WHY WE NEED A STRONG WORKERS’ COMPENSATION SYSTEM
My name is Keven Owens. I am a former Marine who never even had a splinter while serving our country. I worked for a central Illinois- based moving company for over 3 years before I was injured on the job.
My company was hired to move a full house. We were short-staffed that day and working on a tight time schedule. I was moving a full sized refrigerator out of the house so that it could be loaded into the moving truck. This was a job for two people, but because we didn’t have the manpower that day, I was doing this alone. The door jamb was high and I had to really push the refrigerator so that I could clear it. As it cleared the jamb, it rolled onto the front porch and the front wheels fell off the ledge of the porch. I ran around to stop the refrigerator from falling, but I could not stop it. The refrigerator fell on my head and landed on top of me. The others I was working with had to lift it off of me.
I went back to the office after we finished the job and told my supervisor what had happened. I complained of a splitting headache and my neck was throbbing too. He told me to go ahead and go home and get some rest. After a few days off, I was still experiencing terrible pain. My company sent me to the doctor to have it looked at.
The company sent me to a doctor who diagnosed me with a sprained neck and told me to take it easy for a while. He also said to me that I had to assume some risk of injury with such a physical job. He then sent me on my way.
The intense pain continued for weeks. I eventually went back to the same doctor who told me this time the pain in my neck was actually a result of carpal tunnel syndrome and that I needed surgery on my wrists to correct it. He also put me on methadone for the pain. I had the carpal tunnel surgery, but the excruciating pain in my neck did not go away.
After about 4 months of going back and forth with this particular doctor and getting no relief from my pain, I decided to get a second opinion. The second doctor ordered an MRI of my neck and it turned out that I had fractured my neck. The fracture was causing the pain I was experiencing, not carpal tunnel.
I eventually had surgery to put 2 titanium plates in my neck and I had to wear an uncomfortable neck brace for several weeks. Today, I still suffer from neck pain and have not been able to return to regular work.
Unfortunately, the company fought my workers’ compensation claim. They said my injury didn’t happen on the job, despite witness accounts of having to lift the refrigerator off of me. The company said the injury didn’t happen while I was working, yet they paid the customer for a new refrigerator because the one that fell on top of me was damaged. It took 6 long years for my case to be resolved. While this dragged out, I had bills to pay and two children to support. Financially, it was a very difficult time.
A workplace injury should not drive someone into poverty. A fair workers’ compensation system is necessary in Illinois to help those hurt on the job, like myself, to receive benefits so they can continue with their lives while recovering from an injury.