Many injuries (e.g., strains, burns, cuts) have an obvious relationship to a compensable accident. Consequently, determining WCB’s level of responsibility is relatively simple. However, there are other injuries which, because of their progressive nature or less obvious relationship to employment, thus require consideration of factors both in and outside employment which may have contributed to or caused the injury.
Take for instance a common condition that develops over time such as osteoarthritis (OA). Although not an inevitable part of growing older, the prevalence of OA tends to increase with age. However, the onset of OA can be substantially accelerated by work-related damage from physically demanding jobs. This means that a blue collar worker might experience the early signs of OA in their 30’s or 40’s instead of in their 50’s or 60’s when arthritis would normally present.
For illustrative purposes, let’s suppose a hardworking tradesman named Bill develops back aches at age 35. Bill works through the discomfort which seems to come and go, and never bothers to see a doctor about it. But flashing forward fifteen years, Bill now suffers from chronic back pain that causes numbness in the legs, insomnia, and severe strength loss. No longer able to work, he grudgingly submits a WCB claim knowing that his years of manual labour caused the unbearable pain. But when WCB adjudicates Bill’s claim for permanent disability due to a reportedly progressive condition, they’re apt to say that many people in their 50’s complain of back pain. And therefore, WCB may deny the claim due to a lack of evidence that proves work-relatedness.
Bill is astonished when he learns that WCB denied his claim. He desperately reattempts to convince the Board that the pain first emerged in his 30’s. His case worker will listen, and then he or she will insist on chart notes from a family doctor to substantiate the accelerated OA. In the absence of MD chart notes, how about a history of chiropractic, physio, massage? The weary tradesman tells WCB he never had time because he was too busy working. And WCB will tell the tradesman that his claim for benefits is denied because the back pain seems “organic”, that is, a natural and normal part of ageing.
At the very least, had Bill alerted his doctor even once, or sought occasional physio or chiro, the resulting paper trail could have sufficed to prove early onset OA and work-relatedness. But because there was no documentation to draw on, Bill will struggle to collect the benefits he so rightly deserves.
Bottom line: A paper trail is important for obtaining workers’ compensation benefits because it provides documentation of the injury or illness, and the events leading up to it. This documentation can include medical records, statements from witnesses, and other relevant information that can be used to support a claim for benefits.
The paper trail can be used to:
- Prove that your injury or illness is work-related
- Document the extent of your injury or illness
- Establish your right to benefits
- Provide evidence of loss of income
- Help you get the right medical treatment
- Help resolve disputes or appeals