Have you suffered a work injury in Illinois? Are you looking to file an Illinois Workers Compensation Claim?
Two fires – one in 1909 in a Cherry, Illinois, coal mine that killed 259 men and boys, the other the more infamous 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire in New York City that took the lives of 146 people, mostly women and girls – led to the enactment of workers’ compensation laws nationwide.
Illinois was one of the first states to enact a workers’ compensation law in 1912, bested only by its neighbor to the north, Wisconsin, which passed the first such law in 1911.
Unfortunately, accidents continue to happen in the workplace. Now, however, workers have some protection.
According to statistics from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, approximately 250,000 work-related accidents occur each year, although this year, Illinois ranked highest among U.S. states for workplace safety, according to the National Safety Council.
While most incidents don’t lead to lost time from work, approximately 60,000 claims are filed with the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission each year.
Accidents on the Job Can Be Costly for Illinois Employers
“Workplace accidents impact employees’ physical, emotional and financial wellbeing,” said Debbie Michel, general manager of Liberty Mutual’s National Insurance Casualty operation. “They also financially burden employers, who pay all of the medical costs related to a workplace injury, together with some portion of an injured employee’s pay. Beside these direct costs, workplace injuries also produce such indirect costs for employers as hiring temporary employees, lost productivity, quality disruptions and damage to a company’s employee engagement and external reputation.”
Illinois is a no-fault state, which means that even if an injury occurs due to a worker’s own negligence, he or she still has the right to file a claim for their injuries.
Illinois is a no-fault state, which means that even if an injury occurs due to a worker’s own negligence, he or she still has the right to file a claim for their injuries.
That caveat allowing for claims to be filed even if the worker is at fault, however, could be the reason that premiums for workers compensation insurance in Illinois are the third-highest in the United States. Only Montana and Alaska having higher numbers, according to a 2010 study from the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services.
According to a story appearing in the Chicago Tribune, the average cost of Illinois workers’ compensation claims was just over $15,000, and in 30 percent of all cases, time lost from work was more than seven days, a time span that is higher than in most other states.
The most common work-related injuries, according to a study from Travelers Insurance based on 1.5 million workers’ compensation claims, include:
- Strains (back pain, shoulder pain)
- Fractures and sprains
- Chronic Sickness.
Inflammation (swelling and pain at the site of an injury) was the most common cause of lost days from work, with an average of 91 missed days, followed by fractures, which caused an average of 78 lost work days. Strains and sprains were third, and both averaged 57 lost work days.
While most claims averaged between $8,000 and $42,000, the most expensive claims were:
- Amputations, which averaged about $102,500 per claim
- Dislocations, which averaged about $94,100 per claim
- Electric shock, which averaged about $55,200 per claim
- Crushing, which averaged about $54,600 per claim; and
- Multiple trauma, which averaged about $50,000 per claim.
Illinois Workers Compensation Laws Cover Injuries, Illnesses
By law, there are two types of injuries covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act – both enacted to protect workers’ rights – including:
- Accidental Injuries. These are injuries that occur either as a result of a single accident that occurs “out of an in the course of employment” (a fall that injures a leg or an item falling from a shelf, resulting in head and/or brain injury) or gradual trauma (such as injuries caused by repetitive use of the hands, causing carpal tunnel syndrome).
- Occupational Diseases. Diseases caused by exposure to toxic substances at the workplace or illnesses that are aggravated as a result of exposure to toxins during work are both covered under Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act regulations.
Acts of God (lightning strikes, flooding and other natural disasters), workplace assaults (unless they are the result of workplace violence) and injuries sustained while an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol are not covered under Illinois law.
(In Michigan, however, a man who worked at a brewery was compensated for alcoholism because his employer provided free beer during lunch breaks, encouraging his propensity for alcohol.)
What to Do If You’re Injured at Work in Illinois
If you are injured at work, it’s important to take certain steps in order to help ensure that you receive the workers’ compensation benefits you’re entitled to if that injury results in medical bills, lost wages and other expenses.
- Report the injury. The law requires employees to report injuries to their employers within 45 days, and occupational diseases as soon as they are made aware of the work-related illness.
- Seek medical attention. The law allows an employee to seek medical care from the emergency services and two doctors of his or her choice at the employer’s expense. Doctor referrals are also covered.
- Keep a notebook of the injury and treatment. Because memories fade (and workers’ comp cases may take several years to make it to court) it’s important to track information to serve as a memory bank.
Some important information to include if you’re injured at work:
- How your injury occurred
- Who witnessed your accident/injury
- Who you reported your injury to at your company
- What symptoms you experienced at the time of the injury
- Information on all the doctors who treated you, including names, dates of treatment, contact information, etc.
