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Workers’ Compensation: Changing the System

Posted on in Workers’ Compensation

Illinois personal injury attorney,Lake County workers compnsation attorney, Illinois workers compensation lawyer,As part of an effort to spur job growth and decrease persistently high unemployment in Illinois, Governor Bruce Rauner wants to reform the state’s workers’ compensation system.

Gov. Rauner recently unveiled “The Illinois Turnaround,” a 44-point plan addressing maladies he sees in the economy, public schools and governmental structure. That proposal includes three workers’ compensations reforms. First, the plan would apportion occupational disease claims; for example, if a worker develops back pain, the Workers’ Compensation Commission may divide responsibility between the worker’s job and the worker’s weekend skydiving lessons. Governor Rauner also wants to make it harder for out-of-state workers to file a claim inside Illinois and tighten up the standards for determining a disability.

All these measures are designed to decrease workers’ compensation premium payments, which would theoretically attract out-of-state companies and give local enterprises more incentive to expand.

The Past and Present

Wisconsin passed the nation’s first workers’ compensation law about a hundred years ago, and other states quickly followed suit. These laws were part of the “grand bargain” between labor and management: workers agreed to forgo negligence suits if employers funded a no-fault insurance system that provided cash for lost wages, medical bills, and other out-of-pocket expenses. Most claims involve either a sudden trauma injury, like a slip-and-fall or a motor vehicle collision, or an occupational disease, such as joint pain or a repetitive stress disorder.

Some modern workers may wonder how this “bargain” between their great-great-great grandfathers is still legally binding. Rest assured that others are asking the same question.

The Future

The idea that workers’ compensation is the “exclusive remedy” for workplace injuries, except in limited circumstances, is increasingly coming under fire.

In January, an Oklahoma judge ruled that an injured worker could sue for negligence if the workplace injury was “foreseeable.” In order to sue outside workers’ compensation, most states, including Illinois, require that the worker prove the employer’s conduct was intentional. If allowed to stand, Pottawatomie County District Judge John. G. Canavan Jr.’s decision would make it much easier for injured worker to sue in court, where they may be eligible for non-economic damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering.

Other states, most notably Florida, are wrestling with these same questions. It may be only a matter of time before this type of reform, which Governor Rauner clearly does not sanction, comes to Illinois.

Whether it is before the Workers’ Compensation Commission or before a jury, our experienced Lake County workers’ compensation attorneys aggressively represent you, and help you get fair compensation for your injuries. We do not charge upfront legal fees if we take your comp case.
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