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Workers' Compensation Covers Repetitive Trauma InjuriesNot all workplace injuries originate from a single event. Actions that put continued stress on your body can gradually cause health conditions called repetitive trauma injuries. Most major workplace injuries occur at jobs that require physical labor or use dangerous equipment or materials. Workers at any type of job can develop a repetitive trauma injury because the movement causing the injury can be minute. Repetitive trauma injuries are the most difficult injuries to prove in a workers’ compensation claim because of their gradual development.

Examples

A repetitive trauma injury is often a pain or weakness in a muscle or joint that develops after years of putting stress on that part of the body. Examples of repetitive trauma injuries that occur at work include:

  1. Carpal tunnel syndrome: Continued use of your hands causes swelling that pinches your nerves and creates pain and numbness.
  2. Tendonitis: The tendons that connect muscles to bones can become inflamed and potentially rupture if they are overstretched or overused.
  3. Bursitis: The bursae sacs between bones and tendons can become inflamed, most commonly in the hips, elbows, and knees.
  4. Back injuries: You can strain your lumbar vertebrae and vertebral discs through heavy lifting or by poor posture while sitting.
  5. Stress fractures: Repetitive motions, such as running or walking, can create tiny fractures in a bone, especially if you are not wearing supportive shoes.

Filing a Claim

It can be difficult to prove that a repetitive trauma injury arose from your work because you cannot give an exact date for when the injury occurred. To create a strong workers’ compensation case for your repetitive trauma injury, you should:

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Construction Worker Files Injury Claim Because of Asbestos ExposureFor decades, businesses and manufacturers thought of asbestos as a highly useful material because it was flexible and resistant to fire and electricity. It was only in the latter part of the 20th century that the public became aware of the health dangers associated with the substance. People who are exposed to asbestos can breathe in the fibers, which become lodged inside their bodies and never fully go away. Though it may take decades to develop, people who were exposed to asbestos often suffer from respiratory diseases, including lung cancer. Businesses have been accused of knowing about the dangers of asbestos exposure for decades before it became public knowledge. Some workers have filed third party claims for personal injury compensation against businesses that they believe lied about the health risks involved with using asbestos.

Recent Case

In the case of Jones v. Pneumo Abex LLC and Owens, Illinois, Inc., a retired construction worker is seeking personal injury damages for his lung cancer, claiming that the two businesses conspired to suppress information about the health hazards of working with asbestos products. The defendants did not employ the plaintiff but manufactured the insulation products that the plaintiff used. The plaintiff claims that the businesses committed the conspiracy by:

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Doctors, Insurers Disagree on Workers' Compensation LawThe Illinois House of Representatives and Senate have passed a bill that would amend rules regarding how workers’ compensation insurers pay the healthcare providers who treat the workers’ injuries. There are three main components to the bill:

  • Insurance companies would be required to use electronic filing for workers’ compensation claims with doctors;
  • Insurance companies would need to send an explanation of benefits to doctors when the companies do not authorize medical treatment; and
  • Doctors would be allowed to file a claim in court to collect interest from insurance companies for late medical bills.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner must decide whether to sign or veto the bill, though he often sides with employers on workers’ compensation issues. Doctors claim that the current system could limit the workers’ ability to receive medical treatments, but employers and insurance companies argue that the new law would increase costs for them.

Doctors’ Argument

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What Should You Expect During an Independent Medical Examination?When you file a workers’ compensation claim, your employer or its insurance company can require you to attend an Independent Medical Examination with a third-party doctor. Refusing the IME could result in your claim being terminated and the loss of your benefits. Though it is an independent examination, many claimants fear that the doctor will be biased in his or her findings in order to benefit the employer or insurance company. While many doctors try to be honest and impartial during an IME, some doctors seem dubious in reaching a diagnosis that clearly hurts a workers’ compensation claim.

Possible Conflicts

Insurance companies use an IME to get an unbiased medical opinion about your physical condition, instead of relying on the opinion of your own doctor. The doctor conducting an IME is independent in that he or she is a licensed physician who is not on the staff of your employer or its insurance company. However, the IME physician does have an incentive to give a report that favors the insurance company:

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Scheduled Injury Determines Workers' Compensation by Body PartHow much compensation should you receive for a permanent injury to your hand, as opposed to your foot? Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Act has an answer to this in the event that you suffer a workplace injury that causes Permanent Partial Disability to a body part. A scheduled injury is one method of compensating Illinois workers who have either lost or lost the use of a body part. The worker receives payments that are 60 percent of his or her average weekly wage, and the number of weeks that he or she receives the payments depends upon which part of the body was disabled and the severity of the disability. There are several categories and subcategories of body parts covered, each with a specific number of weeks assigned to it:

  1. Hand: The loss of use of your whole hand is worth 205 weeks. The digits each have their own value, including 76 weeks for the thumb, 43 weeks for the index finger, 38 weeks for the middle finger, 27 weeks for the ring finger, and 22 weeks for the pinky finger.
  2. Arm: Losing the use of an arm is worth 253 weeks, but the number of weeks increases if the arm must be amputated. You receive 270 weeks if the arm is amputated above the elbow and 323 weeks if the arm is amputated at the shoulder joint.
  3. Foot: The loss of use of a foot is worth 167 weeks. The loss of use of the big toe is 38 weeks, and the loss of use of any other toe is 13 weeks.
  4. Leg: As with the arm, the number of weeks increases if the leg is amputated instead of just disabled. Loss of use of a leg is 215 weeks, amputation above the knee is 242 weeks, and amputation at the hip joint is 296 weeks.
  5. Sight and Hearing: The loss of sight in one eye is worth 162 weeks, while the loss of an eye is 173 weeks. The loss of hearing in one ear is worth 54 weeks if it was caused by an accident and 100 weeks if it was due to an occupational disease. The loss of hearing in both ears is worth 215 weeks.
  6. Other Organs: An accident requiring the removal of a kidney, spleen or lung is worth 10 weeks for each organ. The loss of one testicle is worth 54 weeks, and the loss of both testicles is worth 162 weeks.

Other Factors

A court may decrease the number of weeks awarded in a scheduled injury based on the percentage of the body part that has been lost or disabled. Disfigurements to parts of the body that are normally visible can be worth as many as 162 weeks, depending on the severity. Amendments to the law have given Illinois courts other variables to consider when awarding workers’ compensation based on a scheduled injury, such as:

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