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Many people believe that in order to recover compensation for a work-related injury that an accident at the workplace must occur. While the Workers' Compensation Act does not require that an "accidental injury" must occur, the courts have taken a very broad view of what that phrase means. These rulings have given a big advantage to persons suffering from repetitive trauma injuries. A repetitive trauma injury is one in which body damage is not done through a sudden incident, but by the gradual damage to the body from repeated stretching, bending, bumping, or striking of certain body parts. A person can recover compensation under the Act if these repeated actions cause damage to the body or aggravate an already existing condition, illness or injury.
Usually, an injured employee had to trace their injury to a specific moment in time where could no longer work or were forced to seek medical treatment. This did not make a lot of sense since it forced working persons to either not recover for such injuries or work until they did serious damage to themselves. It was possible for a person not to recover under the Act merely because they were not wounded enough to have sudden and complete physical breakdown by their job.
The Illinois Supreme Court has taken a more common sense approach to this problem. It is no longer necessary for an injured worker to trace their accident to one specific date, time and place which was the source of their injury. Now, workers can recover for injuries or conditions which have evolved over gradual, or long periods of time as long as they can prove that something from their job played a role in creation of this injury. While frequently an employer may argue that the condition was caused by the normal aging processes, if the employee can show that their job aggravated or worsened the normal aging processes, they are still entitled to recover under the Act.
It should be noted that in workers' compensation cases, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the injury. This means that if an injured person does not file a claim with the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission (IWCC) within three years of the date of their injury, they can no longer sue their employer for benefits under the Workers' Compensation Act. In a repetitive trauma injury case, the three year time period begins with the date that the injury became plainly apparent. Therefore, persons who have experienced symptoms which could possibly be work-related should take great care to report this condition to their employer and discuss their situation with an attorney. Failure to do so could result in the loss of all rights under the Workers' Compensation Act, no matter how serious the injury eventually ends up.
One of the most common types of repetitive trauma injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. It is caused when repetitive movements of the hand or wrist cause swelling of the tendons in the wrist, creating pressure on the nerve which leads to the hand. The early symptoms of this condition would include tingling or numbness of the fingers, a burning pain or tingling in the hand during the night, and morning stiffness or swelling of the fingers. As the condition advances, there can be complete loss of sensation at the base of the thumb and gradual weakness of the hand with an inability to hold on or grasp objects.
Oter repetitive trauma injuries include bursitis, which is a swelling of the joints, or tendinitis, which is a swelling of the tendons, which usually results froma strain.Virtually every part of the body can be injured from repetitive trauma type situations and great care should be taken to preserve your rights under the Workers' Compensation Act. Otherwise, an injured person could be left without a remedy for a very serious and possibly disabling condition which was incurred in the workplace.