Tag Archives: Illinois

Statute of Limitations on Workers’ Compensation Claim in Illinois

You were injured in an accident at work in Illinois. Perhaps your injuries did not seem to be serious at the time. You may have kept right on working. You may not have missed any work time at all.

It may be that your employer did not want you to file a workers’ compensation claim. Your employer may have threatened you if you filed a claim.

Claim not filed

At any rate, for one reason or another, you did not file a workers’ compensation claim. Now, a lot of time has passed since the accident took place at work. You may be having physical problems that you believe were brought about by the accident. You may have wound up having medical bills and expenses as a result of the accident at work in Illinois. You may have missed work because of injuries you received from the accident.

Some questions you may now have are, “Have I waited too long? Can I still file a workers’ compensation claim for my accident? Is it too late? What is the law in Illinois?”

The first thing that has to be answered is, “Did you let your employer know about the accident and your injuries within 45 days from the time that the accident took place?” If you did not, you may have forfeited your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits. If you notified your employer about the accident and your injuries within 45 days of the accident, you may still be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Statute of Limitations

The Statute of Limitations is a time deadline that you have for filing a personal injury claim. In Illinois, the Statute of Limitations is 2 years from the date of an accident. This means that you have 2 years from the date that an accident happened in which you were the injured party to file a personal injury claim in circuit court.

In regard to filing a workers’ compensation claim in Illinois, it is a little different. The Statute of Limitations in Illinois for filing a workers’ compensation claim is 3 years from the date of the accident at work or 2 years from the date that you last received workers’ compensation benefits. The determining factor is which one of these came later.

Repetitive trauma

In the instance of making a claim for a “repetitive trauma,” determining the Statute of Limitations may be much more difficult. In the case of a repetitive trauma, it is extremely important to determine the correct beginning date. Even if you continue working with a repetitive trauma injury, it is not the last day that you work that is the beginning of your Statute of Limitations. It is the day in which your injury and its involvement with your job became apparent.

Even if you think it is too late, that you have missed your deadline, you really ought to talk to a workers’ compensation attorney. You may still be able to file a claim. There may still be hope. A workers’ compensation attorney will give you the best advice on what options are available to you.

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California remains hotbed of workers’ comp issues

Illinois’ workers’ comp system finds new way to make news: deny a cheap headset


Longtime California residents may be wondering “What the heck happened to our state?”

Who could blame them, given one public scandal after another, for years on end?

Funds voted toward California fraud probes

A recent piece in the North County Times addresses worker’s comp fraud:

Funding to fight workers’ compensation fraud slightly increased this year despite a tough state budget climate and a limp economy.

On Tuesday, State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones recommended a grant of $4,861,584 to investigate and prosecute workers’ compensation fraud for San Diego County’s district attorney office. That’s about $36,000 more than what the county received last year, according to Dave Lattuca, the chief of the insurance fraud division for the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office.

Riverside County will receive a grant of $1,463,732.

This year’s grant to San Diego County is the second-highest funding level recommended to a district attorney’s office in the fiscal year that began July 1, according to Jones’ office.

The state urged $5.7 million for Los Angeles County to fight workers’ compensation fraud —- the most of California’s 36 counties. Riverside County ranked No. 6 with its award.

In total, the state insurance commissioner announced $32 million in grants to fight fraud throughout California —- slightly higher than last fiscal year’s total of $31 million, according to Dave Althausen, a spokesman for Jones.

Revised contract: a ‘brawl’ between providers and carriers?

A July 11 report from Insurance Journal calls into question whether injured workers are the focus that they should be:

A controversy in the California workers’ compensation market over a revised provider contract threatens to erupt into an all-out legal brawl as doctors for injured workers and applicants’ attorneys take aim at the state’s largest carrier.

The nonprofit State Compensation Insurance Fund, California’s carrier of last resort, has drawn intense criticism over its newly implemented medical provider network (MPN) contract.