- Medical bills and prescriptions, along with receipts if you paid for them out of pocket
- Time missed from work
- Reasons for time missed from work (pain, recovery from surgery, etc.)
- Reports on what your doctor advised following the injury
- Any other information related to your potential claim.
Being proactive will help your attorney – if you have been injured and don’t have an attorney, it’s important to find experienced representation given the complexity of workers’ compensation insurance laws – better make a case for your claim so you’ll receive the funds you need to cover the costs associated with your injury.
Here’s a look at the top 20 causes of workers compensation injuries in Illinois.
1. Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim for Overexertion?
Overexertion injuries happen when a worker lifts, pulls, pushes or throws something in a way that the action forces a joint past its regular range of motion, leading to an injury.
Overexertion injuries happen when a worker lifts, pulls, pushes or throws something in a way that the action forces a joint past its regular range of motion, leading to an injury.
About 25 percent of all workplace injuries are the result of overexertion and include pulled muscles, sprains or strains, including stretching or tearing of tendons or muscles, mostly occurring when workers’ jobs demand heavy lifting or reaching at a fast pace on a regular basis.
Overexertion injuries are the most common of workplace injuries, and happen most often in factory or construction settings – think mechanics, welders, heavy equipment operators, machinists and other jobs that are tough on workers’ bodies. Police officers are also at a high risk from overexertion injuries.
The body parts most vulnerable to overexertion include the lower back, wrists, ankles, knees, neck, groin and shoulders, and such injuries can be acute, which means they occur when making a single wrong move, or chronic, caused by long-term stress on a muscle or tendon.
Aging, poor physical condition and being overweight are all factors that can put workers at a higher risk for overexertion-related injuries.
Other risk factors include:
- High temperatures, which can cause dehydration, cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, all of which make the body more vulnerable to injury.
- Fatigue, which creates an environment where workers fail to properly assess their strength or endurance levels.
- Stress, which can act as a distraction, leading to potential injuries.
While most companies have safety procedures in place (including proper lifting techniques such as “bend your knees, not your back”) and hazardous working situations are more closely monitored and identified, injuries can still happen.
Overexertion injuries cost approximately $15.5 million a year in Illinois, according to recent statistics.
2. Six Reasons for Workplace Slip and Fall Accidents
Given that winter weather can last for months in Illinois, it comes as no surprise that slips and falls from the same level, especially on icy or snow-covered walkways, are among the most common of workplace-related injuries in the state.
In addition to sidewalks, entryways and walkways made dangerous by ice and snow, wet floors in stores or restaurants (either caused by boots leaving behind melted snow or freshly-mopped floors – are also a hazard for many workers.
Those who slip and fall, either at work or while doing a job on property that is not owned by the employer, may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
In addition to slippery floors or walkways, some common causes of workplace slip and fall accidents include:
- Failure to put up signs that warn of slippery conditions
- Poor lighting
- Spilled food or drinks
- Debris in the workplace that causes a potential hazard
- Damaged, torn carpeting
- Uneven flooring
Injuries sustained can include head injuries, back injuries, knee injuries and sprains and strains that could include neck injuries.
According to statistics, the cost of workplaces falls is approximately $70 billion per year in both health care costs and workers’ compensation.
Those who file a workers’ compensation claim for slip and fall injuries must prove negligence in order to recover damages.
Claims for unexplained falls, however, such as slipping and falling for no apparent reason, even at work, are often denied, because it cannot be proven that the falls occurred as a direct result of “the course of the employment.”
If you were injured as a result of a fall at work and are worried about how you’ll pay your medical bills, you may want to seek out the advice of an Illinois attorney with experience in workers’ comp cases to determine if you should file a claim.
3. Falls From Heights Can Result in Serious Injuries
Falls to a lower level are usually the result of a worker falling off a latter, down a flight of stairs or off a roof while performing some type of work-related activity.
In July 2017, a 33-year-old stuntman from the AMC show “The Walking Dead” died when he fell 25 feet from a balcony to a concrete floor, sustaining serious head injuries.
Those at the highest risk of such injuries include roofers, who tumble from roofs, construction workers who fall from one level to another on a job site or slip off ladders, and teachers who fall down flights of stairs are all at a high risk of injury from falling to a lower level.
Older construction, faulty, poorly maintained ladders or improperly installed scaffolding can all be risk factors for workplace falls.
Potential injuries include:
- Sprains, strains and tears. Potential injuries in a fall could include a sprained or broken ankle, pulled muscles, torn ligaments or head or neck injuries such as whiplash, which occurs when the muscles of the neck are stretched.
- Head injuries. A fall at work can cause a person to hit his or her head on a solid object such as a piece of furniture or the floor, potentially resulting in brain injury including lifelong damage.
