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  • Illinois Workers’ Compensation Reform Not Yet Enacted

    As we recently reported, reform of the Illinois workers’ compensation system is on the horizon and there has been a strong push by some legislators to amend the Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”) in ways that will reduce benefits for injured Illinois workers. Although reform still appears to be inevitable, Illinois workers dodged a bullet last week, when the Illinois Senate rejected the proposed revisions to Republican-sponsored the Act. As we discussed in this prior post, one sticking point in the proposed legislation is whether workers should be required to prove that the injuries for which they seek benefits were caused by work-related activity. Opponents of that change assert that it would simply allow businesses to delay legitimate payment of claims to injured workers. Although neither party was able to agree as to which changes needed to be made, as reported in this Business Week article, both parties were in agreement that in order to encourage companies to do business in Illinois, the Act needed to be revised: Lawmakers, business groups and unions continue negotiations on a plan that both parties could support. Democrats and Republicans alike say Illinois must reduce the cost of workers’ compensation to improve the state’s business climate… Businesses argue the system is so wide open that someone could seek compensation for an injury that actually occurred on the basketball court or at a previous job. They also want tougher standards on judging a worker’s level of impairment, lower prices for medical service and more control over what doctor provides a worker’s care. Democrats don’t entirely reject such changes, and Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn has proposed a reform package that includes some of them. But Democratic senators said the plan offered by Republicans on Thursday still needs work. It clear that change is imminent, but it’s difficult to predict what that change will be. The Senate will reconvene in May or June to reconsider the issue, so perhaps we’ll soon know the extent that the Act will be modified. And, we continue to hope that any changes that are made will balance the need to encourage businesses to remain in Illinois while continuing to protect and support injured workers. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • New Consumer Product Safety Complaint Website

    On March 11, 2011, the federal government launched a new website designed to keep consumers informed about dangerous products on the market. The website, a consumer products safety database, can be found here: www.saferproducts.gov. This site was created by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) pursuant to congressional mandate. The site allows consumers to submit reports of harm or risks of harm from products and also makes it possible for consumers to research safety information about products by searching the database of past consumer complaints, as explained in this Law.com article: The database allows people to file reports of injury or potential harm about household products, baby gear and more. In the coming weeks, as consumers file reports with the agency, people will be able to search for safety complaints about specific items they might have in their homes or want to purchase. According to a recent press release about the new website, another goal is to assist the CPSC in monitoring and regulating dangerous products: Reporting product safety incidents through this new, easy-to-use site will help CPSC identify product hazards quicker and provide consumers with safety information on products in and around the home. Some product manufacturers are unhappy with the website, arguing that it has the potential provide misleading or inaccurate information. Consumer advocates, however, lauded the new website as a step in the right direction, predicting it would prove to be a valuable resource for consumers. As with anything new, only time will tell who’s right and who’s wrong. Even so, this website has the potential to assist people  in making important decisions about the products that their families use and may well prove to be a resource for consumers that will prevent the unnecessary, preventable injuries that oftentimes result in personal injury lawsuits. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • Illinois House and Senate Approve Bill Banning Workers’ Comp For Employees Who Cause Accidents

    The Illinois House and Senate recently voted on a bill that would result in the automatic denial of workers’ compensation claims for workers guilty of reckless homicide. This legislation was drafted in response to a recent claim by an Illinois State Trooper, Matt Mitchell, who filed a claim seeking benefits for injuries that he sustained as a result of an automobile crash that he caused while on duty. The car accident occurred when he was responding to an emergency call. Mitchell was talking to his girlfriend on his cell phone and responding to emails when he lost control of his police cruiser, which was traveling in excess of 100 mph. The vehicle jumped the median and collided head on with another car, killing its teenage occupants, Kelli and Jessica Uhl. He later pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and reckless driving and subsequently resigned from the force. A civil suit is pending. In an earlier post, we reported that members of the victims’ family were outraged at the thought that Mitchell could receive workers’ compensation benefits despite the fact that he had plead guilty to crimes related to the accident. Members of the family lobbied for the passage of this legislation and testified before a Senate committee in support of this bill. Last week, the bill, HB2607, was unanimously approved by votes in the Illinois House and Senate last week. Since we last discussed this matter, Mitchell’s workers’ compensation claim was denied and, as explained in this STLToday.com article, future claims of this type will be precluded if the bill becomes law: Mitchell’s claim was denied in February by a state arbitrator, citing case law that says claims can be denied if the claimant was injured while engaging in “quasi-criminal” behavior. Mitchell is seeking a review of that decision. Under the new bill, his claim couldn’t have been filed in the first place because of the reckless homicide conviction. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • Illinois Supreme Court Changes Rules Regarding Medical Liens

