Friday, June 7, 2019

Illinois Workers Gain New Rights to Sue Over Occupational Disease

Illinois workers have just gained the right to sue their employer over occupational disease when their claim exceeds the statute of limitations set in the Illinois Workers Compensation Act.

The Act sets a 25 year limit that was upheld in 2015 by the Illinois Supreme Court. In response to this decision, this new law, signed on June 5 by Governor Pritzker, gives workers the right to sue employers when the WC Act statute of limitations prevents compensation. The new law also has no cap on employer liabilities, including punitive damages, and allows an employee, employee's heirs, or anyone with standing to sue an employer.

Opponents of the new law, such as the Chamber of Commerce, suggested the impact of this law could make Workers Comp liability insurance unaffordable for some employers. This is standard response, though, whenever any change in worker benefits is proposed. My own view is that this is unlikely to create significant rate increases in Illinois Workers Comp rates. Certainly the rate impact will be tiny compared to existing insurance industry machinations like the sort that allows insurance companies to sell a policy with an initial premium of $2,000.00 and then, after the policy ends, send an audit bill for more than $200,000.00. We see that on a regular basis (we call these "Shock Audits" and they're entirely kosher under existing insurance rules) and so suggesting that closing this arbitrary limitation for injured workers will somehow be an unbearable cost strikes me as disingenuous, at best.

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