In a case involving the question of whether a claimant’s neck pain was caused by and/or related to her work-related arm and shoulder injuries, both the Arbitrator and the Commission answered said question in the negative, finding that the two were unrelated. See Claimant fails to connect work accident to current neck problems. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 11, August 13, 2021, pp. 2-3. The case discussed in the article, Morel v. Claire’s Stores, 29 ILWCLB 112 (Ill. W.C. Comm. 2021), involved the afore-mentioned claimant – an employee at a warehouse – who had injured her right arm and shoulder when a pallet fell onto her aforesaid arm. Shortly thereafter, the claimant was also diagnosed with neck pain by her primary care physician, as well as with other related issues, which the claimant then tried to relate to her work-related arm and shoulder injuries. However, both the Arbitrator and the Commission (on appeal) found that the two respective sets of injuries and/or conditions were completely unrelated and even coincidental, based on a thorough analysis of the case evidence. Indeed, both when the claimant initially reported her work injury to her employer, and when she was also initially treated in the emergency room, the claimant reported that she felt pain in her right arm that radiated into her hand and shoulder, as well as numbness in her hand, but she did not mention any neck issues until several days later. Furthermore, whatever neck issues that the claimant was found to have were degenerative in nature, and unrelated to her work injuries, which appeared to have resolved as well, evidently without the need for surgery, or even continued conservative treatment. Moreover, any conservative treatment and pain management were also deemed to have been unnecessary for the claimant’s neck problems, which were not serious enough to warrant even non-invasive treatment. Overall, the claimant was deemed to have reached maximum medical improvement (or MMI), for her actual work injuries, while her unrelated neck problems had not reached the point to where they required any treatment. While this outcome must have been disappointing and frustrating to the claimant, the fact that she could not relate her neck issues to her work incident inevitably doomed any attempts on her part to obtain benefits or compensation for her neck pain, which highlights a basic and necessary element for success in obtaining an award of benefits – a claimant has to show linkage or a relationship between his or her injuries and a work accident, for the injuries to be compensable.
Claimant fails to connect work accident to current neck problems. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law Bulletin, Volume 29, Issue 11, August 13, 2021, pp. 2-3.