Victory for injured workers
Tracy Jones won a significant victory for injured workers. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act requires that an injured worker give the employer notice of the work injury within 45 days of the injury. (Some employers have a company policy which requires notice sooner than 45 days.) For the sudden traumatic event this usually is not a problem. But for the unusual ailment or the slowly developing problem an injured worker may not know the condition has its origins in work.
In Tolbert v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission the injured worker developed a lung problem. He thought he had lung cancer. He did not know his lung problem was from exposure at work. He quit his job. He did not give notice to his employer that his lung problem was related to work until after 45 days of quitting.
An arbitrator, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation commission, and a circuit court judge all denied the injured worker compensation for his work injuries, in part, because he failed to give notice within 45 days.
Tracy Jones successfully argued the case to the Illinois Appellate Court. The Court noted that an injured worker can not give notice of that that which he is unaware of, that being that his condition is work-related. The Appellate Court held that an injured worker only has to tell the employee the information he has at that time. Here, they said letting the employer know of a medical problem, even though you do not say it has anything to do with work, is sufficient notice of a work place injury.” So, if the injured worker gives defective notice in cases like this, the burden shifts to the employer to show that it is prejudiced by the defective notice. Seldom can the employer show such prejudice.
Thanks to Tracy Jones, injured workers now have a shield to stop the blow of arbitrators who want to rule against them because of defective notice. The Tolbert case provides the law which the arbitrators have to follow, even if they disagree. This is the second public Appellate Court decision Tracy has gotten in the last year which advanced the law in favor of workers.