A Chicago 911 operator has obtained workers’ compensation benefits after developing carpal tunnel syndrome.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Diagnosis
In the matter of Jocelyn Cahill v. City of Chicago, the claimant had worked as a 911 operator and first responder for the City of Chicago for fifteen years. As part of her duties, she regularly had to receive emergency calls and document information on a computer. This required both repetitive typing and the use of a touchscreen.
Over the course of her employment, Ms. Cahill developed carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive stress injury caused by pressure on the median nerve, which runs the length of the arm, goes through a passage in the wrist called the carpal tunnel, and ends in the hand. The condition can result in numbness, tingling, and/or weakness.
When the operator sought treatment for her carpal tunnel syndrome, her doctor concluded that her condition was causally related to her job duties. In making this diagnosis, he considered the number of calls Ms. Cahill received, her preexisting risk factors, and her workstation, where she claimed that she did not have an ergonomic keyboard or a properly functioning mouse.
While her doctor acknowledged that there was a debate in the medical community about whether repetitive typing causes carpal tunnel syndrome, he concluded that because Ms. Cahill’s work was “high exposure,” it would create a causal relationship between her job duties and her diagnosis.
Claim Denied, Then Decision Reversed
Ms. Cahill filed for workers’ compensation benefits from the City of Chicago, which arranged for an Independent Medical Examination with a doctor of its choosing. After reviewing the 911 operator’s medical records, a description of her job, and a “job video” of her workstation, the Independent Medical Examiner opined that her carpal tunnel syndrome was not causally related to her work with the City of Chicago because her duties did not include flexion of the hands or physical gripping or grasping. The Arbitrator in this case agreed with the Independent Medical Examiner and denied the claim.
But the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) reversed this decision upon appeal, concluding that Ms. Cahill had sustained a compensable accident. In explaining its reversal, the IWCC stated that the Independent Medical Examiner’s opinion did not take into account the frequency or force required for the 911 operator’s job duties, which her own physician had considered in his opinion.
Furthermore, the IWCC explained that the City of Chicago takes on employees as it finds them. Even if Ms. Cahill had certain risk factors that may have contributed to her diagnosis of carpal tunnel syndrome, her job duties were a cause in both this diagnosis and her condition, so a finding of accident and causation was proper.
Helping Workers with Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
The majority of workers’ compensation claims involve traumatic workplace incidents in which the cause of the resultant injuries is obvious, but claims involving long-term conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome can be harder to establish. Very often, insurance carriers will push back against or even deny such claims outright because of the difficulty in demonstrating a causal link between the condition and the claimant’s employment. To help overcome unreasonable objections, consider following in the footsteps of so many others and turn to the workers’ compensation attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With over $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the premier Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury law firms in Illinois. Our Chicago workers’ compensation lawyers have successfully represented injured employees in practically every profession and for nearly every type of injury or illness. GWC has the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation of success necessary to get you and your family the justice you deserve.
To schedule a no-cost, no-obligation case evaluation with one of our dedicated work injury attorneys, contact GWC today. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.