The Illinois House and Senate recently voted on a bill that would result in the automatic denial of workers’ compensation claims for workers guilty of reckless homicide. This legislation was drafted in response to a recent claim by an Illinois State Trooper, Matt Mitchell, who filed a claim seeking benefits for injuries that he sustained as a result of an automobile crash that he caused while on duty.
The car accident occurred when he was responding to an emergency call. Mitchell was talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone and responding to emails when he lost control of his police cruiser, which was traveling in excess of 100 mph. The vehicle jumped the median and collided head on with another car, killing its teenage occupants, Kelli and Jessica Uhl.
He later pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and reckless driving and subsequently resigned from the force. A civil suit is pending.
In an earlier post, we reported that members of the victims’ family were outraged at the thought that Mitchell could receive workers’ compensation benefits despite the fact that he had plead guilty to crimes related to the accident. Members of the family lobbied for the passage of this legislation and testified before a Senate committee in support of this bill.
Last week, the bill, HB2607, was unanimously approved by votes in the Illinois House and Senate last week.
Since we last discussed this matter, Mitchell’s workers’ compensation claim was denied and, as explained in this STLToday.com article, future claims of this type will be precluded if the bill becomes law:
Mitchell’s claim was denied in February by a state arbitrator, citing case law that says claims can be denied if the claimant was injured while engaging in “quasi-criminal” behavior. Mitchell is seeking a review of that decision. Under the new bill, his claim couldn’t have been filed in the first place because of the reckless homicide conviction.