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Proposed law would deny work comp for non-work crashes

Over the next few months, the legislative agenda here in the state of Illinois will slowly begin to take shape and lawmakers will once gear again up for multiple rounds of spirited debate. In fact, one of the issues that lawmakers might end up debating is the possibility of a new limit on workers' compensation.

Back in November, Senator Kyle McCarter (R-Lebanon) introduced Senate Bill 2622, a somewhat controversial piece of legislation, which declares that injured workers are only entitled to workers' compensation "if the injury arises out of and in the course of employment while he or she is actively engaged in the duties of employment."

In other words, S.B. 2622 would exempt employers from having to pay workers' compensation in those scenarios where employees are injured in motor vehicle accidents on the way to their place of employment.

"It makes practical sense," said McCarter. "If the employer is not responsible for an accident, why would you make him pay?"

Interestingly, S.B. 2622 would essentially serve to codify a recent decision by the Illinois Supreme Court denying work comp benefits to a man severely injured in a car accident on his way to work.

The case in question involved a pipefitter from Springfield who took a temporary job at a power plant in Rock Island County back in 2006. Faced with the reality of a roughly 200-mile commute, the pipefitter decided to rent a motel room near the power plant for the duration of the job. Unfortunately, he was involved in a serious weather-related car crash on the way to work one morning and suffered serious injuries.

In the aftermath of the collision, there was some dispute as to whether the pipefitter was entitled to work comp benefits. However, the Illinois Workers' Compensation Committee ruled that he was indeed entitled to these benefits.

The matter was appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, where the court held in a 6-1 decision that the pipefitter was not entitled to work comp benefits, as he made a personal decision to take the Rock Island County job in the full understanding of the commute it would entail and, as such, could not be considered a traveling employee.

It remains to be seen whether S.B. 2622, which has yet to be assigned to a Senate committee, will gain the necessary traction in the state legislature. Stay tuned for updates ...

If you have questions or would like to learn more about your ability to secure workers' compensation benefits, consider contacting an experienced legal professional.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Legislation filed in Illinois would nix workers' comp for non-work accidents," Jan. 8, 2014

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