State Fund, as the carrier is known, has stood by the recent changes, saying patients will benefit from the contract revisions, all of which it says were made following state law.

However, the California Society of Industrial Medicine and Surgery (CSIMS) and the California Applicants’ Attorneys Association (CAAA) decry the contract as fraught with legal deficiencies and ethical issues that pose harm to employees at workplaces operated by State Fund’s roughly 180,000 policyholders.

CSIMS, which represents doctors who treat workers’ compensation patients, described the State Fund MPN contract as a “heavy-handed” attempt at contract medicine.

In expressing the organization’s “grave concerns,” CSIMS Executive Vice President Carlyle Brakensiek said the contract compels doctors to restrict injured workers’ right to treatment.

Illinois’ system back in the news

Regular readers know we’ve been covering the scandal-ridden Illinois workers’  comp system; among our more recent updates was this post about the Menard prison facility.

More recently, the Belleville News-Democrat has done it again, that is, scooped every other news organization, this time about a worker who was denied a simple set of cheap headphones. Gotta tell you, if I were the local, nearby AP Bureau Chief, I’d assign a reporter to this Illinois workers’ comp agency. The BND.com folks are likely to win beaucoup awards for this ongoing coverage.

OK, back to news from BND.com: “Prison clerk’s lack of headset costly to taxpayers — $128,424 in medical bills so far”:

Prison finance clerk Angela Grott complained to her supervisors that file drawers at her work station jammed, the computer keyboard was set too high and her chair was hard to move, according to state workers’ compensation records.

While Grott stated these factors contributed to pain in her neck and shoulder area, she testified during a Dec. 14 workers’ compensation hearing that it was primarily the lack of a headset for the telephone at her desk at the Menard Correctional Center that caused severe pain. She said this pain worsened because, not having a headset, she was forced to hold the telephone receiver in the crook of her neck for hours while typing on a keyboard.

Grott’s workers’ comp claim so far has resulted in a $128,424 medical bill that must be paid by public money because Illinois is self-insured.

While headsets were readily available close to the prison — one currently sells for $9.96 at the Chester Walmart — Grott testified at the hearing that her supervisors repeatedly rejected her requests to provide one or to ergonomically alter her work station.

Reached at her job at the prison, Grott said, “I have no comment.”

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Corrections said officials are waiting for headsets to arrive. They will then be given to any employee who wants one.

As you might surmise from the preceding, workers’ comp cases can get very involved in government problems that have nothing to do with obtaining prompt, thorough treatment for an injured worker.

We can help you find an attorney

Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources:

Workers compensation basics

Injury on the job

Updates from W. Va, Illinois–and a troubling case from Alabama

Woman broke wrist in fall at work, yet top state court ruled against her


Volunteer firefighters get state help

Good news from West Virgina, according to a June 20 piece from Insurance Journal, “West Virginia’s volunteer fire departments looking to offset anticipated increases in their workers’ compensation insurance premiums can turn to a website launched by the state auditor’s office.

“Auditor Glen Gainer’s office was tasked by the Legislature with developing a program to provide reimbursements to fire departments.

“Gainer said reimbursement forms are now available on his office’s website.”

We’ve been following the plight of the Mountain State’s numerous VFD outfits for some time, most recently in this installment.

Illinois AG acknowledges ‘reform’ fell short

Another story we’ve been following is the battle for workers’ comp reform in Illinois, most recently in the same post linked above. A June 19 editorial in the Belleville News-Democrat takes Attorney General Lisa Madigan to task for not publicizing the issue enough, even though she concedes the new legislation is not real reform:

A recently enacted reform bill isn’t going to change much because it doesn’t address the crux of the problem — causation. Incredibly, in Illinois, an injury covered by workers’ comp doesn’t have to be caused by work, it just has to possibly be a contributing factor.

“To say we’ve reformed the workers’ comp system is a gross overstatement,” Madigan told us.

