In case you didn't hear, the Illinois legislature re-wrote the Illinois workers' compensation laws the other day.
The biggest question we've been getting is, "How will this effect my case?" The answer is that it most likely won't at all because changes that workers should care about only apply to injuries as of September 1, 2011.
That said, there are some important things to know:
One major change is how you choose your doctors after you’ve been injured in a work-related accident. Previously, you were able to consult two physicians of your choosing, as well as physicians to whom they referred you. The new law establishes a physicians’ preferred provider network for workers’ compensation cases. If your employer is utilizing the network, then your choice of two doctors has to be in-network. There are some exceptions, but for the most part full choice of physicians is no longer part of receiving benefits for workers’ compensation claims in Illinois.
The new laws also reduce the amounts of benefits workers can receive in several different areas. One significant reduction concerns carpal tunnel injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a repetitive stress injury that many workers have to face. Benefits are based on a partial loss of the use of the hand. These benefits are now capped at 15% loss, over a shorter period of time. In very significant cases, the percentage of the loss can be up to 30%. But in an event, carpal tunnel injuries now carry less compensation than they did before.
Another reduction in benefits for workers is for lost wages that are the result of a work accident. Previously you could be compensated over your lifetime for the “wage differential”—the reduced amount you are able to earn at work. Under the new law, the wage differential benefits end the later of your 67th birthday or 5 years after the claim.
There will also be differences after the new law, when assessing the nature of a permanent work injury. No longer will the subjective testimony of the injured worker be weighed in the process. Instead, specific objective measures will be looked at to determine extent of the permanent partial disability.
Workers will face a new hurdle when a work accident involves alcohol use. Workers will not receive benefits for these injuries unless they can prove that the injury was not caused by the alcohol, and that they were not so intoxicated that it couldn’t be considered a work incident any longer.
Along with the extra hurdles and limits on benefits that workers will have to endure under the new workers’ compensation laws, medical providers will also be taking cut according to the new medical fee schedule. Among other changes, the new payment structures amount to a 30% reduction in fees.
While the new workers’ compensation laws were called “reforms” by many, unfortunately to workers’ filing claims many of the changes will hardly feel like a positive transformation of the system. It remains more critical than ever to be sure to have a lawyer working for you that knows how to get for you all the benefits you are entitled to under the system. Feel free to contact us (click the contact link on the top of this page) and well will be happy to discuss this with you further. But again, don't worry about a thing if you have a case that started before this legislation goes in to effect.
We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.