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Credibility Concerns Sink Workers' Compensation Claim

Posted on in Workers' Compensation

Credibility Concerns Sink Workers' Compensation ClaimIn the latest of a series of back-and-forth court rulings, an Illinois appellate court denied a woman’s workers’ compensation claim because it believed she had not sufficiently proven that her injuries arose from her work. The case of Rechenberg v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission started with an arbitrator awarding the claimant more than 34 weeks of temporary total disability benefits and medical expenses. The IWCC reversed the decision, which the claimant appealed. A circuit court overturned the IWCC decision, saying it went against the manifest weight of the evidence. The appellate court ruled that the circuit court was mistaken in its decision. The case against the claimant came down to an accident that occurred outside of work and doubts about her credibility.

The Case

The claimant is a nurse seeking workers’ compensation benefits due to a torn shoulder tendon she claims arose out of her work. The woman cited a day at work when she first started feeling severe pain in her shoulder. As part of her job, she was required to reposition patients in their beds. However, she admitted that she first started feeling soreness and discomfort in the shoulder about a month earlier after falling down stairs at home. The woman claimed that the physical demands of her work caused the severity of her injury, even if she had suffered a prior injury. The physician who performed surgery on her shoulder said it is possible that the woman’s lifting motions at work caused an already damaged shoulder tendon to become fully torn. However, a medical examiner for the employer stated that the type of lifting that the woman performed at work could not have caused the injury she suffered.

The Ruling

The appellate court cited several factors that suggest the woman’s injury resulted from her at-home accident and not her work:

  • The woman had been feeling enough pain in her shoulder to schedule a doctor’s appointment before the date she claimed she suffered the injury at work;
  • The woman’s initial testimony seemed to downplay her at-home accident, which she later admitted was more serious;
  • The woman’s own physician stated in a deposition that repeated movement was unlikely to have caused the extent of her injuries and the woman would have noticed the moment the tear occurred at work; and
  • The woman testified during arbitration that she did remember a specific instance when her shoulder suddenly worsened at work, but she made this statement after hearing her physician’s deposition.

Claimant Credibility

Your statements leading up to and during a workers’ compensation case must be consistent and detailed. Those deciding your case may doubt your credibility if you seem like you are trying to hide information. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, can help you prepare for cross-examinations you will face during your case. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.



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