Medical Records as Hearsay in Workers Compensation Claims

In worker’s compensation claims employees and employers typically put medical records of the petitioner and evidence. The doctors are often not usually called as witnesses.  Recent changes to the Worker’s Compensation Act provided for a simple method of entering records into evidence. Medical records are typically allowed into evidence if they are subpoenaed by a party. However, doctors’ notes that are prepared for litigation purposes are typically hearsay and not allowed.

In that context, the case entitled RG Construction Services vs the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission came up.  In RG Construction the petitioner injured his knee at work when he fell off the stilts he was using.  His lawyer wanted to put the records of his treating physician into evidence. The defense objected claiming hearsay and due process violations under the 14th amendment.

The court cited the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act changes (820 ILCS 305/16) concerning medical reports.  Changes provide that reports and bills of medical providers are presumed true and correct. They are admissible “without further proof as evidence of the medical and surgical matters stated therein, but shall not be conclusive proof of such matters.” The act specifically says that “this provision does not apply reports prepared by treating providers use litigation.”

In RG Construction petitioner put into evidence a letter from his treating doctor which was addressed to “To Whom It May Concern.” In the letter the Dr. provided an opinion that was not relevant or necessary to his treatment of the claimant. Nevertheless, the court held that the commission did not commit reversible error in allowing the letter into evidence.

The court in RG Construction cited United Electric Coal v Industrial Commisson 93 Il. 2d. 415, 420.  In Electric Coal the Supreme Court allowed a letter to the petitioner’s lawyer into evidence. One contained doctors’ opinions as to the nature of the employee’s condition. Supreme Court held that, because the circumstances exhibited trustworthiness that the letters could come into evidence.

The respondent in RG wanted to cross-examine doctor. He wanted to force the petitioner to incur the expense of hiring the doctor. This, of course, is costly. Normally an orthopedic surgeon in charge a thousand dollars or more for their deposition. By running up the cost of workers compensation claims, respondents try to escape liability for smaller claims.

The court did suggest that the commission may have committed error by allowing the “To Whom It May Concern” letter into evidence. The court suggests that, because the letter was not relevant to the Dr.’s treatment, that letter may have been prepared for the purpose of litigation. However, the court found that, to the extent the commission erred by allowing the letter into evidence, that no reversible error occurred.

At Ackerman Law Office, we fight hard for victims’ rights workers compensation claims. We are familiar with the tactics of defense counsel, including the unethical ones. If you have a workers compensation claim, please contact usWe love to help injury victims and we will fight to protect your rights.