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How Do You Prove a Second Injury in Workers’ Compensation?

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Engineer injured in an accident at work on the industry factory work. Concept of how do you prove a secondary injury in workers' compensation

If you want to prove a second injury in workers’ compensation, your medical records must show that this injury connects with your primary work injury. Taking the right steps to build a case will help increase your chances of receiving a settlement for a second injury in addition to your primary injury.

Engineer injured in an accident at work on the industry factory work. Concept of how do you prove a secondary injury in workers' compensation

Does Workers’ Comp Cover Second Injuries?

There are certain circumstances when injury victims may qualify for worker’s compensation benefits for a second injury. As long as the second injury directly results from the same incident that caused the primary injury, it will count toward the same injury.

In Illinois, for example, workers qualify for compensation involving a second injury under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Injuries related to the primary injury are called subsequent injuries and are covered under the original workers’ compensation claim

It’s important to know what second injuries you might sustain in a work-related accident and how they could contribute to a workers’ comp claim.

What Are Second Injuries?

There are several types of second injuries that may develop following a work-related accident. Examples of these may include:

Anxiety and Depression

In addition to or in lieu of a secondary physical injury, you might develop emotional distress in the form of anxiety or depression. You may be able to show that your psychological trauma and distress resulted from a work-related incident and primary injury to receive compensation.

Injuries During Rehabilitation

In some cases, you may sustain injuries while undergoing physical therapy following an accident. For instance, an injury may develop from improperly fitted prosthetics or improper techniques. Generally, employees may be able to receive medical benefits for injuries resulting from inadequate rehabilitation if the employer required the employee to undergo therapy before recovering enough beforehand or if the physical therapist acted negligently.

Medication-Related Injuries

Injury victims taking prescribed medications could suffer injuries from these medications. They may suffer allergic reactions or inadvertent overdoses in some cases. Depending on the medication, individuals may also be at risk of developing an addiction and becoming dependent on them, which can severely impact an injured victim’s life.

Injuries Resulting from Surgery

All surgeries come with risks, including infections and injuries. If you must undergo surgery because of a primary work injury, you may be able to recover compensation for complications developing from the procedure. Many complications may develop following surgery, including infections, hemorrhages, shock, pulmonary embolism, reactions to anesthesia, and deep vein thrombosis.

In addition to these potential secondary injuries, others may develop, such as:

  • Heart attacks
  • Strokes
  • Chronic pain
  • Arthritis
  • Loss of range of motion or sensation

How Do You Prove a Second Injury in Workers’ Compensation?

If you sustain a second injury in a work-related incident, the main type of documentation you’ll need to prove this injury is your medical records. You’ll specifically require medical records pertaining to this injury that help illustrate how it connects to your primary injury. However, it can be difficult to obtain the proper documentation in some cases, which is why you may want to consult with an attorney to assist you in obtaining and organizing documentation.

Steps for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim for a Second Injury

If you want to file a workers’ compensation claim for a second injury, the steps you must take will be the same as those for a primary work related injury. So, what is workers’ compensation like for a second injury?

The following are the steps you’ll need to follow as you seek compensation for a second injury.

Seek Medical Care

The first step after any work-related injury, including a second injury, is to seek professional treatment from qualified medical professionals. Like you would with a primary injury, you may need to see a doctor that your workers’ compensation insurance carrier or employer has approved. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you’ll be able to recover and the more effectively you’ll be able to connect your second injury with your primary injury.

Report the Injury to Your Employer

The next step would entail reporting your injury to your employer, which entails completing a formal written report and handing it into your employer. You should be able to receive the necessary form from your employer. Again, don’t wait too long to report your injury, or it could hurt your chances of recovering compensation for your second injury.

Adhere to Your Doctor’s Advice and Treatment Plan

If a doctor provides you with a specific treatment plan and prescription, you must follow your doctor’s advice and cooperate with the care plan. Failure to do so could make you ineligible to recover medical benefits for your second injury.

Follow Up on the Claim While It’s Pending

If you’re waiting for a workers’ compensation claim to go through, it’s important to follow up on it to help ensure it doesn’t remain pending for any longer than it has to stay in that phase.

Return to Work When Capable

The combination of a secondary and primary injury could lead to disability, but you may need to return to work at some point if you recover enough. Even if you reach maximum medical improvement according to a doctor, you may still need some more time to recover before going back to work, particularly if you sustained a combination of primary and secondary injuries. An attorney may be able to help you determine if you’re actually capable of returning to work based on your current condition.

Following this process may help maximize your chances of getting full compensation for your secondary and primary injuries. If you’re unclear about the process and require some guidance, a workers’ comp lawyer may be able to assist you with your case and determine which documentation will help prove your secondary injuries.

How Do Victims Receive Compensation for Secondary Injuries?

Like other types of workers’ compensation, you’ll receive workers’ comp payments for secondary injuries every week in most cases. You will be able to receive these payments unless your circumstances prevent you from receiving them any further.

For example, you may stop receiving payments if the workers’ comp insurer or employer prematurely cuts off your benefits. In other cases, payments may stop if individuals receive the maximum amount of money they’re qualified to recover. You may also stop receiving payments if you make a full recovery and are able to go back to work.

What to Avoid Doing When Awaiting a Workers’ Comp Settlement

If you’re awaiting a decision on a workers’ comp claim involving secondary injuries, the following are some tips to help you succeed with your claim and avoid compromising your ability to recover benefits.

Neglecting to Provide Medical Professionals With an Accurate Medical History

Whether you sustain a primary or secondary injury, it’s important to remain honest about your injuries when speaking with medical providers. Let them know precisely how your injuries developed, and be honest and detailed about the symptoms you’re experiencing. Otherwise, downplaying your injuries could prevent you from getting the treatment and compensation you need, while exaggerating your injuries might compromise your claim altogether.

The insurance company may decide to hire investigators to determine whether you’re being truthful about your injuries. This could involve looking closely at medical records and obtaining statements from the injury victim and witnesses.

Not Seeking a Second Opinion from an Independent Medical Examiner

While you may need to see a doctor that your employer or workers’ comp insurer approves, you may also be able to get a second opinion from another medical professional. This can help confirm the nature of your injuries and may counter the first opinion.

Failing to Report the Injury on Time

As soon as you sustain a primary or secondary injury, report it to your employer as soon as possible. You only have a limited amount of time to pursue a workers’ comp claim before you no longer qualify for benefits. Also, waiting too long to report the injury may make your injury appear less severe than it actually is, hindering your ability to recover full compensation.

Not Hiring a Lawyer When Appropriate

While most workers’ compensation cases can settle without the help of a lawyer, you may benefit from working with one if your case is complex. You may be unfamiliar with the workers’ comp process, in which case a lawyer may be able to assist you in filing the necessary paperwork and pursuing full compensation.

Proving a Second Injury for Workers’ Comp

If you suffer a second injury in a workers’ compensation case, you may be able to prove this injury by seeking treatment and generating relevant medical records. These records may help show that your second injury is connected to your primary injury, enabling you to seek compensation for the effects of combined primary and secondary injuries.

About the Author

Kurt D. Lloyd is a plaintiff’s trial lawyer who focuses on medical malpractice and other catastrophic injury cases. He lives in Chicago and represents injured clients throughout Illinois. He is also the founder of Lloyd Miller Law, Ltd.

Chicago accident lawyer Kurt D. Lloyd