So why didn’t Madigan publicly advocate for meaningful reform while the bill was in the spring legislative session?

Madigan frequently uses the bully pulpit to advocate for legislative and other changes, everything from cracking down on meth dealers to opening up public records.

This spring she championed bills to strengthen the prevailing wage, protect consumers when a car dealership shuts down, crack down on meth repeat offenders and others. She vigorously opposed a bill to allow automatic rate hikes for public utilities. She called for Apple and Google to address privacy issues and Pabst Brewery to lessen the alcohol level in its new drink Blast.

But not even one press release on workers’ comp reform, which she said is a top issue for Illinois.

More coverage and response can be found at the following links:

Alabama Supreme Court rules against injured grandmother

This next case, from Alabama, is one we find particularly disturbing due to the state Supreme Court’s ruling against an injured worker. However, it does show the importance of retaining a trained, experienced workers’ compensation attorney because the various laws and statutes can be so complicated and open to interpretation, especially if an injured worker makes statements that later come back to hurt the case.

Workers give up legal rights in return for coverage

To be sure, we don’t think any party involved should get away with gaming the system, whether it be employee, employer, medical provider, insurance carrier–or the authorities in charge of the system. That being said, we do believe in the fundamental precept of workers’ compensation, that workers injured on the job sign away their right to sue the employer in exchange for workers’ comp protection for injuries sustained while working and in the course of employment.

One attorney’s summation

From an Alabama attorney’s blog, a summary of the case, posted in April:

Last week, the Alabama Supreme Court issued it’s opinion in the case of Ex Parte Patsy Patton d/b/a Korner Store (In re Lana T. Brown v. Patsy Patton d/b/a Korner Store).  Ms. Brown worked as a cashier at the Korner Store, which is a gas station/convenience store.  She walked to the deli counter to refill her coffee cup, and when she began walking back to the front of the store, she “inexplicably fell, breaking her wrist”.  She filed a workers’ compensation claim, which was denied by Korner Store, contending that the fall was attributable to an idiopathic characteristic or was due to some unexplained, but not work related, cause.

The cause of injury: work as assigned? or work on the job?

In a bit of murky reporting, this Alabama TV station’s report does get one thing right: “The injured worker could not prove it happened because of the work she was assigned to do, and in turn the supreme court said the company would not be held responsible.”

Introduction of ‘idiopathic factors’

Here’s the crucial passage from the ruling itself:

“The principal ‘fault line’ that has been revealed by the application of the ‘arising out of’ requirement by Alabama courts is the distinction between accidents that are at least partially attributable to an affirmative employment contribution and those that are attributable solely to what are called ‘idiopathic’ factors, a term that ‘refers to an employee’s preexisting physical weakness or disease’ that is “ ‘peculiar to the individual” ’ employee. Ex parte Patterson, 561 So.2d 236, 238 n. 2 (Ala.1990). Thus, a fall may, under the appropriate circumstances, properly be deemed an accident arising out of employment․ In contrast, a fall may, under the appropriate circumstances tending to show an idiopathic factor, not be an accident arising out of employment․

‘She did not know why she fell’

According to this version of the ruling, the injured worker’s statements may have weighed against her:

The employee had noticed no hazardous material on the floor of the store where she fell at the time of her fall, nor is any such material apparent from the videographic recording of the fall, and she testified that she did not know why she fell. The employee’s injured wrist was later placed in a cast, and she returned to work the following day; she continued to work normally for the employer until leaving her employment in January 2005 to care for her grandchild, and the employee admitted that she did not believe that she was disabled from working should she choose to do so.

Lesson is, look for a really good attorney

What’s particularly galling is that this injured woman not only declined the scam-opportunity to “milk” the situation for extended time off and attendant benefits but also that she hopped right back to work the next day, on duty, ready to attend more customers of the store. Furthermore, she didn’t claim a long-term, debilitating injury. And it sounds as though she would’ve stayed at the store but her grandchild needed her more.

