Court Rules in Favor of Workers’ Compensation Claimant

Illinois workers who suffer injuries on-the-job are not required to provide evidence beyond their testimony about their past medical conditions when seeking workers compensation benefits. The 5th District Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled that the testimony of a worker with a neck injury could, by itself, justify an award of benefits.

The Case

Bryan Simpson’s workers’ compensation claim began in 2006 when he was injured while on the job at Continental Tire North America. According to the appellate opinion, Mr. Simpson alleged that as he was removing a dye weighing 30 pounds, he “felt a pop in his neck” that caused a “burning, electric shock type of pain” to shoot down his arm to his hand.

He sought medical treatment about two weeks after suffering the injury. After undergoing an MRI, it was discovered that Mr. Simpson had a disc herniation. Within a week of seeking treatment, he reported the injury to his employer and completed an injury report.

Mr. Simpson continued to seek treatment from doctors of his choosing and, after requests, received treatment from his employer’s doctors as well. According to the case opinion, his employer’s doctor suggested that Mr. Simpson undergo fusion surgery if his condition does not improve. He opted to forgo the fusion surgery and chose to undergo disc replacement surgery at a hospital in St. Louis.

Following the procedure, Mr. Simpson was awarded temporary total disability (TTD) benefits and more than $235,000 in medical and travel expenses incurred during the treatment of his injuries by a workers’ compensation arbitrator.

Continental Tire appealed the arbitrator’s decision to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and the local circuit court, both of which upheld the decision of the arbitrator. The decisions were then appealed to the 5th District Illinois Appellate Court.

The Objection

On appeal, Continental Tire contended, among many, that Mr. Simpson’s “sole support for an award rests upon [his] own testimony.” Continental Tire further argued that Mr. Simpson’s testimony was not credible because he failed to provide any evidence other than his testimony that he didn’t experience neck problems previous to the work accident.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

Ultimately, the court of appeals upheld the decisions of the circuit court and the Workers’ Compensation Commission reasoning that Mr. Simpson’s testimony that his neck problems began after the accident and that prior to the accident he had not experienced neck problems “is sufficient, if believed, to establish a causal connection between the claimant’s work-related accident and his subsequent condition of ill-being.”

The court also stated that “it is well-settled, under Illinois workers’ compensation law, that a claimant’s testimony standing alone may be sufficient to support an award of benefits.”

Complex Nature of Illinois Workers’ Compensation

In a perfect world, employees injured during the scope of employment apply and obtain workers’ compensation benefits under the law without any problems. However, as this instance highlights, many cases are not as open as shut.

In some circumstances, the gray areas of the law show how easy it is for an employee’s workers’ comp benefits to be in jeopardy. If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, it’s important to have an experienced workers’ comp attorney to advocate for your rights. A workers’ comp lawyer knows the regulations and procedures that relate to this complex area of law.