Workers Compensation award for woman based on years of heavy lifting, pulling, and pushing at work
In this case the worker was a 52-year old woman who spoke mostly only Spanish. We had to hire a professional interpreter for her trial. Her son brought her to us in 2012 after another lawyer had already considered and rejected her case. The worker (called the "petitioner" in work comp) had worked for ten years at a factory moving heavy metal parts at a chemical coating and painting factory in Elgin. Then after complaining of back pain, she saw her doctor, who finally prescribed a lumbar fusion surgery. This is a very invasive surgery, where they actually remove the soft shock-absorbing "disc" between two bone vertebrae in the lower spine, and replace it with a bone graft to fuse the two vertebae together. The employer denied responsibility.
We filed this claim and retained an expert doctor to examine the worker and prepare a report wherein he concluded that years of heavy labor had contributed to the worker's need for surgery. The employer retained their own expert doctor to conclude the exact opposite: that the work had nothing to do with the injury. The employer's doctor claimed to have viewed a video of the worker's job provided by the employer. We subpoeaned a copy of this video, but it was never provided to us.
Before trial the most the employer offered to settle the case was $15,000. At trial we were able to elicit testimony from the employer's own witnesses about how heavy the work was. The judge (called an "arbitrator" in work comp) relied on this testimony in his decision. The judge also discounted the credibility of the employer's expert doctor, because the employer's video was never produced.
The arbitrator (judge) ruled that the employee's back injury was work-related, and awarded her about $60,000 plus $147,000 in medical bills. Also, when a workers compensation case results in an award instead of a settlement, the employer remains responsible for medical expenses related to the work-related injury for the rest of the worker's life.
The insurance company appealed this decision to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission, but the arbitrator's award was affirmed by15-IWCC-0986.