- Knee and leg injuries. A fall can lead to a broken kneecap or leg, torn ligaments, nerve damage or shattered bones.
- Back injuries. Falling can lead to chronic back pain, paralysis or something in between if the landing results in fractured or broken vertebrae, herniated discs or some other serious injury.
- Damage to internal organs. Falls can lead to kidney or lung damage.
If you’ve suffered an injury after falling at work, it’s important to contact an experienced attorney to help you through the process and help you get the compensation you deserve.
4. Delivery Drivers at High Risk of Bodily Reaction
In Chicago, where delivery drivers are on the road with packages to drop off, bodily reaction injuries are fairly common workers’ compensation claims.
Not only do they face tight deadlines, but they also are forced to contend with unreliable weather such as snow, sleet and ice, all of which make sidewalks slippery and tricky to safely maneuver.
Bodily injuries occur when a person trips or slips but catches themselves before they fall. There can still be resulting injuries, such as twisted or sprained ankles, fractured wrists and pulled muscles.
While police officers and nurses – both occupations that keep workers on the move – are at a high risk of bodily reaction injuries, delivery drivers likely top the list of those at risk of this particular injury. Because they are juggling packages as they traverse tricky terrain, they are more likely to sustain serious injuries as they catch themselves and their packages before they fall.
According to statistics from the Bureau of Labor, almost half – an estimated 41 percent – of all injuries suffered by delivery drivers are either the result of overexertion or bodily reaction, caused by lifting heavy boxes and packages, which can easily slip out of a person’s grip, forcing them to attempt to catch the package.
Bodily reaction injuries cannot be predicted or prevented, although guides can be put into place regarding safe lifting practices in the case of delivery drivers who lift packages, and nurses, who often lift patients.
If you sustained a bodily reaction injury at work, it’s important to contact an attorney with experience in Illinois workers’ compensation laws in order to get you the compensation you’ll need to cover the expenses associated with your injury, including medical expenses, rehabilitation, long-term care and lost wages.
If the injury occurred due to the negligence of someone else – a business failed to clear their sidewalk of ice, for example, causing the near slip – you may also be able to file a claim against the business owner for negligence, potentially collecting compensation for medical expenses not covered by workers’ comp as well as pain and suffering. The right attorney will help you determine the right course of action for you.
5. Some Workers Face Higher Risk of Being Hit by An Object
Office workers, employees in retail and restaurant workers are all at a higher risk of being hit by a falling object, most often when something falls off a shelf, either when the injured worker or a coworker is attempting to retrieve it.
In addition to being hit by falling objects, the broad workers’ comp category also includes being hit by objects another worker drops, being struck by moving or rolling objects, being struck by a flying object (such as particles from machinery in a factory setting) or being struck by a swinging door or gate, which can happen nearly anywhere.
Still, some jobs have a higher risk factor than others, and farmers, truckers, factory workers, carpenters, loggers and construction workers also face a bigger risk of being struck by an object at work.
Several possible injuries may result from a struck by object accident, including:
- Head injuries that can result in brain damage
- Fractures and broken bones
- Internal injuries
- Eye injuries
One unique element for those who often work at various job sites – construction workers, farmers and loggers, for example – is that in addition to being able to file a workers’ compensation claim, they may also be eligible to file a civil suit against the owners of the property under the Illinois’ Premises Liability Act, which makes property owners responsible for accidents that occur on the property, especially so if there is no warning of hazardous conditions.
If you were struck by an object and injured at work, you may be entitled to file an Illinois Workers’ Compensation claim. To find out how, consult an experienced workers comp lawyer who can guide you through the process.
6. A Simple Shove Can Result in Struck Against an Object Injuries
While falling objects can be a risk factor at work, so can falling into or being pushed against something, which happens when a worker is forced into a bookshelf, a barricade or some other stationary object, when a worker steps on something, such as a nail, or when a worker bumps into something, which can occur if the worker is distracted by something and doesn’t see the object.
According to the National Safety Council, struck by and struck against injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional non-fatal injuries and the fourth leading cause of work-related deaths in the country. The numbers for such injuries are high in Illinois, where many of the riskiest jobs are prominent.
The workers at risk of such injuries are as varied as the injuries themselves.
Those most at risk include:
- Office workers.
- Factory workers.
- Construction workers.
- Highway workers.
- Loading dock workers.
- Assembly line workers.
- Iron workers.
- Truck drivers.
Workers can be pushed against shelves, desks, dangerous machinery, heavy equipment, roadside barriers, farming equipment and other stationary objects such as overhead pipes, or moving objects including vehicles or another person. Such incidents run the risk of a wide range of potential injuries.
