Evidence Of Degenerative Condition Fails To Block City Employee’s Disability Claim

Case name: Buchino v.  City of Chicago, 13ILWCLB 156 (Ill.Ind.Comm.2005).

Ruling: An injured employee’s disability may be compensable, despite evidence that some of his problems are also related to a degenerative condition, where the claimant shows his work accident was a cause of his symptoms.

What it means: The Commission reversed the arbitrator’s decision and found the claimant’s condition of disability related to his neck, low back, arms, legs and face was causally related to a work-related motor vehicle accident.

Summary: The claimant, an asphalt district supervisor for Chicago’s Department of Transportation, was injured in a work-related vehicular accident. He was treated for complaints of low back, bilateral thigh, neck, head and right shoulder pain, along with right facial numbness.  Following treatment, the claimant continued to complain of facial numbness and low back pain.  The Commission awarded benefits, relying on the claimant’s testimony that he did not have similar significant symptoms prior to the motor vehicle accident.  Based on this testimony and the lack of evidence contradicting this testimony, the Commission found the chain of events showed that the claimant’s continuing condition in his neck, low back, arms, legs and face remained causally related to the accident.  Although some of these conditions may also be related to degenerative spinal problems, the claimant need only show that his work-related accident was a cause of his symptoms.

While the claimant’s primary complaints may have varied somewhat over time, the areas he complained of have, since the date of the accident, consistently involved the neck, low back, legs, right shoulder and arm and his face. Also, the fact that the claimant continued to work after the accident was not surprising given his duties were mainly supervisory. Furthermore, the claimant’s testimony and the records of a treating doctor indicated the claimant did not feel he could afford to be off work while the employer was denying his workers, compensation benefits.