Repetitive Stress Injuries in the Auto Industry
Musculoskeletal disorders based on repetitive stress are common in many industries, including the automotive industry. Often people suffer these injuries on assembly lines. However, there are some disorders, like carpal tunnel syndrome, that frequently occur among white collar workers but that are also seen among auto workers. Repetitive stress injuries in the auto industry often take the form of injuries of the forearm's flexor tendons, as well as neck and shoulder problems. Similarly, those who have to repeatedly squat may develop meniscus tears or other knee issues. There may be injuries related to the cervical vertebrae. If you suffer from repetitive stress injuries due to working in the auto industry, a Chicago workers' compensation attorney can help you evaluate your legal options.Repetitive Stress Injuries in the Auto Industry
Because there has been increased automation in the process of manufacturing cars, many workers are relieved from the burden of heavy lifting. Even though some aspects of the workplace have improved in terms of the physical strain workers are subjected to, many jobs still often require workers to do repetitive tasks. It can be a little easier to recover workers' compensation benefits after an acute traumatic injury, particularly if other workers and your supervisor witnessed it. However, repetitive stress injuries in the auto industry, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, can require just as much medical treatment and time off work.Independent Medical Exams
Sometimes a workers' compensation carrier will ask you to get an independent medical exam (IME). The doctor will be selected and paid for by the workers' compensation carrier. This means that the doctor may have a bias towards getting you back to the job, and may take a conservative approach to both diagnosis and treatment. However, an employer can rely on the IME findings. If the IME doctor finds you should go back to work, and you decide not to go back, the employer can stop paying you temporary total disability benefits for your repetitive stress injuries.
Alternatively, you can try to go back to work and see whether you can perform your job. However, if you do go back when ordered and you are unable to perform your job, you should let your supervisor know that the injury prevents you from working. For example, if your carpal tunnel syndrome flares up while you are on an assembly line, you should let the supervisor know. You should also make an appointment with your treating doctor and let him or her know you're not able to work and why. The insurer should start paying you temporary total disability benefits again if you cannot work.
Sometimes a worker cannot perform his old job due to a repetitive stress injury, but can do a different job. However, an employer may not be able to provide work that meets restrictions ordered by a doctor, and in that case you may still be able to get temporary total disability benefits.
Some workers have to battle with their insurer over whether or not they can go back to work given a repetitive stress injury. It is possible to file to go to trial with a workers' compensation insurer under Section 19(b) of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act. You should proceed to trial within 60 days, and an arbitrator will be able to decide in an expedited fashion whether you should return to work. You and the insurer will have an opportunity to appeal any decision reached, and your lawyer can help you prepare for this stage of the proceedings.
If you do go back to your work in an automotive industry job, but a doctor puts restrictions on your work so that you don't re-aggravate a repetitive stress injury, you should honor the doctor's restrictions related to going back to work. Your employer should not retaliate against you for abiding by these doctor-imposed restrictions.Consult a Work Injury Attorney in Chicago
If you are a worker in the Chicago automotive industry and have suffered repetitive stress injuries, you should consider retaining a workers' compensation lawyer. At Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Johnson, Bareck & Bertuca, we represent injured auto workers in Champaign, Aurora, Quincy, Springfield, and Rockford, as well as Adams, Kane, Cook, Winnebago, Sangamon, and Champaign Counties. Call us at 312-263-6330 or toll-free at 800-444-1525, or contact us online to set up your free consultation.