True, it’s not fair–at least reading from the various sources: From what I’ve read, Lana Brown should absolutely be compensated for her wrist injury.

However, the takeaway here is not that the system is bucked against you, so just give up.

No, the message is this: None of the states have perfected a fair way to always come to the correct decision in cases of workplace injury; therefore, you need to know that compatible, trained and experienced attorneys are available to give you legal advice and counsel through a maze of rules and regulations.

We can help you find an attorney

Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources:

Workers compensation basics

Injury on the job

AIG settlement grows, declined by some rivals; Illinois debate continues on divisive workers’ comp legislation

Following up on our post of Dec. 28, we see that the settlement in the AIG workers’ compensation case has trebled in scope. In Illinois, cases mentioned in that Dec. 28 post and in our Dec. 30 piece are gaining momentum, too.

AIG case more triples in proposed cost

Last month the AIG settlement for under-reporting workers’ comp premiums was described as reaching nearly $150 million in fines, taxes and related assessments. Competitors and various authorities contend the nearly $2 billion in mistated costs not only hurt rival insurers but also allowed AIG to dodge payments it should have made.

According to a Jan. 7 piece at Bloomberg.com, “American International Group Inc., recipient of a $182.3 billion U.S. government rescue, agreed to pay $450 million to rivals to settle claims it shortchanged industry-funded pools that insure injured workers.

“Travelers Cos. and Hartford Financial Services Group are among the seven competitors that will receive the money, New York-based AIG said in a proposed settlement filed yesterday in Chicago. Liberty Mutual’s Safeco subsidiary filed a lawsuit in 2009 accusing AIG of ‘long-term fraudulent underreporting,’ seeking more than $1 billion. Liberty Mutual, which was seeking class-action status for the case, wasn’t included in the settlement.”

Some parties decline settlement

Another Jan. 7 article, from Rueters, posted at CNBC.com, explains more about parties to the settlement–and those that have so far declined to settle: “The civil lawsuit was filed in mid-2009 by two firms, Safeco Insurance of America . . . and Ohio Casualty Insurance  . . . , on behalf of a group of insurance companies and alleged a $1 billion workers’ compensation under-reporting scheme at AIG.

“However, the proposed settlement was instead reached between AIG and seven other insurers that were among those affected by AIG’s conduct in the 1980s and 1990s and excludes Safeco Insurance and Ohio Casualty, both units of Liberty Mutual Insurance.”

Spokesman: Unfortunate that Liberty refuses ‘fair and reasonable settlement’

The article also quotes an AIG spokesperson, singling out Liberty Mutual’s recalcitrance as being against the “best interest” of members of the class-action suit: ” ‘It is unfortunate that Liberty is refusing to participate in this fair and reasonable settlement. As the seven other settling insurers have recognized in seeking to intervene in the action, Liberty’s preference to continue litigating is not in the best interests of the class members,’ AIG spokesman Mark Herr said in an email to Reuters.”

As we reported in preceding posts, it is now known that AIG had a longstanding practice of such under-reporting, in an attempt  “to evade state insurance taxes and residual market obligations.”

According to a Forbes.com piece, AIG has decided on a plan to issue warrants for its stock–which has recovered into the low $60 range since plunging in 2008–in the ongoing pursuit of being able to repay its taxpayer bailout of more than $180 billion.

Illinois begins ‘official probe’ of Menard facility

In Illinois, “[s]tate  insurance fraud investigators have opened an official probe of the Menard Correctional Center, where hundreds of guards and others have filed for or received taxpayer-funded settlements for ‘repetitive trauma’ they say was mainly caused by operating heavy cell locking mechanisms,” according to a Jan. 5 article at BND.com, the online version of the Belleville News Democrat.

