While there are many theories as to why, our legislature saw fit to make major changes to the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Act. Most of the changes are clearly aimed to benefit employers who claim that worker’s compensation costs are too high. Whether these latest changes will reduce those costs depends, in part, on whether insurance companies reduce premiums. At any rate, the changes are with us, and we must deal with them effectively to protect your rights as employees. The major changes are as follows:
• American Medical Association Guidelines determine permanent partial disability: Arbitrators must use the AMA guidelines in arriving at a decision on the amount of physical impairment, or “loss of use” caused by a claimant’s work injury. Arbitrators are still free to consider other evidence, however.
• Worker’s choice of Doctor is more limited: Employees still have the right to choose two separate medical providers. However, businesses and their insurance companies can create their own panel of doctors which employees must use.
• Wage loss differential limited: Employees who are forced into a lower paying job by their injury are entitled to a wage loss differential only until age 67 or five years from the date of any final award, whichever is longer.
• Intoxication defense: An employee will not be entitled to compensation if intoxication is the proximate cause of the injury. An employee who refuses to submit to a drug or alcohol test after a work related accident will be presumed to have been intoxicated. Intoxication includes any substance, not just alcohol.
• Reduction of benefits for repetitive stress injuries: Benefits for carpal tunnel 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%.
At the Bach Law office, we are always up to date on new developments in the law. Contact us for a free consultation if you’ve been injured at work, or if you want further information on these important changes in the law.