Ridge & Downes - Law Firm

  • Truck Driver: Employee or Independent Contractor?

    The most abused aspect of the Workers’ Compensation Act is the misclassification of employees by companies who call the workers “independent contractors” to try and circumvent paying injured workers medical benefits, temporary total and permanency benefits. Signing a contract that calls a worker an independent contractor does not negate Court rulings. Several factors must be weighed to determine if a worker is covered by the Workers’ Compensation Act.

    The right to control the work and the nature of the work are the two most important considerations.

    The factors establishing an employment relationship are: requiring a pre-employment physical, drug test, orientation program, displaying the name of the company on the worker’s truck, requiring that the company be notified of any accident, and the ability to restrict the number of hours a worker can drive. Also, requiring that the worker call a dispatcher throughout the day and the right to discharge a worker for any reason, points to an employment relationship.

    The Court will examine the nature of the work performed by the worker in relationship to the general business of the company. The Courts have held that a worker, whose services form a regular part of the cost of the product, is presumptively within the area of intended protection of the Workers’ Compensation Act. The trucking company’s business is transporting machinery and product between sellers and buyers. The worker’s job was transporting the goods for the trucking customer’s business. The Courts have held that the worker is an employee of the company, even though he owns the trailer-tractor.

    There are more factors that weigh towards the employment relationship and other factors that weigh in favor of an independent contractor. This is a very complex issue so call if you have any questions.

  • Suing a Municipality

    When a personal injury occurs due to the fault of a municipality, such as a city, park district, township or county, you must have an experienced attorney on your side. Municipal entities enjoy immunities from most lawsuits in Illinois, primarily due to the Illinois Tort Immunity Act.

    The Act’s purpose is to immunize local public entities and employees from negligence in executing their public duties, with limited exceptions.

    One common exception is that the Act expressly eliminates immunity for acts amounting to “willful and wanton conduct,” thus exposing a public entity to liability for egregious conduct. The Act defines “willful and wanton conduct” as “a course of action which shows an actual or deliberate intention to cause harm or which, if not intentional, shows an utter indifference to or conscious disregard for the safety of others or their property.” There is no bright-line test for willful and wanton conduct. Whether a public entity’s acts constitute willful and wanton conduct depends on the facts of each particular case.

    The Illinois Tort Immunity Act is broad and applies “to every kind of local governmental body; including counties, townships, municipalities, municipal corporations, school districts, school boards, community college districts, community college boards, forest preserve districts, park districts, fire protection districts, sanitary districts, museum districts, library systems and many other local governmental bodies. It excludes the state or any office of the State. The immunities found in the Tort Immunity Act also protects “public employees” from liability from certain acts or omissions performed while working at their jobs.

    Because of the protection afforded by the law there are rigid steps to follow and deadlines to meet for an injury claim against a municipality, or other protected entity. Failure to follow these steps or meet a time limit can end an otherwise viable claim. It is important to have the benefit of a knowledgeable attorney from the very outset of your case. Suing a municipality or other public entity is much different than suing an individual or business. If you believe that your injury may be the result of negligence on the part of a municipality, please contact the experienced attorneys at Ridge & Downes as soon as possible.

  • Legislative Happenings on WC Reform

    As the 99th General Assembly regular session draws to a close on May 31, 2015, workers’ compensation “reform” has been a hot item on Governor Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda. On April 6, 2015, Governor Rauner released a 38-page detailed outline of his Turnaround Agenda. Workers’ Compensation “reform” was the first and most detailed proposal in his outline. Workers’ Compensation has become a bargaining chip in exchange for any increase in the state’s minimum wage and other worker-friendly legislation.

    In response, House Speaker Madigan convened a Committee of the Whole on May 5, 2015 to discuss the compensation received by injured workers. This rarely used format allowed the Representatives to examine how Governor Rauner’s proposals would impact the individual injured on the job. A number of speakers testified, including injured workers from both Illinois and neighboring states, so comparisons could be drawn between the various State’s systems. Representatives were able to ask questions from the witnesses.

    Several of Governor Rauner’s proposals were introduced on May 22, 2015 by Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno (R-Lemont) and House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs). State Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Belleville) presented floor amendments consistent with what the Governor wanted in his Turnaround Agenda in the House. Democrats unanimously voted against the proposed “reform” legislation while Republicans voted present or did not vote on this particular legislation.

    On May 27, 2015, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted down the Governor’s workers’ compensation reform bill. We will update you as the legislative session draws to a close through our email newsletters.

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