In other words, there’s so many carpal-tunnel claims because the cell doors are too heavy? Makes you wonder how the warden qualified–but as it turns out, his lawyer says the warden was injured while on the job as a police officer, before being hired by the state to run the Menard facility. Also interesting is the number of state-paid, workers’ comp arbitrators who have their own claims, including the one who was involved in the case of the state trooper who crashed into the vehicle of two teenage girls who died:

Records show that some repetitive trauma awards for wrist and elbow injuries totaled more than $100,000. Menard warden David Rednour, 35, received $75,678 for a repetitive trauma injury his lawyer said actually occurred when he worked as a police officer before he was hired by the state in 2006.

Nearly one in four of the state’s 32, $115,800 per year workers’ compensation arbitrators or hearing officers, have filed for or received an award including for repetitive trauma, records show.

They include Jennifer Teague, the arbitrator in the case [in which] former Illinois state trooper Matt Mitchell is seeking an award for leg and other injuries.

Proposed legislation decried as unfair to workers

In the move to overhaul Illinois’ workers’ comp system, which as the nation’s third most costly is criticized as anti-business, State “Representative John Bradley . . . [ on Friday, January 7, 2011] filed House Amendment Number 2 to SB 1066.  This amendment is scheduled to be heard on Sunday, January 9 at 2 p.m. in the House Executive Committee,” according to this Jan. 8 post at ChicagoNow.com, a site with job hunting news and tips.

An opinion piece, the blog post urges readers to contact the legislature and ask for a vote against the measure; five points are highlighted as the major disadvantages to workers if the bill is enacted–here’s an excerpt of those points:

1)Severe restriction on choice of medical care.  This legislation limits the injured worker’s right to choose a doctor by forcing them to visit the doctor the company chooses first.

2) Utilization review — creates presumption in favor of UR which will be almost impossible to overcome.  It takes away treating doctors discretion to determine the best treatment for an injured worker.

3) Wage Differential — Significant caps (67 years of age or 5 years) and reviewable for economic change 4 times per year. . . .  These workers no longer have the ability or opportunity to earn the wage they once did.

4) Reduction of Medical Fee Schedule as well as other provisions designed to deny access to doctors chosen to treat work injuries . . . .  This reduction will result in fewer doctors wanting to treat patients on worker’s compensation.

5) This legislation is an attempt to shift the cost of the workplace injuries to the taxpayers of Illinois.

Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources:

Workers compensation basics

Injury on the job

Filing a claim

Sometimes? The lines get blurred: recent cases from Illinois, North Carolina, Arkansas & New Mexico

Newspaper reportage has led to the announcement of an Illinois state probe into possible workers’ comp fraud at the Menard Correctional Center, where nearly 400 guards and workers–including the warden–have filed claims totaling nearly $10 million in three years. As discussed in a previous post, Illinois is in the middle of a workers’ comp debate, with one side denouncing proposed losses for injured workers while the other side claims the high cost of workers’ comp premiums deters new business from locating in the state.

According to a Dec. 30 story at the Belleville News-Democrat’s Web site, the chairman of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission told the paper that he was “surprised that with all the different agencies that are involved, that it’s taken you guys [i.e., the newspaper] to bring this to my attention. My eyes are wide open. … It’s hard for me to imagine it’s all kosher.”

According to the article, “More than 500 claims, including a $75,678 payment to the prison’s warden in June, have been filed since Jan. 1, 2008. Approximately 290 cases are pending. More than 230 prison workers contend they were injured not because of an accident but through repetitive trauma caused over years mainly by operating manual cell locking mechanisms. Carpal tunnel syndrome can result from repetitive trauma.

“After learning the results of a News-Democrat investigation that revealed these figures, Mitch Weisz, chairman of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, said Wednesday he has called for an official investigation of the Menard claims by the state’s Department of Insurance and has contacted the agency’s Director Michael McRaith.”

We’ve discussed before the degree of differences among state rules and regulations governing workers’ comp coverage, noting that in some states workers are covered while traveling to and from work although other states are more restrictive. This is but one reason to consider hiring a trained, experienced attorney for complex, adversarial injury cases.

