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Illinois lawmakers considering legislation to abolish work comp system

In a rather interesting national workers' compensation defense story, lawmakers in the Illinois House of Representatives are currently considering a rather drastic step to remedy the state's many problems with its embattled and highly controversial work comp system.

Specifically, lawmakers are considering whether to eliminate Illinois' workers' compensation system altogether.

House Bill 1032 (HB 1032), sponsored by Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion), would abolish the state's work comp system and require all injured employees to take their cases to the state's circuit courts. Here, judges - not arbitrators - would hear the cases and employees would be required to prove that their injuries were job-related.

"It seems to me that maybe the right thing to do is just to go ahead and eliminate the workers comp system, which is a broken and failing system," said Bradley.

Businesses groups throughout the state have long argued that work comp costs in Illinois were excessive, that the cost of health care was much too high and that the system was biased toward workers who don't have to provide clear proof that their injuries were job-related.

"Let's give the courts a chance. Let's try something new. Because we know what we've been doing isn't working," said Bradley in a recent debate.

While the legislation appears poised to pass - receiving tentative approval in a voice vote held just yesterday - it is not without its detractors.

Various labor organizations have acknowledged that while Illinois' current work comp system is far from perfect, it is still preferable to a system in which workers would have to seek lost wages and medical bill coverage in protracted, costly legal battles.

"We find it difficult to believe that anyone could seriously think that scrapping the basic protection of workers' comp is a good idea," said Anders Lindall, spokesperson for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Interestingly, other opponents of HB 1032 include some business groups who fear the unknowns/costs of introducing such large-scale reform and some lawmakers who are concerned about unloading such a potentially sizeable caseload on an already overburdened court system.

"Your solution is a nuclear bomb. You're atomizing this," said Rep. Dave Winters (R-Shirland).

Stay tuned for further developments in this story and other areas of workers' compensation defense law ...

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.

Related Resources:

Ill. House may scrap workers' compensation (Bloomberg Businessweek)

Workers compensation eliminated? (WSIL-TV)

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