21 Nov 2023

FMK Law Attorney Michael Bantz obtained a win on a case on review before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC).  The Commission found that the Petitioner, a firefighter, failed to prove that he suffered any work accident. The Petitioner had brought 16 prior workers’ compensation claims, alleging that his hernia condition was related to his employment, though he acknowledged that he could not recall any acute incident or specific injury occurring at work. The Respondent denied benefits, taking the position that the Petitioner did not suffer any compensable accident, based on the fact that his medical records confirmed that his hernia symptoms and decision to seek treatment began after he complained of doing a large amount of walking while on vacation.   

The Petitioner was seeking to proceed based on Section 6(f) of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act specifically applicable to firefighters in which any condition or impairment of health, including a hernia, shall be rebuttably presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employee's firefighting, and thus be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the employment. The Respondent argued that the Petitioner failed to provide a sufficient medical causation opinion and that the evidence was sufficient to rebut the petitioner’s Section 6(f) presumptions regarding hernias for firefighters.   

The firefighter initially won at arbitration although he stated both in his Form 45 and in his medical records that he did not suffer any known accident while at work.  The Arbitrator found that the strength of the statutory presumption outweighed the evidence supporting the conclusion that no work accident occurred. 

IFMK Law appealed the case before the IWCC panel where Bantz successfully argued that the Petitioner’s increased complaints after going on vacation, along with his admissions, were sufficient to rebut the presumption.  In further support of the Respondent’s defense, the Petitioner’s surgeon acknowledged that he could not relate the hernia to the work activities of being a firefighter, with medical certainty.  The Commission agreed and also found that the petitioner had failed to provide an adequate expert opinion to establish that his hernia was due to repetitive trauma at work.