Preexisting Conditions and Illinois Workers' Compensation Law

April 27, 2011

One issue that can arise when Illinois employees who are hurt at work are seeking workers' compensation is that of preexisting conditions. This sort of issue arises often with back injuries such as herniated discs, or injuries affecting joints such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Also, the issue is prevalent in cases where the condition may be attributed to some sort of degenerative disease.

Under the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, a worker is entitled to benefits if they can show that the preexisting condition was "aggravated or accelerated" by their employment. This means that if you can identify something from your work that made the condition surface, worsen, or speed up, then you may have a workers' compensation claim despite having been previously diagnosed or having a past medical history indicating that such a condition existed.

However, there are some restrictions to the compensability of preexisting conditions. For instance, there must be a specific time, place, and cause of the aggravation. It is not enough to simply claim prolonged stress when attempting to establish a claim for aggravation of a preexisting condition. Also, if your preexisting condition is the actual cause of your injury, then it may not be compensable. Falls and accidents arising from individual medical conditions are deemed "idiopathic" and workers who suffer injuries of this nature are generally not entitled to benefits under Illinois workers' compensation law. This is fairly common with conditions such as seizures, and recently the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission dealt with that issue in determining that a worker with a history of epilepsy was having a seizure when his forklift crashed, and therefore the injuries arising out of the accident were not compensable.

Preexisting conditions can present a hurdle to obtaining benefits under workers' compensation law. Defense attorneys and doctors will try to pin your current injury on those conditions in order to get out off providing for the benefits you deserve. However, if your doctor believes that your employment caused your injury, regardless of any preexisting conditions, then an Illinois Workers' Compensation Attorney can fight for you and help you receive the benefits you deserve.