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  • Anti-worker Legislation introduced in 99thGeneral Assembly

    Notoriously anti-worker (and anti-workers’ compensation) legislators have introduced proposed legislation with the goal of radically altering the Workers’ Compensation Act. Rep. Dwight Kay (R-112) and Senator Kyle McCarter (R-54) each offered similar legislation in February designed to limit the rights of workers injured on the job. The most damaging are discussed below. Follow the link to read the actual legislation.

    SB 0770/HB 2418 – Attacks the Causation Standard and Limits Rights of Traveling Employees

    Requires that an accident be the “major contributing cause” and “more than 50% responsible” for the injury AND excludes accidents if the hazard or risk the employee was exposed to is one that the employee would have been exposed to outside the employment.

    A traveling employee must be “actively engaged in the duties of employment” to recover benefits if injured.

    What would happen if this legislation became law?

  • Work Comp costs drop, so why are employers still complaining?

    Every two years the State of Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services conducts a study on workers’ compensation insurance premiums.  In October 2014, they found that Illinois experienced the steepest reductions in workers’ compensation insurance premiums in the country in the last two years.  The study estimates that Illinois rates dropped 24 percentage points from 2012 to 2014, whereas the national median was a reduction of only 2 percent. 

    In September, 2014, the National Council on Compensation Insurance reported a 19.3% drop in loss costs since 2011.  This is a savings of more than $450 million since the amendments to the Workers’ Compensation Act were passed in 2011.  For 2015, the Department of Insurance recommended a 5.5% cut in rates.  This is the third straight year a rate reduction has been recommended.  If insurance companies had followed the NCCI’s recommended rate reductions, employers could have released an additional $1 billion in premium decreases.  However, insurance companies are not required to make the recommended reductions in premiums.

    If Illinois has experienced nearly a 20% reduction in loss costs, why are business associations calling for more “reform”?  This would only take away more rights from injured workers and increase the insurance industry’s profits.  Real reform should promote transparency in the insurance industry to determine why the reduction in loss costs is not being translated into even further rate reductions for employers.  Given the lack of premium oversight, workers’ compensation insurance remains the second most profitable line of insurance after auto insurance.  Before the legislature contemplates taking away the rights of injured workers, they should mandate the insurance industry pass the cost savings along to employers by way of further premium reductions.

    So what is the answer: Insurance Reform! Injured workers and medical professionals have accepted steep decreases in benefits and reimbursement in order to lower costs for business. The next step to insure rate reductions keep pace with lowered costs is regulation of the insurance industry to assure that they pass along cost savings to consumers.

  • Decreases in Settlement Values

    The more time that passes since the Workers’ Compensation reforms of 2011, the more the effects of those reforms become apparent. One category of workers’ compensation benefits that have seen a substantial decrease are permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. As you may know, you generally are entitled to receive three different categories of benefits when you sustain a work-related injury: 1) medical benefits, 2) off work benefits (TTD), and 3) permanent disability benefits.

    “Permanency” is a term used in workers’ compensation to represent the monetary compensation an injured worker is entitled to based on the permanent injury that he/she suffered. The “permanency” portion of a workers’ compensation claim is generally the lump-sum settlement or award an injured worker receives at the end of the case. The 2011 reforms changed the method by which a workers’ compensation Arbitrator must decide how to calculate and determine the permanency (or value) of a workers’ compensation claim.

    We have generally seen a substantial decrease in permanency awards as a result of the changes included in the 2011 reforms. It is now more important than ever to take action to protect yourself and to ensure you receive the compensation you are entitled to should your case proceed to hearing. The best way to improve the chances of a fair permanency award starts as soon as you sustain a work-related injury. When seeking medical treatment, it is vital to be very clear and detailed to your doctors when explaining both how the accident occurred, and what you are feeling. As you progress through your medical treatment, it is always important to tell your doctors exactly what you are feeling, and what limitations you are experiencing. Never assume that your doctor knows what you are feeling, or that he or she will document all of your complaints.

    Providing this information to your doctor is important because one of the factors an Arbitrator will consider is evidence of your disability, your testimony, corroborated by the treating medical records. This means that the symptoms and complaints you provide to the Arbitrator will be given weight only if they also are contained in your medical records.

    The details you provide to your doctor should not be limited to the pain or stiffness or other physical complaints you have. You should also make an effort to tell the doctor how these physical complaints are affecting your everyday life including the effects on your ability to perform job activities and activities of daily living. For example, if your wrist hurts, do not simply tell the doctor that your wrist hurts. Instead, try to be as detailed as possible as to how the pain affects your daily life. Does it hurt when you brush your teeth? Does it hurt when you drive? Can you button a shirt by yourself? What things could you do without issue before that now give you difficulty? You should always be honest with yourself and your doctor, but never assume that your doctor knows how your injury is affecting you. If you are detailed, informative and honest, you will greatly increase your chances of receiving fair compensation for a work-related injury.

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