work injury which aggravates a pre-existing condition, they may be entitled to receive full benefits. Katz Friedman is ready, willing, and able to stand up to any employer or insurance company to make sure every client can obtain whatever treatment or financial benefit they are entitled to receive. To set up a free case evaluation, contact us at 800-444-1525 or through our website. Another option for UAW members is to check and see if Katz Friedman is interviewing at your union hall. If so, you can call and schedule an appointment.