Can I Recover Worker’s Comp for Back Pain?

A client recently came into our office and asked this very question: “Can I recover worker’s comp for back pain?” Our office was not the first law firm that this 37-year-old man had consulted on the issue. In fact, he had previously been represented by another Illinois worker’s compensation lawyer. Not satisfied with the progress of his case, he sought out a firm with a reputation like ours – known for taking cases to trial where other firms are satisfied with a quick settlement, often to their clients’ detriment.

Like many who experience chronic back pain, our client had been injured at work. He worked as a janitor inside of a large office building in Chicago. One day while pushing a heavy dumpster – he was unaware that someone had just filled it with a large number of books – he severely injured his back. As a result of his injuries, he required 2L fusion surgery and developed a significant buildup of scar tissue around his L5 nerve root. The injuries left him virtually unable to do his job.

An internet search for a lawyer for back injuries led him into the office of a local firm. The firm invested a limited amount of time and resources into his case. To his prior attorney this man was merely a number – a case to be quickly processed and disposed of to collect an easy contingency fee. The attorney assigned to his case pressed him to accept a $50,000 settlement. Realizing that a significant loss in income, as well as chronic pain, were worth more far more, he contacted our office.

As we so often do, we fought hard to maximize our client’s recovery. We rejected all settlement offers and proceeded all the way to trial. We conducted over 8 depositions of treating physicians and other key witnesses. At trial, we won a $312,500 verdict on behalf of our client – over $250,000 more than he ultimately would have settled his case for.

Common Back Injuries at Work

Common back injuries at work involve:

  • Sprained ligaments
  • Strained muscles
  • Ruptured disks
  • Irritated joints

Workplace injuries to the back are commonly caused by:

  • Repeated Movements: even simple motions performed often enough can result in too much stress being placed on muscles and tendons, eventually leading to injury.
  • Accidents: one-time events such as a slip and fall or improper use of a machine.
  • Traveling: those that drive for work are at risk for auto accidents that can cause significant back and neck injuries (such as whiplash).

These injuries can occur to any part of the back or neck. The resulting pain can be severe and cause lengthy absences from work. In fact, back pain accounts for more than 264 million lost workdays per year, or nearly 2 workdays for every full-time worker in the United States. Low back pain injuries are particularly common, costing Americans some $50 billion in medical costs annually. Add to this number another $50 billion in lost wages and decreased productivity from such injuries.

How to Get Worker’s Comp for Back Pain in Illinois

Many of those that injure their backs in the workplace are unaware that they may be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits. If you are injured at work, the most important thing to remember is to seek medical attention. Symptoms often do not manifest for several days after the injury occurs. If you begin to experience back pain, consult with a physician immediately. Some back injuries can be treated with rest and over-the-counter medications. Others require the assistance of a professional such as a chiropractor, physical therapist or pain management physician. If these treatment options fail, you may require surgery, followed by more medical treatment and time off from work.

Under Illinois law, if you seek to recover worker’s comp benefits for your back injury, you are required to give your employer written notice. This notice must be given to your employer within 45 days from the date that you suffered the injury and must give a detailed accounting of the incident. There are some limited exceptions to the 45 days requirement. For instance, if symptoms do not appear immediately after the incident. If you are unsure of the requirements for serving written notice on your employer, consult with an experienced lawyer for back injury.

Once your employer receives notice of your injury, they must respond in writing to inform you whether they accept or deny your claim. If your claim is accepted your employer will provide you with access to medical treatment and benefits. Often, however, your employer will deny your claim for benefits. Where this occurs, you can submit an appeal to the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission. In the alternative, you can file your claim directly with the Commission. An experienced Illinois worker’s compensation lawyer can advise you of the best course of action for your case.

How Much is My Worker’s Comp Claim for my Back-Injury Worth?

There are two important considerations to keep in mind with respect to compensation. First, every case is different. Much depends on the extent of your injuries and the resulting damages that you incurred. In Illinois, injured workers can recover for medical costs, lost income and the extent of the disability.

In Illinois, the Commission sets both minimum and maximum benefits rates that a worker can recover on a weekly basis if he or she is unable to work because of an injury. The amount of these limits depends on whether the worker is unable to work temporarily (known as Temporary Total Disability) or permanently (known as Permanent Total Disability). The Commission typically updates the minimum and maximum benefits rates twice per year. Consult with an experienced Illinois worker’s compensation lawyer for the latest rates.

Secondly, much depends on the firm that you retain to represent you in your worker’s compensation case. At the beginning of this article we discussed one of our recent cases involving the young janitor injured at work. Had our client accepted the settlement offer as advised by his former attorney, he would have lost over $250,000 in benefits. Our firm goes the extra mile for our clients in order to maximize their recovery. Where other firms seek to quickly dispose of their cases, The Romaker Law Firm is prepared to take each case to trial. If you wish to discuss your case with an experienced Illinois worker’s compensation lawyer contact us today.