October 29, 2020

Workers’ Compensation Reform: Altering a Worker’s Ability to Recover For On the Job Injuries

The workers’ compensation system is a tradeoff. In exchange for timely payments, workers give up their common law right to sue their employer for injuries they sustained on the job. Employers, shielded by the possibility of expensive litigation, are required to insure against the possibility of job related injuries. Most employers purchase commercial insurance, but they can self-insure in some situations. The system–designed to limit an employer’s exposure to liability and therefore increase their bottom line- is being attacked.

Employers are not arguing for a repeal of the Illinois Workers Compensation Act, undoubtedly because they receive some benefit from limiting their liability. However, they do claim that Illinois’ current system places too much of the financial burden on the employer. That is why many Illinois employers, including Peoria-based Caterpillar, supported the recent Senate bill that was voted down by Democrats on April 14, 2011. Championed by Rep. Sen. Kyle McCarter of Lebanon, the bill, most notably, would have required injured workers to prove that their workplace is at least 50 percent responsible for the injury or illness. Regardless of the possible merits of the change in the law, it would have drastically changed an injured worker’s ability to be compensated for his injury.

Although the Democrats thwarted this particular bill, both sides of the aisle are looking for some kind of reform, and the Democrats have their own proposals. In fact, Gov. Pat Quinn, in addition to other proposals, has called for a 30 percent cut in rates paid to medical providers. With a similar proposal from the Republicans in the Senate, it is likely that the two sides will find some common ground before the end of the term in June. It remains to be seen what that final bill will look like, but it is evident that the rights of an injured worker in Illinois will likely change before 2011 is over.

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