If your “struck against an object” injury occurred at work or while you were at a job site doing work for your employer, you will be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim.
If you are confused about the process, an experienced Illinois attorney can help guide you through the workers’ compensation laws, helping to secure you the best possible settlement to your claim.
In some cases, such as incidents involving being hit by a car while on the job, can also include a personal injury claim, so do your homework to find a work comp lawyer with experience in both areas.
7. Were You Injured in a Highway Incident While Working?
Anyone who travels as part of their job – truck drivers, taxi drivers, police officers, couriers, members of the fire department, salespeople or those who travel for business –is at risk of a highway-related workplace accident.
Anyone who works on the highway itself such as highway workers, road construction workers and flag operators are also vulnerable to injuries on the job, whether due to traffic, contact with hazardous materials or injuries related to heavy equipment.
In Illinois, tollbooth workers, common in only a handful of states, are also at risk of highway-related workplace injuries due to the locations of tollbooths.
In 2009, a Chicago highway construction worker was injured and filed a workers’ comp claim when he was hit by a drunk driver in a work zone, an incident that pinned the worker between two vehicles, breaking both his legs.
A few years later, a truck driver who was injured after fainting behind the wheel was awarded workers’ compensation for the injuries he sustained in the accident, although he had to appeal an arbitrator’s initial decision to reject the claim because the accident was caused in part by the truck driver’s physical condition. In reversing the decision, the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission determined that the driver, who attempted to pull off the road as soon as he felt faint, had done all he could to prevent the accident, which occurred, they said, because the truck driver’s job put him at a significantly higher risk of injury.
If you were injured in a highway accident while on the job and were either denied a claim or want to file a claim, an experienced Chicago, Illinois workers’ compensation law firm can not only guide you through the complicated process, but can also make sure you receive all of the benefits that your employer’s insurer owes you for your accident.
8. Machinery Accidents Can Lead to Serious Injuries In Illinois
In 2008, an Illinois man was killed when his head was caught in a steel processing machine at a Schaumburg-based metal distribution plant.
The 28-year-old man’s accident resulted in fatal head injuries.
There are many occupations that involve the use of machinery, and when those machines are not used or maintained properly or are not equipped with warning labels or instructions for safe use, there is a higher risk of injury.
An arm can easily become crushed in a piece of equipment if a worker isn’t careful, and some injuries can be fatal.
In addition to severed limbs, other potential machinery accident injuries include:
- Burn injuries from hot equipment
- Chemical burns
- Electrical burns
- Electrocution injuries
- Crushed or broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Fall injuries
- Spinal cord injuries
- Injuries caused by exposure to hazardous substances or toxic chemicals
In addition to factory equipment, other machinery that could cause injuries resulting in a workers’ compensation claim include:
- Construction equipment including heavy equipment, trenchers, horizontal or vertical drills, cranes and forklifts
- Farming equipment including sprayers, hay balers or tractors
- Road crew equipment including asphalt or concrete equipment, graders or pavers
While training is usually required before workers are allowed to operate certain pieces of equipment, accidents do happen, and the costs can be significant.
- Compensation for injuries or death
- Compensation for family members if the injury results in death
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
In Illinois, in order to ensure that you receive all the workers’ compensation benefits you’re entitled to, it’s a good idea to contact an experienced workers’ comp attorney who can help you best explore your legal options for the best possible outcome.
In addition to workers’ compensation, Illinois workers and their families who are looking for work injury compensation may also have grounds for a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against a third party, especially if the machinery involved in the accident was unsafe or defective.
9. Repetitive Motion Injuries Can Be Negative Result of Long-Term Loyalty to Illinois Employers
If you have a job that requires you to work at a computer screen, use a mouse, lift heavy boxes, operate the levels on heavy equipment or lift and twist to operate specific pieces of machinery, you run the risk of developing a repetitive motion injury that could result in a workers’ compensation claim.
While not all claims are approved – an Illinois toll worker’s claim for workers’ comp for repetitive stress was denied after it was determined that the injuries, while present, were not related to the worker’s daily job duties – repetitive motion injuries are among the most common suffered by workers.
Some typical injuries include:
- Carpal tunnel, most often caused by long-term computer use but also common in heavy equipment operators
Based on statistics from the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, guards at the Menard Correctional Center, a facility located in southern Illinois, have been paid more than $1.5 million in workers’ compensation benefits since 2009 for repetitive motion injuries to the elbow, wrist, and hand. Settlements for injuries – which were caused by daily activities including locking and unlocking handcuffs – ranged from almost $22,000 to just over $119,000 to cover surgeries, therapy and lost work.
So, who’s most at risk for repetitive motion injuries?
