Changes in Workers’ Compensation Law Affects Your Rights
Workers' Compensation - October 19, 2011
Changes to Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act
On June 28, 2011, Governor Quinn signed into law Public Act 94-0018, which made a number of significant changes to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act that will affects the rights of injured workers across Illinois in a number of ways. This article is meant to provide you with the basic information regarding these changes in your rights. Of course, there are many details each of these issues that we do not have room to cover here. If you have any questions regarding your rights, it is best to consult an attorney.
AMA Guidelines — Possible reduction in case value
Under the amended Act, the Workers’ Compensation Commission is supposed to base its determination of an injured workers’ level of partial disability on a number of factors, one of which is the guidelines established by the American Medical Association. These standards generally assign a significantly lower percentage of disability than have been awarded previously in Illinois workers’ compensation cases. It has yet to be seen how this will change decisions made by arbitrators and commissioners in workers’ compensation cases. It is important to note that theAMA guides are not the only factor that must be considered by the commission. The other factors include occupation, age, earning capacity, and evidence of disability corroborated by the treating medical records (essentially your doctor’s opinion). It will require quality legal work to prevent theAMA guidelines from reducing case value.
Employer PPO Programs — One choice of doctor or two?
The amended Act allows companies to establish their own PPO programs for workers’ compensation injuries. These programs are networks of doctors, chosen by the employer. Previously in Illinois, all injured workers had the right to choose two of their own doctors to treat with. Under the new law, if the employer has a PPO program in place, the PPO program will automatically count as the injured workers’ first choice of doctor even if you chose not to see one of their doctors. So now an injured worker can treat with doctors inside of the employers PPOprogram or have their choice of 1 doctor outside of the program. However, if you are injured on the job and your employer has not established a PPO program, then you will still have the 2 choices of doctor, just like under the old law. More on the Two Doctor Rule.
Wage Loss Limits — Another reduction in case value
Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, if a worker is injured and cannot return to their previous job, forcing them to take another lower paying job, the previous employer has to pay that worker 2/3 of the difference between their old income and their new, lower income. However, under the new law, that payment is limited to age 67 or 5 years after the date of the final workers’ compensation award. If the employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance legal action can be taken.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome — Reduced value for repetitive injury
The amended Act reduces the maximum amount of compensation a worker can get for a carpal tunnel injury caused by repetitive trauma. This new rule will likely reduce the awards given for repetitive trauma carpal tunnel claims.
The amended Act creates stricter rules, testing, and presumptions regarding intoxication at work. If intoxication caused the accident, the case is denied and the injured worker gets nothing. Presumption of intoxication exists if the injured workers’ blood alcohol level is .08 or higher. Any evidence of impairment from unlawful use of marijuana, controlled substances, or intoxicating compounds will deny a case. Also, if a worker refuses to submit to testing of blood, breath or urine, it will be presumed that intoxication caused the accident. Although this presumption can be overcome, it is obviously best to be careful in the first place.
For more information about workers’ compensation law or a free consultation, contact Mitchell Horwitz toll free at 800-594-7433.
Mitchell Horwitz is a practicing Illinois workers’ compensation lawyer and a managing partner with over 32 years of experience.