In April of 2012, The Illinois Auditor General, William G. Holland, released an audit of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation claims. The Auditor General found many issues with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation system. The report “Workers’ Compensation Program as it Applies to State Employees” was over 100 pages.
The audit indicated that there are “no guidelines for how much to award.” “For instance, a common injury such as carpal tunnel syndrome meant compensation for the loss of five percent use of the hand in one case and total disability in the other.” This is not correct. The workers’ compensation system has in been effect for over 100 years. To suggest that arbitrators have been guessing at values for 100 years is not accurate.
Currently carpal tunnel syndrome claims are very predictable. For instance, in the three years preceding the audit, 2009-2011, there were 199 operated carpal tunnel claims arbitrated. One hundred and sixty-four fell within 15% and 22.5% of a hand. There are some that vary more than that. However, some carpal tunnel claims are more serious than others. For instance, some people have multiple surgeries. Additionally, some people fall and break their wrist, causing carpal tunnel syndrome. These are typically valued higher than the repetitive trauma carpal tunnel claims. For un-operated carpal tunnel claims in the three years preceding the audit, there were 17 cases. Sixteen of these were 10% of a hand or under. One case was 20% of a hand.
The audit did look into the high incidence of claims at Menard Correctional Facility. It did not suggest fraud. This may be due to the objective testing done on carpal tunnel sufferers.
People who claim symptoms consistent with carpal tunnel syndrome are normally given an EMG/NCV (electromyogram/nerve conduction velocity) test. This test sends electricity down the nerves to see if the current slows. If it does slow it suggests the nerve is pinched. If it is pinched at the carpal tunnel the person is diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. There is no way for a patient to fake these tests. So a high incidence of described carpal tunnel claims at a given workplace suggests there is a correlation between the work and the condition.
James Ackerman, an Illinois injury attorney, personally spoke with a lead workers compensation attorney at the Attorney General’s office. The Attorney General’s Office hired a physician to assess the Menard Correctional Facility and hopefully testify the work did not cause carpal tunnel syndrome. The physician, according to the Attorney General, refused to so testify. The guards have to turn huge antiquated keys to open the cell doors. The AG said it hurt him. Further, the guards must strike each and every bar in the facility with a piece of metal to see if the bars had been cut by an inmate. This is done each shift. It is the type of repetitive trauma that can cause or aggravate carpal tunnel syndrome.