Office workers, railroad workers, storeroom employees, butchers and meatpackers, chefs, assembly line workers, musicians and housekeepers are all at risk of developing repetitive stress injuries, caused by performing the same task, using the same motions, over and over again.
While repetitive injuries are hard to prove, having the right attorney – a lawyer with experience in workers’ comp cases who can line up expert witnesses to help prove your case – can make it easier for your Illinois workers’ compensation claim to be approved.
10. Workplace Violence Grows as Workers’ Comp Risk
Despite a 2014 order in Illinois that allows employers to take out orders of protection against workers in what are essentially the equivalent of restraining orders, workplace incidents of violence continue to result in a growing number of on-the-job injuries and deaths in the state each year.
Because of the added risk factors, Illinois has a law addressing workplace violence in health care settings that has put into place specific protocol to provide a safe and secure environment for patients, employees and visitors.
Under the law, health care facilities must put into place a plan to protect employees specifically tailored to its own setting, addressing:
- Staffing, including security
- The security of the workplace based on its physical attributes
- Personnel policies
- First aid and emergency procedures in the event of an incident
- The reporting of violent acts.
- Employee education and training.
In addition to hospital employees, workers at schools, banks and convenience stores as well as truck drivers are at a high risk for workplace injuries in Illinois.
While the most talked-about acts of violence in the workplace involve disgruntled employees who bring a weapon to their jobs, workplace violence can take on many forms, including:
- Threats of physical harm.
- Verbal abuse.
- Physical assaults.
- Acts that interfere with an employee’s ability to do his or her work.
Employers are required to provide employees with a safe working environment, but many fail to consider prevention programs for potential violence in the workplace until it is too late.
Companies could take cues from hospital and school protocol to ensure that workers are better prepared for potential violence at work.
While not all injuries that occur as a result of workplace violence fall under the category of workers’ compensation, having an experienced attorney at your side can help you determine if your situation is worth filing a claim, and can secure the funding you deserve to cover your expenses, including lost wages.
11. Electrical Accidents Risky for Illinois Workers
While linemen for power companies face the biggest risk of being electrocuted or suffering electrical shock on the job, that is not the only occupation at risk for electrical incidents.
Electrical accidents can happen when workers on construction sites encounter electricity, if electricians have an accident on the job or if the equipment is somehow defective, causing a worker to be electrocuted while using tools.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the four most common types of electrical injuries include fatal electrocution, electric shock, which can lead to a wide range of disabilities, burns, scarring, and disfigurement and falls that occur after the employee comes into contact with electrical energy.
While safety protocol and regulations are in place to prevent such incidents, accidents happen, whether it is the fault of another or a problem with safety practices, such as wires and cables that are not properly insulated, putting workers at risk.
The injuries associated with electrical incidents can be severe, and potentially deadly. They include:
- Permanent disability
- Heart damage
- Cardiac arrest
- Internal organ damage
- Loss of vision
- Hearing loss
- Permanent brain damage
- Chronic nerve damage
- Broken bones associated with falls
Such injuries can require years of therapy, rehabilitation and other medical expenses, including prescription medication.
While electrocutions can happen anywhere, if an electrocution injury occurs at work while a worker is on the job, workers’ compensation may cover the costs of not only health care, but also lost wages and potential pain and suffering. Be sure to get in touch with a workman’s comp lawyer who has experience with electrocutions.
If the injury results in death, the family can file a wrongful death claim in order to be compensated not only for immediate expenses but also for the loss of companionship, the loss of emotional and financial support and the loss of parental guidance if the employee involved in the fatal accident was a parent.
12. Handling of Hazardous Materials Can Result in Illinois Workers Compensation Claims
According to statistics, more than a quarter of all workers’ compensation claims are the result of handling of hazardous material.
While most employers train their workers on proper handling techniques, accidents can still occur.
A toxic chemical is a substance that causes harm when it is inhaled, consumed, or comes in contact with a worker’s skin.
Toxic chemical accidents aren’t limited to factory workers.
Any type of employee – an officer worker, a construction worker, an employee in retail or a food prep worker – can be injured due to exposure to toxic chemicals.
While chemical accidents can occur when two non-lethal substances such as bleach and ammonia, for example, are mixed, some of the more dangerous chemicals that can lead to workers’ comp cases include:
- Cleaning products
Those who come into contact with dangerous chemicals can experience a wide range of potential injuries, including:
- Skin sensitivity
- Throat irritation
- Lung damage
- The development of chronic diseases including asthma
- Nerve damage
- Brain damage
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Organization (OSHA), employers whose workplaces require the handling of hazardous materials are required to have “labels and safety data sheets” for all workers who may come into contact with such chemicals, and must provide training for the appropriate handling of such chemicals, along with the risk factors associated with coming into contact with them.
