Illinois Workers’ Compensation Reform Not Yet Enacted

As we recently reported, reform of the Illinois workers’ compensation system is on the horizon and there has been a strong push by some legislators to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”) in ways that will reduce benefits for injured Illinois workers.

Although reform still appears to be inevitable, Illinois workers dodged a bullet last week, when the Illinois Senate rejected the proposed revisions to Republican-sponsored the Act. As we discussed in this prior post, one sticking point in the proposed legislation is whether workers should be required to prove that the injuries for which they seek benefits were caused by work-related activity. Opponents of that change assert that it would simply allow businesses to delay legitimate payment of claims to injured workers.

Although neither party was able to agree as to which changes needed to be made, as reported in this Business Week article, both parties were in agreement that in order to encourage companies to do business in Illinois, the Act needed to be revised:

Lawmakers, business groups and unions continue negotiations on a plan that both parties could support. Democrats and Republicans alike say Illinois must reduce the cost of workers’ compensation to improve the state’s business climate…

Businesses argue the system is so wide open that someone could seek compensation for an injury that actually occurred on the basketball court or at a previous job.

They also want tougher standards on judging a worker’s level of impairment, lower prices for medical service and more control over what doctor provides a worker’s care.

Democrats don’t entirely reject such changes, and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed a reform package that includes some of them. But Democratic senators said the plan offered by Republicans on Thursday still needs work.

It clear that change is imminent, but it’s difficult to predict what that change will be. The Senate will reconvene in May or June to reconsider the issue, so perhaps we’ll soon know the extent that the Act will be modified. And, we continue to hope that any changes that are made will balance the need to encourage businesses to remain in Illinois while continuing to protect and support injured workers.

Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 600-0000 and howard@ankinlaw.com.