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Separate Injuries Allow Separate Workers' Compensation BenefitsAn Illinois appellate court recently overturned a trial court’s ruling on whether a claimant could receive two forms of workers’ compensation benefits from separate injuries that were consolidated as one claim. There are several types of benefits that the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission can award, including:

The benefits that a worker receives depends on the severity of his or her injury and how it affects his or her ability to continue to work or find other employment.

Recent Case

In Pisano v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, a hoist engineer for the city of Chicago injured his wrist, elbow, and shoulders in three separate incidents from 2005 to 2010. An arbitrator awarded the man Permanent Partial Disability for his elbow and wrist injury in the first incident and wage-differential benefits for his wrist injury in the second incident. The arbitrator determined that the third incident was related to the first two and did not require additional benefits. The arbitrator denied the claimant’s request for Permanent Total Disability because he is physically capable of obtaining other employment if he goes through vocational training. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission approved the ruling, with some changes to the wage-differential rate.

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Dangers of Electrical Work Go Beyond ElectrocutionElectricians are at greater risk of injury than many other professions because of the nature of their work. An accident with live electricity can cause severe injuries or even death. However, an electrical shock is not the most common workplace injury for electricians, and people in other professions can also be at risk of electricity-based injuries. Whether you are an electrician or work in another field, you will likely need workers’ compensation benefits to pay for your recovery after a workplace injury involving electricity.

Risks for Electricians

An electrician’s work is dangerous, and accidents can occur even when professionals are being cautious. Electricians are most likely to suffer an injury from:

  1. Falls: Electricians often work on wiring in high places, requiring them to use ladders or lay on high perches. They may lose their balance and fall while concentrating on precise and dangerous electrical work.
  2. Electric Shock: Coming into contact live electricity can result in an immediate electric shock. A severe shock can cause burns, limb paralysis, or death.
  3. Flash Burns: An electrical explosion creates extreme heat that burns anyone close to it and shoots off small pieces of metal shrapnel that can damage people’s skin and eyes.
  4. Chemical Inhalation: An electrician may be exposed to harmful substances such as asbestos when working in older buildings or construction sites.
  5. Repetitive Stress: The physical requirements of electrical work can gradually wear out someone’s body. Electricians regularly bend themselves in awkward positions and do intensive manual labor, which puts stress on their joints and hands.

Falls are the most common source of work injuries for electricians, and repetitive stress will likely develop into chronic pain for someone who stays with the career. However, electric shocks and explosions have the greatest potential to cause catastrophic or fatal injuries.

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How a Functional Capacity Evaluation Affects Workers' CompensationThere are some workplace injuries from which you may never fully recover. If your injury permanently restricts your ability to perform your job, you may qualify for long-term workers’ compensation benefits, such as Permanent Partial Disability or Permanent Total Disability. You can also receive compensation to pay for vocational training for a new career. Your employer’s insurance company will want proof that you can no longer perform your work duties. Your doctor may recommend a Functional Capacity Evaluation to determine your physical capabilities.

FCE Process

An FCE is a series of tests that attempt to simulate the physical requirements of your job. The exam mainly measures your strength, flexibility, and stamina, though some exams will also test your cognitive abilities. An FCE can take as long as eight hours, depending on the number of tests that must be performed. Common tests include:

  • Pushing and pulling;
  • Lifting;
  • Carrying;
  • Positional tolerance;
  • Range-of-motion testing; and
  • Hand dexterity testing.

The examiner will look at your ability to complete the tests and the amount of pain it causes you. Your doctor will review the FCE results and make a recommendation on whether you are capable of returning to work.

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Continuing Workers' Compensation After a Recurring InjuryWorkplace injuries often take time to heal, and the effects can linger for years. You may take enough time off to completely recover, only for you to reaggravate your injury once you return to work. Now, you are facing more medical treatment and time away from work. Rather than refiling for workers’ compensation, you can extend the benefits of your previous claim if you can prove that your new injury is a continuation of your previous injury.

Recent Case

Whether a workplace injury is a continuation of a previous injury can determine which employer is liable for an employee’s workers’ compensation. In Par Electric v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, an Illinois appellate court ruled that the respondent electric company must continue to cover an electrical line worker’s medical expenses after he reinjured himself while working for another employer. The worker cited three separate injury incidents, for which he filed separate claims:

  • On June 16, 2014, the worker suffered a labral tear in his right shoulder when he caught himself after slipping in a bucket lift. He had surgery on Sept. 26 and did not return to work until he was hired by another employer on March 23, 2015; and
  • On April 1, 2015, the worker claimed he felt his right arm pop out of his socket after tossing an item to a co-worker. A similar incident occurred on April 3. A doctor confirmed that he had suffered another labral tear, which required a second surgery.

Causal Connection

In his compensation claims, the worker stated that the injury he suffered from his second and third work incidents was separate from his original injury. Conflicting testimony from two doctors complicated the case because:

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Temporary Workers Have Right to Workers' CompensationTemporary workers do not receive all of the benefits that regular employees enjoy but are still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits when they are injured on the job. Unfortunately, some employers will tell temporary workers that they are ineligible for workers’ compensation because of the nature of their employment. Temporary workers who believe workers’ compensation is not an option may be stuck with large medical debts or decline helpful medical treatments in order to save money. The company that employs and pays a temporary worker is responsible for providing workers’ compensation insurance.

Injury Risk

Temporary workers regularly suffer workplace injuries, despite working at a place for only a limited time. There are several reasons that temporary workers can be at greater risk of injury than other workers:

  • Temporary jobs often involve heavy and sometimes dangerous labor;
  • The employer may be using temporary workers because regular employees will not take on the risky work;
  • Temporary workers are unfamiliar with the work environment and may not receive on-site training;
  • Temporary workers may be less experienced at the job than regular workers; and
  • Temporary workers have less confidence in citing safety concerns because of the tenuous nature of their employment.

Responsible Employer

A temporary worker has the right to file for workers’ compensation and receive medical benefits and payment for lost time. The staffing agency that placed the worker is likely the party responsible for the workers’ compensation insurance. The company where a temporary employee goes to work is a third-party client of the staffing agency. In many cases, the staffing agency pays the temporary workers instead of the client, making them employees of the staffing agency.

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