Ridge & Downes - Law Firm

Changes to Hearing Locations

by James M. Ridge & Associates | Mar 01, 2012
An article explaining how the recent amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act have practically changed when and where your case can be heard.

As a practical matter, two of the biggest changes to come from last year’s Workers’ Compensation Act “reforms” were how often a case can be heard by an Arbitrator and where a case can be heard by an Arbitrator.

The beginning of 2012 brought many changes relative to an injured worker's ability to have either a permanency hearing or an emergency hearing (when the injured worker is off work and not receiving benefits or the injured worker's employer is refusing to pay for medical treatment associated with his or her injury) before an Arbitrator. The “New Act” makes hearings less accessible, geographically, to workers and also adds to the time it takes to have a hearing.

Under the “Old Act”, when an injured worker reached maximum medical improvement and was ready to go to hearing on his/her case, the pending case was set on the “status call” to get a hearing date every two months.  Under the “New Act”, cases come up on the “status call” every three months.  Although a one month difference does not seem extraordinary, it delays our ability to demand hearings for our clients in a timely fashion.  Furthermore, if the Arbitrator grants the defense attorney a continuance, we now must wait three months for a new trial date.

Similarly, under the “New Act” the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission eliminated several downstate hearing sites and merged them into existing hearing sites. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission now rotates downstate Arbitrators to different sites in three month time periods. Hearing sites are grouped into categories of three and each downstate Arbitrator cycles through three hearing cycles in three months. 

For example, three hearing locations that are grouped together are Rockford, Waukegan and Woodstock.  This means that an Arbitrator will spend January in Rockford, February in Waukegan and March in Woodstock.  In April, the Arbitrator will return to Rockford.  As an injured worker is assigned to an Arbitrator and hearing location this policy is causing the greatest problem for injured workers that are in need of emergency hearings. The injured worker must follow his/her assigned Arbitrator to the location where that Arbitrator is sitting at the time of their emergency hearing request.  A worker might be injured in Waukegan and have to drive to Rockford to have the assigned Arbitrator hear his/her case. This new procedure is causing additional undue hardships to the injured worker (not receiving ttd or medical benefits) who now has to spend extra time and money traveling to a distant hearing site. At this time we are pointing out these hardships to the Workers' Compensation Commission and working to obtain relief for our clients. If any changes are made, we will be sure to publicize them right away.

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