Caring With Our Clients, Fierce With The Insurance Companies

We offer language services in Spanish, Polish, Russian and Ukrainian.

Can you seek workers’ compensation for an injury that worsens later?

| Oct 2, 2014 | Workers’ Compensation

The cumulative effect of injuries incurred by Illinois workers can be unpredictable. In some cases, the effect is immediate and the recovery following treatment is permanent. In other cases, the effect intensifies later or recovery following treatment is only temporary. These latter cases present challenges for recipients of workers’ compensation awarded on the basis of the original effect of their injuries.

To illustrate the problem, suppose that a warehouse worker sustained an injury to his neck while attempting to lift a heavy object above his head. Consequently, he received workers’ compensation to cover the apparent damage. Later, the neck injury deteriorated beyond the value of the originally received benefits. What are this worker’s options?

Settlement contracts generally limit options

Arguably the primary determinant of the options available to a workers’ compensation recipient whose condition has worsened is whether or not the case was settled outside of court. An approved settlement contract, according to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, generally terminates the employee’s rights to any future cash or medical benefits, independent of belated injury complications. In other words, if the worker in question intends to settle out of court and wishes to preserve the right to seek additional benefits if his condition worsens, this must be explicitly stated in the settlement contract.

The inflexible nature of an approved settlement contract, in the context of a potentially aggravated injury post-settlement, adds another important factor to consider when deciding whether to settle a workers’ compensation case outside of court. In addition to judging the need for a certain payment relative to the uncertainty of a trial outcome, the clarity of future medical needs associated with the injury should be carefully deliberated.

Additional benefits may be awarded after a trial decision

If, on the other hand, benefits were awarded through a trial decision, the IWCC specifies further options that are available in the case of a deteriorated condition post-decision. At any time after the decision, additional medical services that are reasonably required to treat the workplace accident may be requested. If employers are uncooperative in this scenario, a petition may be filed requesting the IWCC to resolve the dispute.

Moreover, following the issuance of a decision, evidence that the injury in question has deteriorated may warrant additional benefits:

  • Within 60 months of the decision, a petition to the IWCC may be filed
  • A petition may be filed within 30 months for an installment-based settlement
  • Within 30-60 months, any settlement must regard wage differential benefits

Discussing options with an attorney in the case of a worsened condition may help to produce the best possible outcome.