Today we have plenty of examples that illustrate such differences.

In North Carolina, an ex-Marine who became a public school principal known for visible, anti-gang efforts was injured by a shotgun blast to the face on the way to work at Robeson County’s Fairmount Middle School. According to this Dec. 30 story, former principal James Hunt was subsequently awarded workers’ comp payments for the shooting injuries by the state Industrial Commission.

So…does the school district hold a rally to commission a statue of Hunt?


Here’s the lede: “Robeson County Schools has appealed a state commission’s ruling that a principal who was shot last year on his way to school deserves workers’ compensation for his injuries.”

Here’s the finale: “School district lawyers maintain that taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay compensation because the shooting happened while Hunt was away from school property.”

Makes you wonder what the district will do if a coach or athlete gets hurt in an away game.

Now, in Arkansas, the state Supreme Court had to get involved in the case of a worker who got tired waiting in line with everybody else who simply wanted their paychecks. She decided to smoke outside while the line thinned out and apparently got hurt in a fall on her way back to the paycheck line.

The original workers’ comp panel ruled the injury compensable–after all, she was on break–but the medical provider appealed.

From the Dec. 13 piece at Insurance Journal: “The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission originally found for Woods, deciding that her injury was compensable. But Jonesboro Care & Rehab Center appealed, maintaining that she was not performing employment services when she sustained the injury. Instead the Center asserted ‘that at the time of her injury, appellee was taking a personal break that did not directly or indirectly advance her employer’s interest,’ the Court explained. The appeals court sided with the Center.

“The [Supreme] Court ruled Woods was doing work at the time of her injury — by remaining on site until she could pick up her paycheck, as required by her employer. It vacated the decision of the appeals court and affirmed the ruling of the Workers’ Compensation Commission.”

Our last case of the day involves alcohol consumption, and, curiously, the ruling hinges on performance criteria rather than the rules ‘n regs of what legally constitutes “being drunk.”

Merely judging from the Dec. 29 Insurance Journal story, it seems as though the Las Cruces, NM, trash-truck worker may have been drinking either before-shift or during. At some point, in what sounds like a fairly intricate maneuver to extract “a trash bin that was stuck in the truck hopper,” Edward Villa:

. . . reached for the chain, he lost his balance, fell and seriously injured himself.

The city argued that on the day of the accident, Villa’s blood-alcohol level was 0.12, over the New Mexico legal driving limit. However, in assessing Villa’s intoxication for the purpose of recovery benefits, the workers’ compensation judge noted that although Villa was intoxicated, his co-worker and supervisor did not notice a problem with Villa’s behavior.

“[T]he fact that workers was inebriated … does not resolve the legal effect of it on his claim for benefits,” the WCJ concluded. Thus, the judge issued a 10 percent penalty for being intoxicated, and said the state had to award the remaining 90 percent of workers’ comp benefits.

Bottom line, I guess, Villa was not driving. So how or why would driving rules apply?

Then there’s the problem with co-workers’ testimony about Villa’s behavior.

From getting shot in the face, to falling off a garbage truck…strange world.

Frequently enough, a worker’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources:

Workers compensation basics

Injury on the job

Filing a claim

Ex-trooper who copped probation for homicide pleas seeks benefits

Imagine a state trooper racing down a crowded, post-holiday Interstate, en route to the scene of a crash, his vehicle’s speed sometimes exceeding 120.

Now, rather than the intensely focused concentration one might expect from a trained high-speed driver, think instead of the trooper driving while e-mailing another officer and cell-phoning his girlfriend.

Teens’ car bisected

If that sounds like a formula for tragedy, you’re on track. The result was the deaths of two teenage sisters, Jessica (18) and Kelli Uhl (13), killed when former Illinois State trooper Matt Mitchell’s speeding vehicle jumped the median on I-64 and sliced through the car they were in.

We’ve covered some unusual workers comp cases, from the unusual to the offbeat to the wacky–even bizarre. But Mitchell’s case takes the discussion to a different level.

