Illinois Carpal Tunnel Workers’ Compensation

Have you been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome? Are your symptoms affecting your job duties? The Law Offices of Dworkin and Maciariello, work injury attorneys in Illinois, may be able to help.

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions:

1. What is carpal tunnel syndrome?

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is considered a repetitive stress injury, commonly occurring when a person’s wrists are regularly exposed to repetitive strain. Symptoms begin to manifest because tissues surrounding the wrist’s tendons become enlarged and compress the median nerve. The median nerve runs through a passage in the wrist known as the carpal tunnel.

Common symptoms include:

  • Numbness, tingling, and pain in the hand, wrist and, forearm
  • Impaired or lost nerve function
  • Reduced muscle control
  • Reduced grip strength

CTS is acknowledged as a problem in the work force by the United States Department of Labor, which called the condition the “chief occupational hazard of the ‘90’s,” and found CTS to be “disabling workers in epidemic proportions.”

2. Is CTS considered a work related injury under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act?

Yes. The repetitive activity that leads to carpal tunnel syndrome may appear different in nature than an injury caused by a specific event. However, the Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that employees can be compensated from the onset of CTS under the Workers’ Compensation Act.

3. What medical benefits are available if CTS develops on the job?

An employee is entitled to receive complete coverage of all medical expenses that are reasonable and necessary to treat the condition. Expenses may include: first aid, emergency room services, doctor visits, inpatient and outpatient hospital care, and prescription medicine.

4. Can an employee choose their own physician or hospital for treatment of CTS?

Yes, but the choice may be restricted under provisions of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.

For example, there is a restriction limiting that an injured worker can see up to two doctors of their own choice. If an employer maintains a Preferred Provider list, employees are required to select a doctor from that list as their first choice. If the employee chooses not to treat with a doctor on the Preferred Provider list, they forfeit one of their two choices, limiting the employee to only one doctor of their own choice. In our opinion, the doctors on an employer’s Preferred Provider list are biased in favor of the employer and should not be seen. Since declining to treat with a doctor on the employer’s Preferred Provider list can restrict an employee to one choice of doctor, it is important to contact us before beginning treatment so that we can review options and make the best use of that choice.

5. Is the employee responsible for paying any deductibles or co-insurance payments out of pocket, or are there any preset dollar limits that will be placed on medical treatment for work related CTS?

As long as the employee’s medical treatments are reasonable and necessary to treat the CTS, they should not be asked to pay any deductibles, and no dollar limitations should be placed on their treatment.

6. Is an employee entitled to wage benefits because of CTS while they are off of work?

An employee is entitled to temporary total disability (TTD) compensation while they are off work and under active medical treatment. TTD compensation is based on a percentage of the employee’s average weekly wage, and often includes overtime.

7. When will an employee’s TTD benefits begin after they are taken off work by a physician?

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act requires an employer, or their insurance company, to begin payment of TTD benefits within fourteen (14) days of the date the employee informs their employer of the CTS diagnosis.

8. Is an employee entitled to receive any other benefits once they return to work at their regular job after being treated for CTS?

An employee may be entitled to receive compensation for the permanent effects to their hands or arms as a result of developing CTS from their job functions, and the subsequent required treatment. Such compensation is called permanent partial disability (PPD) compensation, and is typically received as the result of a settlement agreement between the employee and their employer, or as the result of the decision of an arbitrator of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission outlines five factors to determine the extent of an employee’s permanent partial disability: a physician’s assessment of the level of impairment, the employee’s age, the employee’s occupation, the employee’s future earning capacity, and any other evidence of disability supported by treatment records. It can be a complex and confusing task to evaluate the combination of these factors to determine the amount of PPD compensation which an employee may be entitled. It is always best to consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer experienced in evaluating, negotiating, and fighting for PPD claims in order to get the settlement award or arbitration decision the employee deserves.

9. Is an employee entitled to receive any other benefits if they are unable to return to work at their regular job after being treated for CTS?

In some cases, an employee may be physically unable to continue to perform the job duties of the position they held prior to developing CTS. Should an employee be put in a position to accept a lower-paying job because of an inability to perform their usual job duties, the law does offer benefits. The benefit equals the two-thirds (2/3) of the difference between the average weekly wage of the original job and the average weekly wage of the lower-paying job.

10. Is an employee entitled to any vocational rehabilitation benefits in order to train them for another occupation in the event they become unable to perform in the capacity required of their former job due of CTS?

If an employee can show that they are unable to return to work and perform their usual job duties as a result of CTS, their employer may be responsible to pay for the vocational rehabilitation needed to return that employee to a position consistent with their physical limitations. The necessary showing is established by the employee’s treatment history, and the recommendations, opinions, and orders of the treating physician. The employee may also be entitled to receive ongoing benefits similar to TTD payments during the training period known as “maintenance.”

11. Under what conditions can an employee ensure that they will be able to receive future medical treatment for their CTS?

To preserve rights to future medical treatment, or to win recommended treatment that may have been denied by the employer or their insurance company, a hearing before an Arbitrator of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is the best route. While there is no guarantee that an employee will win their arbitration, a settlement with the employer will often require the employee to waive a right to future medical treatment as a condition to the settlement agreement.

12. Will an employee be able to receive social security benefits as a result of developing work related CTS?

If an employee is disabled from working for a period of five months and their doctor determines that treatment will continue for a total of one year or longer, the employee may be eligible for social security benefits.

DISCLAIMER: All answers to the above questions are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to be construed as legal advice. The questions are hypothetical and not applicable to every scenario. The Law Offices of Dworkin and Maciariello is not liable for any errors or inaccuracies contained above, or any actions taken in reliance on the informational answers.

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