» Changes to Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Laws Did Not Go Far Enough, But Others Disagree

Changes to Illinois’ Workers’ Compensation Laws Did Not Go Far Enough, But Others Disagree

Chicago, IL (Law Firm Newswire) May 28, 2014 – Proponents of changes to Illinois' workers' compensation laws say that reforms passed in 2011 did not go far enough.

Newly proposed legislation would exempt employers from paying for injuries suffered while traveling to work if the worker is not traveling specifically for work purposes. This and other changes are needed, proponents say, to reduce workers' compensation insurance costs. Not everyone agrees.

“The problem with saying that these changes will reduce insurance premiums is that it has not been borne out by the evidence,” indicates Robert Briskman, a Chicago workers' compensation attorney. “After the 2011 reforms, the National Council on Compensation Insurance recommended that insurance companies lower their premiums by 14 percent, but the insurers refused to do so.”

Briskman says that if employers want lower premiums, they should focus on regulating insurance premiums, not on limiting the rights of injured workers.

The proposed legislation, introduced by state Sen. Kyle McCarter (R, Lebanon), would allow workers to receive compensation only if their injury “arises out of and in the course of” the worker's employment and “while he or she is actively engaged in the duties of employment.”

A recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court addressed this issue in a specific set of circumstances, deciding against the worker. Gerald Daugherty, a Springfield pipefitter, obtained temporary employment at a Rock Island County power plant. He rented a motel room rather than commute 200 miles from his home. On the way to work, he was severely injured when the car in which he was riding hit a patch of ice and crashed. The state Supreme Court ruled that the worker was not traveling for work because he made a personal decision to take the job with an understanding of the travel that would be involved.

The proposed legislation was introduced before the Supreme Court's ruling. In addition to limiting the circumstances in which a worker may be compensated for injuries sustained while traveling for work, lawmakers seek to set a new standard for causation. Proponents say that these standards will require benefits to be more directly linked to the cause of a work injury.

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