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A caller to our office injured his arm and was diagnosed with a torn rotator cuff.   The good news for him was that he found an attorney that was able to secure benefits for him.

The bad news is that his orthopedic doctor wants to do surgery and he’s not so sure that he wants to go through it.  Suddenly his lawyer isn’t giving the best customer service and he isn’t answering his question as to whether or not he has to have the surgery.

The answer is that under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, you can not be forced to have a surgery.  If you decline to do so, it should not effect your right to benefits in any way at all.

On the flip side, you can’t refuse medical care that isn’t invasive.  For example, if you refuse to do physical therapy, that isn’t a reasonable act on your part and it could result in your benefits being suspended or terminated.

But something like shoulder surgery can’t be forced upon you.  In this case, if the caller declines the surgery then his doctor will have to decide if alternative treatment is available or if that is as good as he’s going to get.

When you can’t get any better, that’s called being at maximum medical improvement or MMI.  If that happens, most likely the doctor would discharge him with permanent restrictions.  If the employer can accommodate them, then the workers will return on a light duty basis.  If they can’t then vocational rehabilitation will take place.  This involves a job counselor helping you look for new work that you can physically perform.

If the new job doesn’t pay as much as the old one does then you’d get paid 2/3 of the difference, tax free until you turn at least 67.  If it does then you can still get a settlement.

So there’s a lot to think of both medically and legally before you have surgery.  It’s a shame for this caller that he hired someone who isn’t delivering good service or information.  Because when you are hurt on the job, that alone can be a big stressor.  You don’t need a lazy lawyer making it worse.