    At the end of March, the Illinois Supreme Court handed down an important decision that dramatically changed the way that health care liens are handled in personal injury cases. Before Wendling v. Southern Illinois Hospital Services, Docket Nos. 110199, 110200 cons., the “common fund doctrine” applied to medical providers. Under this doctrine, medical providers were responsible for paying their share of the costs of recovering unpaid medical bills. The court explained the rationale behind the doctrine as follows: The common fund doctrine is an exception to the general American rule that, absent a statutory provision or an agreement between the parties, each party to litigation bears its own attorney fees and may not recover those fees from an adversary…Underlying the doctrine is the equitable concept that the beneficiaries of a fund will be unjustly enriched by the attorney’s services unless they contribute to the costs of the litigation. After analyzing applicable laws and case precedent, the court concluded that the common fund doctrine did not apply to health care liens. The rationale was based in large part on the conclusion that hospitals received no benefit from any judgment obtained in a personal injury case: (T)he Hospitals were not unjustly enriched because their claims were not contingent on the plaintiffs’ rights against a third party or the creation of a fund. The Hospitals’ claims existed irrespective of the outcome of the personal injury litigation…(T)he  (Health Care Services Lien Act) expressly allows a hospital to “pursue collection, through all available means, of its reasonable charges” that remain unpaid after satisfaction of the lien. 770 ILCS 23/45 (West 2008). Therefore, the Hospitals did not directly benefit from, and were not unjustly enriched by, the efforts of the plaintiffs’ attorneys. Accordingly, medical lien holders are no longer responsible for paying their share of the plaintiff’s attorneys fees.  Unfortunately, when all is said in done, this does not bode well for the majority of Illinois personal injury plaintiffs. In cases where the settlement is greater than medical expenses, which is the vast majority of cases, the injured plaintiff will ultimately receive a smaller portion of the settlement monies because of this decision. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • Proposed Illinois Legislation Would Decimate Workers’ Compensation

    Last week, Illinois Representative John Bradley introduced House Bill 1032. This proposed legislation would effectively repeal the Workers’ Compensation Act, leaving injured workers to fend for themselves in Illinois circuit courts. The legislation was spurred, in part, by the threat of Caterpillar, Inc., a company that is one of the largest manufacturers in the state. As explained in this Chicago Breaking Business blog post, Caterpillar’s CEO recently sent a letter to Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, in which he suggested that it cost his company too much money to do business in Illinois. He indicated that other states were courting the company to move its operations from Illinois and that it would do so unless Illinois cut back drastically on government spending and rolled back tax increases. Representative Bradley’s legislation is intended to address this perceived problem of the high cost of business in Illinois, by significantly reducing the ability of injured workers to collect benefits for their injuries, as explained in this Pantagraph.com blog post: The legislation, sponsored by state Rep. John Bradley and pending in the House, would repeal the Workers’ Compensation Act and put workers’ compensation cases into the state’s circuit courts. Business groups and Republicans who wish to see reform in the system want to see employees who are injured at work prove that their injury is primarily a result of work. If the injury was not related to work, then the employee should get no remedy. This concept is called “causation.” Under current law, Bradley said, if an employee is injured at work, he or she is compensated. The Marion Democrat said eliminating the system is the only way to bring causation in. However, as explained in the Pantagraph post, many oppose this bill, including the Illinois Chamber of Congress. Also opposing the legislation is the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, for the reasons explained by its spokesman: “The workers’ compensation system is a bedrock of fairness for workers who are injured on the job,” said spokesman Anders Lindall. “The system ensures that a family isn’t bankrupted by medical bills or lost wages because of an injury suffered at work.” At the end of the day, workers’ compensation reform is inevitable and benefits will likely be reduced. However, hopefully, for the sake of Illinois workers, there will be a fair compromise reached that balances the perceived savings resulting from the change[READ MORE…]

