Workers’ Compensation Case Scenarios

A mosquito was the culprit.

My client woke up Labor Day paralyzed. He had no idea what happened. He was a worker for the State of Illinois working along the road and without any injury that he could determine, he found himself unable to move. With physical therapy, he was able to get around with a walker and was diagnosed with West Nile virus. West Nile virus is carried by a mosquito. While working for the State, he was in heavy foliaged areas. I filed claim against the State of Illinois claiming that the work placed him in a situation where he was exposed to numerous mosquito bites and one of which must have carried the West Nile virus. Through a subpoena, I was able to obtain mosquito trap records set by the State near where he was working, and indeed, there were mosquitoes that carried West Nile. The State denied the claim and the case went to trial. We were able to win this case and the individual has been receiving weekly benefits since.

Tripping over your own two feet while working is not a work related injury. To be eligible for work comp benefits, you must meet a 2-prong test.

1.    The injury must have happened in the course of employment. This is the one most people believe is all that is needed. You are injured while on the clock, therefore it is work-related; this is not the law.

2.    The injury must also arise out of your employment. There must be some risk associated with the employment. Tripping over your own two feet generally does not constitute a risk peculiar to your employment unless your employer sets things up so you must rush.

A local employer provides a very short lunch period. Individuals only have 15 minutes within which to eat their lunch. Our client left his workstation and went to the vending machines to get some snack food to supplement his lunch. The vending machines were empty. At that point, he had two choices; go back to his workstation without finishing his lunch and get there in a timely fashion, or race to the next nearest vending machines. He chose to race and tripped over his own two feet, breaking his hand. The claim was denied.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission agreed that because the employer put such heavy rigid rules down and did not provide adequate time for an individual to get supplements for his lunch, that the rushing and tripping over his own feet were indeed work related.

For a fall at work to meet the two prong test and be work related is very fact sensitive. What the injured worker may see as insignificant may be the fact which changes the event from being not work related to being work related. If you suffer a fall at work, give notice to your employer of the event and see legal counsel right away. Do not give a taped statement.

Staring at lights can cause injury, as can working outside week after week, day after day.

Two pending cases involve staring at lights or working in the bright sun. A doctor has tied up these work activities as placing an individual at greater risk causing eye injury. These cases are proceeding to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

An accident caught on surveillance videotape appears to be a simple matter of a person’s foot giving out while descending stairs.

Upon further investigation, it was determined that at the top of the stairs was a wastebasket that was overflowing with milkshake cups. It was more likely true than not, that what was viewed on the video tape was not some sort of personal problem with the knee giving out, but rather the individual’s foot slipping because of the milkshake caught on the bottom of his foot. The case was denied and ultimately resulted well into a six-figure payment at settlement.

A chemical mix normally would not cause serious injuries unless exposed in excessive forms, which was shown to be the culprit in the workers’ compensation case.

Toluene is the substance in glue that glue sniffers sniff to get high. Generally, it takes an excessive amount of glue sniffing for brain lesions to develop. An individual came to me with a single demyelinating lesion of the brain and an exposure to Toluene. All the research indicated that he would have to be exposed to greater amounts of Toluene than at first blush appeared for the demyelinating lesion to be caused from the Toluene.

On further investigation it was determined that the Toluene he was exposing himself to inadvertently was quite excessive. His job required him to wipe down machines with Toluene as the cleaning substance. He was constantly dipping his hand into the Toluene with a rag and wiping down the machines. Left at that, it was probably not sufficient exposure to cause the demyelinating lesion. However, the claimant had a mustache and like most people with mustaches, he was constantly playing with it with his Toluene-soaked fingers. Inadvertently, he was exposing himself to as much Toluene as glue-sniffers sniff in chronic problems. The doctors then agreed that this type of exposure would cause the single demyelinated lesion.