Still, accidents happen. If you have been injured on the job due to exposure to a toxic chemical, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible to guide you through the process.
Because it can take years for some injuries to manifest themselves, it’s important to have a legal team on your side to protect your interests and recover the funds you’ll need to cover the costs of your care, loss wages and other expenses.
13. Dog Bites Can Result in Workers’ Comp and Personal Injury Claims in Illinois
Of the five million people who suffer a dog bite each year, many of them were on the job when the injury occurred.
While dog bites might not be the first workers’ compensation injury that comes to mind when thinking about the most common claims filed in Illinois, dogs are on the mind of nearly every delivery driver, postal worker (about 5,900 postal workers a year sustain dog bites, and Chicago was one of the top four cities were dog bites occurred) or home health care worker who has encountered a protective canine when making a stop to deliver a package or help someone with therapy following surgery.
Dog bites can lead to serious injuries resulting in scarring, nerve damage and infection and can also be the source of emotional damage.
And under most laws, those who are bitten by a dog while on the job can often file both a workers’ compensation claim with their employer as well as a personal injury claim against the dog’s owner, which will likely be covered by the dog owner’s insurance company.
In Illinois, dog owners can be held liable if the following 5 things can be proven:
- That the dog caused the injury in question.
- That the defendant is the owner of the dog.
- That the injured person did not provoke the attack.
- That the injured person was acting in a peaceful manner when the injury occurred.
- That the injured person had a legal right to be at the place where the injury occurred at the time of said injury.
If you suffered a dog bite while you were on the job, it’s important to contact an experienced attorney who can guide you through the complex process of filing not only a worker’s comp claim, but potentially a personal injury claim as well to cover pain and suffering.
14. Fatigue Can Lead to Serious Injuries and Workers Compensation Claims
Businesses across the country are cutting back on staff in order to save money, but that doesn’t mean that the workload is lessened in any way.
And if everyone is working harder than ever to try to make deadline or quota, it can push some employees past their physical or mental limits, leading to exhaustion.
In the workplace, exhaustion can be extremely dangerous. “Studies show fatigue creates long-lasting changes to one’s ability to think and function well during the work day,” says Thomas J. Balkin of the National Sleep Foundation.
When fatigued, workers often experience impaired judgment, slower reflexes and a delayed response to emergency situations.
If you’re behind the wheel of a vehicle (a big rig racing to get to a delivery site on time or a forklift transporting materials from one area of a factory to another, for example), the danger can be deadly.
For those operating machinery, a delayed response can lead to serious bodily harm either to oneself or to another.
If someone is pushed — or pushes herself — beyond reasonable limits to stay on top of workload, the results often are physical and mental exhaustion. This translates to impaired judgment, slower reflexes when operating machinery or heavy equipment, a delayed response to emergencies and inattention to details and instructions.
In order to prevent workplace fatigue, employers should follow these 4 guidelines:
- Rotate workers often during shifts. Those who work long hours performing the same task are more prone to fatigue. Moving from one job to another can help prevent complacency that can lead to injury.
- Establish longer break periods. Employees who work long shifts require time away from work. Some companies have places were exhausted employees can take a quick nap, which can rejuvenate them enough to ensure that the rest of the shift is worked safely.
- Consider split shifts for safety. Instead of enforcing 16- or 24-hour shifts, establish a traditional eight-hour shift with a few hours off in between to allow workers to refuel.
- Provide refreshments. Food provides essential energy, so employers requiring workers to be on hand for long hours should consider providing energy-rich snacks or pizza (a newsroom staple on election nights) to help create a safer environment.
15. Stress at Work Can Be Deadly for Illinois Workers
You may hate your job or are stressed to the max by the hours you’re working, but that doesn’t mean that you can file a workers’ compensation claim in Illinois.
In general, Illinois is one of several states that do not cover mental health under workers’ comp, even if the stress from your high-pressure job builds up over time.
Stress-related workers’ compensation claims might be covered if a single incident – your boss assaults you or you see a co-worker die at work, perhaps as a result of using machinery unsafely – causes anxiety, stress or post-traumatic stress disorder.
And if your stress and anxiety have manifested itself physically, you may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim.
For example, if yours is a high-stress job and you develop high blood pressure as a result, the costs to cover your medical care would likely fall under Illinois’s workers’ compensation coverage.
Other physical manifestations of stress include:
- High blood sugar caused by excess cortisol, the fight or flight hormone. When cortisol levels are elevated, the body naturally releases glucose to provide energy to run from danger. When the danger is a looming deadline from which you can’t run, however, that glucose lingers in the blood stream, hiking levels and potentially leading to type 2 diabetes.
