Ridge & Downes - Law Firm

  • Protect Workers' Rights

    Protect Workers' Rights

    As we’ve reported previously, Governor Rauner’s turnaround agenda listed workers’ compensation “reform” as one of his main goals. At this time, Governor Rauner is currently holding the State budget hostage in exchange for lowering or terminating the benefits of injured workers.

    Governor Rauner has indicated that structural reforms to our workers’ compensation system are needed to bring costs in line with other states. However, the Washington, D.C.-based Workers’ Compensation Research Institute, an insurance industry group, reported in October that medical payments per claim fall below those in Indiana and Wisconsin.  Crain’s reports that the WCRI study strengthens the arguments by Democrats who say more time is needed to determine the results of the 2011 reforms. The report says that the 2011 changes lowered the amount insurers spent per claim by 20 percent.

    ​Unfortunately workers’ compensation insurers have not passed along their savings in the form of lower premiums. This is in spite of the National Council on Compensation Insurance, an industry rate making agency, recommending a nearly 20% reduction for Illinois workers’ Compensation insurance rates.This would have saved Illinois employers over $1 BILLION in insurance premiums.

  • 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.

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