Illinois Reforms Workers’ Compensation

On August 8, Ill. Governor Pat Quinn signed SB 1147, a bill preventing workers convicted of serious crimes from claiming workers’ compensation benefits for injuries resulting from those crimes.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. William Haine (D-Alton) and Rep. Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon), is effective immediately. Now, workers are unable to receive benefits or attorney fees for injuries sustained during a forcible felony, aggravated DUI, or reckless homicide.

The new law stems from a tragedy in 2007, when sisters Kelli and Jessica Uhl were killed when a state trooper hit their car. Trooper Matt Mitchell had been chatting on his cell phone and traveling at 126 miles per hour without official cause.

Mitchell, who pleaded guilty to reckless homicide, filed for workers’ compensation for injuries he had sustained in the crash. The claim, however, was denied, and the Uhl’s mother campaigned to prevent this from happening again.

With this new law in effect, a workers’ compensation claim may still be pursued at the conclusion of the criminal case, though an acquittal or dismissal of these charges does not automatically guarantee a suspect will receive benefits or attorney fees.

This year has seen some big changes for workers’ compensation in Ill. Earlier this summer, Gov. Quinn signed HB 1698, a comprehensive overhaul of the state’s workers’ compensation system. The bill is expected to save the state between $500 and $750 million dollars and prevent workers from claiming benefits because of injuries sustained by their own inebriation while on the job.

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