- Chronic headaches. Stress can lead to long-term pain. If conditions become chronic, it could fall under a workers’ compensation claim.
- Heart problems. If stress causes a heart attack or heart arrhythmia and it can be directly linked to your work environment, you could have a workers’ compensation claim in Illinois.
- Asthma. According to WebMD, stress is a common asthma trigger. If the two can be linked, the physical problem could create a platform for workplace stress to become the basis of a workers’ comp claim, despite the psychological framework.
16. Did You Develop an Occupational Disease on the Job?
When we go to work, we don’t expect to be putting our health at risk, but that can happen when the job conditions result in a work-related disease.
Under Illinois’s Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act, diseases that develop slowly as a result of one’s occupation are covered under the state’s workers’ compensation regulations. The act defines an occupational disease as “a disease arising out of and in the course of the employment or which has become aggravated and rendered disabling as a result of the exposure of the employment.”
In order to qualify for workers compensation, the claimant must prove that his or her exposure was at a risk higher than that of the general public, and the exposure must have lasted for at least 60 days.
Diseases covered under the act can include:
- Diseases caused by exposure to chemicals such as asbestos (this includes the cancer mesothelioma, which in more than 80 percent of cases is caused by exposure to asbestos, most often at work)
- Kidney problems caused by exposure to liquid coolants.
- Asthma worsened by exposure to certain chemicals or materials.
- High blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease or reduced fertility caused by exposure to lead. (This is a risk factor for Great Lakes fishermen, firing range personnel as well as others who work regularly with guns.)
- Skin cancer caused by long-term exposure to the sun for outdoor workers. (This occupational disease is more difficult to prove in some states than others.)
If you’ve developed a disease that has been linked by research to your previous or current line of work, you may have a worker’s compensation claim.
In order to determine if there is a link between your illness and your career, you need an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who understands Illinois law and can work through the complexities of workplace-related disease. The right attorney will help ensure that you get the compensation you deserve, especially if you devoted your life to your line of work.
17. Voluntary Recreation May Not End Up Being So Fun
If you willingly sign up for the company baseball team and become injured sliding into second base, your injuries will likely not be covered under workers’ compensation.
If, however, your employer required you to participate in the company event, your injuries, despite being recreational, would be covered.
Almost any activity can be considered recreational if it occurs outside of normal work activities but still occurs on the clock. The rise in team-building exercises – including getaway weekends – had led to a rise in recreational-related injuries, some of them sports-related, some of them not.
In Illinois, the Taylorville Fire Department appealed a decision by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission to cover the costs of a right ankle injury sustained during a 3-on-3 basketball game played at the fire station. The commission found that the injury arose during the course of the worker’s employment because the game was played while at the firehouse while the employee was on duty, unable to leave the station, the employee was asked to participate in the game by his shift supervisor and the employer encouraged the participation in sports and fitness. The Appeals court affirmed the commission’s decision.
If you were injured as the result of a workplace-related recreational injury, you may be covered under Illinois’s complex workers’ compensation laws, depending on how the recreational activity came about.
While the laws often blur the lines to protect employers, activities such as team-building recreational exercises are often covered under workers’ compensation because the activity itself is a benefit to the employer, who likely approached the event as one that would put an employee’s career in jeopardy if it was missed.
If you are unsure whether or not your injury is covered, it’s important to contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to help you determine your rights and help you understand whether or not you can receive compensation for your injury.
18. Rock and Roll May Not Be Noise Pollution, But Dangerous Noise Levels at Work May Become Workers Compensation Claims
According to estimates, 30 million people in the United States each year are exposed to dangerous noise levels, leading to workers’ compensation claims reaching approximately $242 million a year.
There are many occupations – manufacturing, construction and factory work – that are noisy enough to require hearing protection.
If a work environment is loud, employers by law are required to follow certain guidelines, including:
Measure noise levels.
- Implement certain engineering and administrative controls.
- Provide free annual hearing exams to employees.
- Provide free hearing protection to employees.
- Provide training on not only the proper use of hearing protection but also the dangers associated with exposure to high noise levels.
- Perform evaluations of the company’s hearing protection program.
- Perform regular audits of the company hearing protection program.
- Keep thorough records of noise level monitoring.
Still, a loud environment can lead to hearing loss, no matter the precautions your company takes.
As a result, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation insurance benefits.
While the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act has not often led to favorable results for those who have suffered hearing loss, if a worker can prove that they have been exposed to industrial noise for a period of time long enough to cause permanent impairment, they may have a successful workers’ comp claim.