The crash occurred in 2007, the day after Thanksgiving, and Mitchell spent nearly two years suspended from duty but drawing full salary–nearly $70,000.

Guilty plea nets 30 months’ probation

As reported Sept. 22 at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Web site, “He eventually pleaded guilty of two counts of reckless homicide in a deal for 30 months on probation. He also resigned from the Illinois State Police, which was planning a disciplinary case against him.”

Latest development sparks outrage

Then last week the ex-trooper filed for workmen’s compensation for his own injuries sustained in the wreck.

Observers are outraged. Not only will taxpayers ultimately foot the bill surely to come from the pending wrongful deaths suit, but because the trooper was a state employee, his workmen’s compensation benefits will also come from state coffers.

Now, this is sort of an inverse proposition to  the volunteer firefighter we discussed, whose case hinged on whether he could be called to duty by circumstances–that is, by being or coming onto the scene of an accident–or whether he could only be called officially to duty by receiving a call through channels (by the dispatcher).

On duty? No doubt

No, in Mitchell’s case there is no doubt he was on duty. According to a southwestern Illinois news outlet, that question was even legally finalized in civil court:

During the hearing on the civil suit filed by the Uhls’ parents in the Illinois Court of Claims, the Illinois attorney general, who represented the state police in the suit, signed a stipulation agreeing that, despite his plea to the criminal charges, Mitchell was acting in his capacity as a state trooper when the accident occurred.

“That admission seals the deal,”[said Rod] Thompson [a Belleville worker’s compensation attorney]. “That’s all you need to get a compensible [sic] injury.”

Negligence not an argument

According to the bnd.com account, the state’s only out would have been to be able to prove that Mitchell was not on the job and that three lawyers agree he is due to receive the workers comp bennies. Furthermore, even Regular Joe employees, under state law, can be negligent or even high and still qualify for benefits:

“If the accident occurred in the furtherance of the function of your employer, even if it was done in a negligent manner, it can be compensible [sic] under the Worker’s Compensation Act,” said Rod Thompson, a Belleville worker’s compensation attorney.

“If an accident arises out of the course and scope of a person’s employment, the employee is entitled to worker’s compensation, despite their poor judgment,” said Bruce R. Cook, a Belleville lawyer who handles worker’s compensation cases.

Ian Elfenbaum, a Chicago lawyer, said an employee can be under the influence of drugs or alcohol when an injury occurs and still collect worker’s comp benefits.

“You can be reckless and even negligent while working in the course and scope of your employment,” said Elfenbaum. “Negligence or recklessness on the part of the employee is not a defense for the employer.”

‘Permanency’ awards

Mitchell  received what were reported as severe leg injuries.

His injury might also qualify him for permanent benefits, according to the Post-Dispatch. “Under Illinois law, an injured worker may be entitled to a “permanency’ award, said Michael Korein, a personal injury attorney who practices in East St. Louis. The amount is determined by the type and degree of permanent injury.”

In effect, Mitchell’s portion of the incident alone could cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars–in non-taxable benefits–not to mention any award in the wrongful death lawsuit.

The bnd.com piece contrasts the state’s intent toward injured workers against Cook’s regard for the ex-trooper’s claim: “Illinois worker’s compensation was designed to allow injured workers easier access to health benefits and awards, Cook said, adding that ‘this claim is an insult to taxpayers and those two girls’ families.’ ”

Frequently enough, a workmen’s compensation case may be so complex as to demand legal representation. However, sometimes what seems like a cut-and-dried situation to an injured worker may result in a smaller award than envisioned–or even a denial. Have you, a friend or a loved one been injured on the job? Whether you’re merely seeking answers about your rights or believe a lawsuit may be necessary, be sure to seek counsel with attorneys trained and experienced in workers’ compensation. Here’s some resources:

Workers compensation basics

Injury on the job

Filing a claim