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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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Four Work Hazards for Healthcare ProfessionalsThe healthcare profession has one of the highest rates of workplace injuries among any industry in the U.S. Employees regularly perform physical labor and are exposed to hazardous substances and conditions. All employees are at risk of injury or illness when working at a hospital, whether they are doctors and nurses or the support staff. As with any industry, healthcare professionals are entitled to workers’ compensation if they suffer a work-related injury. Here are four common causes of workplace injuries for healthcare workers:

  1. Handling Patients: Nurses and attendants suffer musculoskeletal injuries at a higher rate than the workers in other industries, including construction workers. Nurses often need to carry, move, or reposition patients who are incapable of doing so themselves. The increasing rate of patient obesity makes moving them more difficult. Nurses can suffer shoulder and back injuries because of the repeated strain and fatigue of moving patients. Some nurses are compelled to change careers because their bodies cannot handle the strain.
  2. Slipping: Slips, trips, and falls are the second-most-common cause of injuries for healthcare workers, after overexertion. Cleanliness is important in a healthcare environment, but workers can accidentally spill liquids or powders, which may create a slippery surface. Hospitals are filled with equipment that busy workers can accidentally walk into or trip over. The equipment may cause further injury if an employee falls onto it.
  3. Exposure to Illness and Hazardous Substances: Healthcare workers often interact with patients who have infectious diseases. Their work may also require them to handle hazardous chemicals or radioactive materials. Wearing protective clothing and frequent sanitization reduces the risk of exposure but does not eliminate it. Employees can develop chronic illnesses from their exposure, which limits their ability to work and decreases their quality of life.
  4. Workplace Violence: Patients who are sick or injured may behave violently towards the healthcare professionals who are trying to help them. Sometimes, a patient’s threat of violence becomes a physical attack. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration recognizes workplace violence as a hazard in the healthcare industry and encourages employers to create a violence prevention program to protect their employees.

Caring for Healthcare Workers

Your work-related injuries can make you less effective in helping your patients and put you at risk of further injury if not properly treated. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you receive workers’ compensation benefits by showing that your injury is related to your work. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.

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Are You Required to Accept Light Duty Work?Returning to your job after a work-related injury can be a gradual process. To start, you may be physically unable to do any work while you are recovering. With workers’ compensation coverage, you should receive Temporary Total Disability benefits, which are two-thirds of your gross average weekly wage during the past 52 weeks. As your condition improves, you may be able to perform tasks at your job that fit within your physical limitations. This is called light duty work and can be beneficial to both you and your employer. However, you should not be pressured into taking light duty work if you believe you are not physically capable of doing the job.

Advantages of Light Duty Work

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to try to provide work opportunities for injured employees who are capable of performing some tasks. However, employers can also benefit from offering light duty work. The employee will continue to receive TTD benefits if the employer cannot accommodate his or her work restrictions. When the employee accepts light duty work:

  • The employer gets some productivity out of the employee; and
  • The employee receives work pay and Temporary Partial Disability benefits.

TPD benefits supplement an employee’s pay when doing light duty work. The benefits are two-thirds of the difference between the worker’s gross weekly wage for the past 52 weeks and the wage the worker is receiving for the light duty work.

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Injured Workers' Benefit Fund Gives Relief When Employer Lack InsuranceEmployers make their workers vulnerable when they do not provide the legally required workers’ compensation insurance. Injured workers may struggle to pay their medical expenses, particularly if their injuries prevent them from working. As an injured worker, you can file a lawsuit against your employer if it does not carry workers’ compensation insurance. Illinois provides an alternative compensation source through its Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund. The state maintains the fund with the monetary penalties that it collects from employers without workers’ compensation insurance. However, you must complete an arbitration process to collect from the IWBF, and the benefits can be less than what you would have received from a workers’ compensation settlement.

Receiving IWBF Benefits

Workers are eligible for IWBF pay only if their employers:

  • Did not have workers' compensation insurance; or
  • Refuse to pay the workers’ compensation benefits that were awarded to the worker.

You must file your IWBF claim with the Illinois State Treasurer, which manages the fund. During arbitration, the Illinois Attorney General’s office and possibly your employer will represent the defense, claiming that you should not receive the benefits. If the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission awards you the IWBF benefits, then you have 90 days to respond by filing for the benefits.

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