If you are not sure if the noise levels at your place of work are hazardous, do the “arm’s length rule.” If you are an arm’s length away from a co-worker and you still have to raise your voice in order to be heard, the noise levels are potentially dangerous and could lead to work-related hearing loss.
In order to qualify for workers’ compensation, hearing loss must be tested using an audiogram, which must show losses at the frequencies of 1,000, 2,000 and 3,000 cycles per second. Loss of hearing for frequencies above 3,000 cycles per second is not considered a disabling hearing loss.
If you think you’ve experience hearing loss as a result of noise exposure at work, it’s important to contact an experienced attorney who can guide you through the complex process and help determine if you have a workers’ comp claim.
19. Exposure To The Heat Can Lead to Long-term Injuries or Death for Illinois Workers
There are some days in Illinois that the heat is unbearable, especially for those who work outside.
While heatstroke workers’ compensation claims can be difficult to prove – employers may attempt to place the blame on the worker if the worker is overweight or suffers from some other condition that would make working in the heat more dangerous than normal – if you do suffer heat stroke on the job, you’ll likely want to explore the possibility of worker’s comp.
To be considered work-related, your heat stroke would have to be caused by or aggravated by your work or the conditions of your workplace, but if your heat stroke aggravated a preexisting condition, triggering a new injury, it would fall under the area of protection.
Because heat stroke is so prevalent for outdoor workers and preventable, many states have laws in place requiring employers to protect employees from heat stroke by implementing certain criteria, including:
- Heat exposure safety training. Employers must provide a written safety program addressing the dangers of outdoor heat exposure along with the signs of heat stroke and tips for preventing heat stroke.
- Water is a must. Employers must provide plenty of water breaks and ensure that workers have access to enough water to stay hydrated. (Federal OSHA recommendations say one quart of water per employee per hour.)
- Treatment for heat stroke must be made available. If an employee shows signs of heat stroke or some other heat-related illness, they must be relieved from their post and provided shade, water and other things that reduce body temperature, such as ice packs.
If you’ve suffered a heat stroke or other heat-related illness due to working in especially hot, dangerous conditions, you may be eligible for workers’ compensation insurance. Please consult an attorney to determine if your situation is suitable for filing a claim.
20. Hypothermia Equally Risky in Chilly Illinois During Winter Months
While heat is a factor in Illinois, workers who are forced to work outside are at a bigger risk of hypothermia given the seemingly endless winters that are often accompanied by sub-zero temperatures.
For those who work outdoors, hypothermia is a real risk, especially for those who are in the cold (or at work in a refrigerated warehouse or cooler) for extended periods of time.
When cold, a body must work harder to maintain its core temperature, and the safety of internal organs comes first. The natural response is to constrict blood vessels so that internal organs stay warm. This comes at the expense of the hands, arms, feet and legs, which become at risk of frostbite when the blood flow drops.
You might be experiencing mild hypothermia if you have:
- Persistent shivering
- Your lips and fingers begin to turn blue
- You begin to lose coordination
- Your speech becomes slurred
- Your hands and feet become numb
- You develop a rapid heart rate
Signs of moderate hypothermia include:
- Diminished mental awareness
- A slower heart rate and slower breathing
- Glassy-eyed stare
- Confusion or irrational behavior
- Poor decision making (such as those who ascend Mount Everest and throw away their oxygen tanks at critical points in their journey, both due to cold and oxygen loss, both of which trigger diminished mental awareness).
Severe hypothermia shows itself through:
- Loss of consciousness
- Irregular pulse
- Breathing stops
Hypothermia at any stage is a medical emergency, and the dangerous condition can lead to permanent damage or death.
In addition to brain damage, if extremities go too long with reduced blood flow, the tissue will die, leading to amputations.
The cost of care can include hospitalization, surgery, X-rays, MRIs, wheelchairs, medication, physical therapy and occupational therapy if you suffer injuries that will no longer allow you to perform your job.
If you have experienced hypothermia while on the job, it’s important to contact an experienced attorney to help walk you through the workers’ compensation claims process so that you get the compensation you need to cover the costs of your care as well as wages lost as a result of the injury.
Hypothermia can be extremely serious. If you file a workers’ compensation claim, you may have questions about your rights or you may be asked to sign something without understanding it. Don’t sign anything. Bring the document and your questions to a workers’ compensation attorney to ensure that you aren’t signing away your legal right to sue and to have all of your questions answered.
Do You Need a Work Injury Attorney For Your Illinois Workers Compensation Claim?
Have you had any of the workers compensation injuries listed above? Get in touch with our workers compensation team today. Contact us today to get your Illinois Workers Compensation Claim filed and begin the process of recovering compensation for your work-related injuries.
Have any questions about a work injury that occurred in Illinois? Contact us today for a free consultation. Published 07/21/2017.