  • NFL Players Prevail in Workers’ Comp Dispute

    It’s safe to say that being a professional football player in the National Football League isn’t exactly an injury-free way to make a living. And, a serious injury can quickly put an end to what was once a very profitable career. It’s understandable then, that being justly compensated for on-the-job injuries is an issue of importance for NFL players. Not surprisingly, there have been disagreements over the years between the NFL and the players regarding workers’s compensation issues. One point of contention has been whether players are obligated to reimburse the teams for workers’ compensation benefits received. Last week, U.S. District Court Judge, Paul A. Crotty, resolved this long standing issue, as explained in this blog post from AdvisorOne: Judge Paul A. Crotty ruled that teams could only collect an offset, or reimbursement, based on a formula that calculated the time period during which players received salary and workers’ compensation benefits concurrently. Teams had been pushing to collect dollar-for-dollar reimbursements—the entire sum of comp benefits provided to a player, but the judge wasn’t having any of it. The decision was based on he judge’s interpretation of paragraph of the NFL Collective Bargaining Agreement that had for decades been a issue that was hotly disputed by teams and their injured players. This decision is a favorable one for the players and is well deserved, given the dangers inherent to their career choice. The judge’s ruling correctly removes the burden of paying for all of the workers’ compensation benefits from the shoulders of the players and places it where it rightly belongs: on the teams that employ and profit from the players’ performance on the job. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com. Related articles Judge limits funds NFL can recover in workers comp cases (cbssports.com) Judge hears NFL players’ injunction request but makes no ruling (reuters.com) Players, NFL owners to discuss mediation in conference call (aol.sportingnews.com) NFL, players willing to talk, but can’t agree where (football.rawsignal.com)

  • Graduation Parties And Supplying Alcohol To Minors

    With spring approaching so is graduation season and with it– graduation parties. Many people wonder about their responsibility and liability when they serve alcohol in their homes for a graduation party where minors and young adults are attending. The State of Illinois considers a host of the party to be a “Social Host” or those who supply alcohol gratuitously or “out of courtesy or politeness.”

  • Reading The Fine Print at Your Doctor’s Office

    When you go to the doctor you often have to sign forms including a consent for treatment. These forms usually include some fine print at the bottom that people do not always read. These forms can be considered to be “documents of adhesion”. This means that the services rendered are on their terms, in essence it is a “take-it or leave-it” basis with no opportunity to negotiate.

  • Towers Automotive: Illinois Court On Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Excess Hours Worked

    The Appellate Court of Illinois, First District recently addressed the issue of whether Workers’ Compensation benefits can include hours worked in excess of a traditional work week. In other words, can benefits include compensation for overtime pay? In Tower Automotive v. Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, 2011 WL 341234, the claimant alleged that during the course of his job as a material handler for his employer, he sustained bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, cervical spondylolisthesis, and cervical spondylitis myelopathy. Following a hearing, among other things, the Commission concluded that the claimant’s average weekly wage was $788.66 and included compensation for time that his employer claimed on appeal was “overtime” and thus shouldn’t have been included in the benefits computation. The Illinois Appellate court disagreed, holding that the Commission correctly calculated his benefits: In Airborne Express Inc. v. Workers’ Comp. Com’n, 372 Ill.App.3d 549, 554, 310 Ill.Dec. 259, 865 N.E.2d 979 (2007), this court held that those hours which an employee works in excess of his regular weekly hours of employment are not considered overtime within the meaning of section 10 and are to be included in an average-weekly-wage calculation if the excess number of hours worked is consistent or if the employee is required to work the excess hours as a condition of his employment. The claimant testified that working overtime at Tower was mandatory, and if an employee refused to work overtime, he was subject to discipline, including termination. We find nothing in the record contradicting the claimant’s testimony in this regard. We conclude, therefore, that the Commission’s calculation of the claimant’s average weekly wage is neither contrary to law nor against the manifest weight of the evidence. This is an important case for workers because it allows workers to collect benefits for overtime pay in situations where working the overtime hours was required as part of their employment. Towers is a good decision for injured Illinois workers and ensures that they are appropriately compensated when injured on the job. Howard Ankin of Ankin Law Office LLC (www.ankinlaw.com) handles  workers’ compensation and personal injury cases. Mr. Ankin can be reached at (312) 346-8780 and howard@ankinlaw.com.

  • Legal TV Shows Make The Law Look Romantic

    Several years ago the American Bar Association Journal ran a contest to name the 25 Greatest Legal TV Shows. Recently television show creator David E. Kelley talked about the public’s love affair with legal shows including his recently launched show “Harry’s Law” as well as his other law inspired shows “Boston Legal” and “Ally McBeal”.

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    Our firm handles workers' compensation and personal injury claims in Chicago, Berwyn, Joliet, Cicero, Waukegan, Chicago Heights, Elgin, Aurora, Oak Park, Oak Lawn, Schaumburg, Bolingbrook, Glendale Heights, Aurora, Niles, Schaumburg, Arlington Heights, Naperville, Plainfield and all of Cook, DuPage, Lake, Will, McHenry, LaSalle, Kankakee, McLean and Peoria Counties.