Tens of thousands of manufacturing jobs have left the Prairie State over the past several years, and high workers’ compensation costs may be one of the underlying reasons.
Illinois’ workers’ compensation costs are the highest in the Midwest and over five times higher than they are in neighboring Indiana, according to a recent study. This isn’t a coincidence, since before the Great Recession began in 2008, the state has lost over 90,000 high-risk manufacturing jobs and gained over 54,000 low-risk hospitality jobs. The lack of manufacturing jobs has also driven wages in this sector to the lowest level in the Midwest, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Efforts to reform the system and address the cost issue have not moved forward, largely for political reasons.
Workers’ compensation was forged from a “grand bargain” between labor and management nearly 100 years ago: in exchange for giving up their right to sue in court, workers obtained access to no-fault insurance benefits for economic damages related to workplace injuries.
Unfortunately, whenever politicians talk about “cutting costs” in workers’ compensation, that nearly always means:
Injured workers are entitled to cash benefits to compensate them for economic losses stemming from a trauma injury, like a broken bone, or an occupational disease, like carpal tunnel syndrome. “Economic losses” are generally defined as lost wages, prescription drugs, medical bills, physical rehabilitation costs, and other similar items.
Injured workers must promptly file claims to preserve their rights for recovery. If the victim and insurance company cannot agree to a settlement, the matter goes before an arbitrator, who normally conducts a review based largely on the medical records. At this phase, most claims are denied, either wholly or in part.
After arbitration, the claim proceeds to a hearing before a commission panel, which is very much like a trial. An attorney may call witnesses and make arguments on behalf of the injured worker. Unresolved cases then proceed to the Circuit Court of Appeals, and can then work their way through the judicial system.
Medical benefits are paid according to what is deemed “medically necessary,” and the insurance company nearly always challenges expenses on this basis. Lost wages are paid according to the type of disability:
The insurance company typically attempts to reduce the worker’s AWW as much as possible, in order to reduce benefits.
For a free consultation with a Schaumburg worker's compensation lawyer who is committed to maximum compensation for victims, contact our firm. We do not charge upfront legal fees in workers’ compensation matters.