Illinois Courts Expand Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Reaching Injuries

Workers can get injured performing just about any type of work. Recently, however, Illinois courts have extended workers’ compensation benefits to include a greater number of reaching injuries, holding that reaching injuries are compensable as long as they are associated with a worker’s employment and are sustained during the course of employment.

Young v. The IL Workers’ Compensation Commission

Some types of workers are more vulnerable to injuries than others. Construction workers, nurses, and factory workers are among those likely to endure repetitive and stress-related injuries during the performance of regular job duties. These are physically demanding jobs that require workers to twist, bend, and reach. Based on recent case law, a worker who is injured while reaching associated with a work purpose is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

The employee in Young v. The IL Workers’ Compensation Commission was an inspector in a factory who sustained a shoulder injury on the job in 2010 when he reached into a 36-inch deep box to grab apart and felt a pop and burn in his shoulder. He saw his company doctor for treatment the same year, who recommended an MRI. The MRI showed a tear in the employee’s upper back muscle, which prompted the company physician to refer him to another doctor. The second doctor examined the MRI and diagnosed the employee with a rotator cuff tear. Based on the second doctor’s opinion, along with the opinion of a physician who performed an independent medical examination, the employee underwent shoulder surgery.

When the employee applied for workers’ compensation benefits in 2011, however, he was denied. The arbitrator based the denial on the fact that “the act of reaching for an item, without more, does not constitute an increased risk of injury peculiar to [claimant’s] employment. It is a movement consistent with normal daily activity.” The decision was affirmed by both the Commission and the circuit court.

On appeal, however, the appellate court reversed, holding that the injury was compensable. Specifically, the Court applied the test it set forth in Springfield Urban League v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, which states that employees can be exposed to three categories of risk:

  • Risks associated with employment
  • Personal risks
  • Neutral risks that have no particular employment or personal characteristics

Because the employee in Young was injured while he was inspecting parts associated with his employment – and his employer expected him to perform these duties – his injuries were compensable. The Court held: “Where a risk is distinctly associated with the claimant’s employment, it is not a neutral risk.”

Chicago Workers’ Compensation Law Firm

The workers’ compensation attorneys at Anesi Ozmon, Rodin, Novak & Kohen help individuals throughout Chicago and Illinois obtain the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve. If you have been denied benefits, or your benefits have been unfairly or unreasonably delayed, call today to speak to an experienced attorney about your case. (312) 779-6610.

This website has been prepared by Anesi Ozmon, Rodin, Novak & Kohen, Ltd. for informational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. The information is not provided in the course of an attorney-client relationship and is not intended to substitute for legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction.

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