Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, workers usually encounter two types of work injuries in most circumstances: 1) injuries which resulted from a sudden event or accident, which is oftentimes termed an “acute” injury; and 2) repetitive trauma injuries which result from the cumulative stress developed over time, usually the result of doing the same activity over and over.
There are a lot of repetitive work injuries an employee can encounter: carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, De Quervain’s, thoracic outlet syndrome, intersection syndrome, medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow), lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), trigger finger, radial tunnel syndrome, ulnar tunnel syndrome, etc.
Katz Friedman has represented thousands of repetitive trauma cases over the years involving these types of injuries. As a result of that experience, there are some important considerations to understand which can significantly improve your chances of establishing a successful repetitive trauma claim.
-Timely reporting of your work injury
To receive workers’ compensation benefits in all types of claims, an injured worker must provide evidence that they have suffered a disabling injury which was the result of their work duties1. When your injury is the result of repetitive trauma, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission requires the same standard of proof as an employee who suffers an injury from a sudden accident2.
So this means that an injured worker must still notify their employer of the work injury within 45 days of the injury.3 But, if a repetitive-type work injury develops slowly over time, when is the date of injury?
The Illinois Courts have answered this question by stating that, “In a repetitive-trauma case, the date of the accidental injury is the date on which the injury manifests itself4.”
The “manifestation date” is the day which both the injury presents itself and the causal relationship of the injury to your employment would have become plainly apparent to a reasonable person 5. An example of this situation might be this: your work involves repetitive use of power tools and as a result you have started getting tingling in your hands. You went to your doctor who diagnosed you with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and told you it was because of the work you do. At this point, a “reasonable person” could assume they have a work-related injury and would need to report it within 45 days.
However, setting a “manifestation date” is a legal science. Experienced attorneys could effectively set this “manifestation date” as many other dates even outside of the example illustrated above to ensure you are eligible for compensation and benefits. This issue is oftentimes a difficult and confusing question for our clients. But, injured workers are definitely faced with this issue all the time in these types of cases. Employers regularly deny repetitive work injury claims stating that the injured worker did not timely report the injury and then state that the injured worker is barred from getting any benefits for that repetitive work injury. The attorneys at Katz Friedman find that a majority of the time, the employer is wrong on this issue and attempt to use this difficult circumstance as a way to deny their responsibility of paying for benefits.
-Document your injury and provide sufficient details about the work you do that is causing your problems
When you report the work injury to your employer, it is best to document your work activities in detail. The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled in favor of injured workers in repetitive-trauma cases and awarded compensation for those injuries6. In those cases, the Supreme Court specifically highlighted the fact that the evidence clearly showed sufficient details to support a decision in favor for the injured workers.
One of the first places an injured worker can accomplish this is by filing out an accident report. Many companies have accident report forms available when you report a work injury. However, if your work does not have such a form, you should still write something out on paper to give to your employer. When filling out this accident report, provide a lot of specific information about your work duties. It is better for your case if you document details and facts like: the length of time you worked in the repetitive position, the number of times you do the repetitive activity in a day, types of repetitive activity you do, specific awkward positions you are in throughout your day, weights of tools/items you use, etc. Clearly, this type of specific detail is more persuasive for your case than, “I do repetitive work.” After providing a document in writing to your employer, keep a copy of that record for yourself. In fact, now it is best to take a picture of the report with your phone because it will be timestamped. This ensures your employer cannot allege you provided the report on a later date, or worse, that you never supplied it at all.
After an accident report, another critical source of evidence for your repetitive work injury is your treating medical records. So, it would be wise for an injured worker to make an appointment with their treating doctor when they start having pain symptoms. Again, provide specific details to your doctor about the symptoms you are having and¬ the work you perform. This helps your case in two ways: 1) provides further documentation about the cause of your injuries, and 2) will increase the validity of your doctor’s opinions about your injury because they have enough information to make an informed opinion. Employers will attack your doctor’s opinions about your work injury when the medical record does not contain enough details about the work you do.
-Talk to an experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney about your repetitive work injury
Since these types of work injuries can be quite confusing, it is wise to call a Workers’ Compensation attorney can get a consultation and advice. At Katz Friedman we offer free consultation appointments and phones calls. We will gladly inform you of your rights and entitlements, but also significant considerations you must take into account right away to preserve your claim.
Clearly, repetitive work injuries can be a difficult issue. It does not have to be. When you know the rules and have experience dealing with these types of legal issues. We have a vast amount of experience representing assembly line workers and welders who work companies like Caterpillar, Ford, Chrysler, Tower Automotive. We’ve represented clients in the packaging and distribution industry that work for companies like Pepsi, Kraft, DHL, and FedEx. In the service and retail industry, our clients have worked for companies like Kroger, Jewel, McDonald’s and Menards. Katz Friedman has successfully handled repetitive trauma claims involving all of these industries and more.
If you or someone you know needs to discuss or have a consultation regarding a repetitive work injury, the attorneys and staff at Katz Friedman are here to help you.
1. See Sisbro, Inc. v. Industrial Comm’n, 207 Ill. 2d 193, 203, 797 N.E.2d 665, 671, 278 Ill. Dec. 70 (2003).
2.See Durand v. Industrial Comm’n, 224 Ill. 2d 53, 64, 862 N.E.2d 918, 924, 308 Ill. Dec. 715 (2006).
3. 820 ILCS 305/6(c) Illinois General Assembly.
4. A.C. & S. v. Industrial Comm’n, 304 Ill. App. 3d 875, 880, 710 N.E.2d 837, 841, 238 Ill. Dec. 40
5. Durand, 224 Ill. 2d at 65, 862 N.E.2d at 925.
6. See Peoria County Bellwood Nursing Home v. Indus. Com’n 115 Ill.2d 524, 505 N.E.2d 1026 (1987).