Chicago Tribune Letter--Your Workers' Comp Rights
My letter to the Chicago Tribune, concerning their misleading and inaccurate assessment of the Illinois Workers' Compensation system, was published today:
Your editorial on workers' compensation creates the mistaken impression that absolutely no proof is required in these cases. Nothing could be further from the truth, as all injuries must be proven to "arise out of" and "in the course of" employment. Also, medical data or testimony must support any award or settlement approved by an arbitrator.
You argue for a stricter "causation" standard, but mischaracterize the intent or letter of the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act, which is to compensate injured workers. Unlike the days of The Jungle, most citizens appreciate that one who is injured at work through no fault of his or her own should not have to starve to death. Our workers' compensation system, in force for nearly a century, creates a nearly no-fault system to compensate workers injured on the job. In exchange for this slightly lower "causation" standard, awards for medical benefits, lost wages (TTD), and permanency are limited and based upon a schedule of body parts and wage rates created by the legislature. No one gets wealthy on a workers' compensation case--that was never and is not the point. Unlike negligence cases in the civil courts (i.e. car accidents) that require the higher "causation" standard, and allow recovery under theories such as "pain and suffering," workers' comp does not. It is designed to be quick, inexpensive, and limited.
The 2011 workers' compensation law, billed as "reform" did not reduce workers' compensation premiums of companies as promised; instead, many carriers actually raised their rates. It's not the system that's costing businesses money, but the misuse of the system.
What misuse? The current law allows either party the right to appeal an award. Review and appeal can delay cases years. Delay of legitimate cases costs money and denies injured workers' their rights. The Menard cases were all supported by medical testimony. Repetitive trauma does cause injuries, all of which is covered in the Act.
Workers' Compensation was designed to be to be quick, efficient, and limited. By allowing delay and denial of legitimate claims, fostering and spreading rumors, innuendo, and misinformation, and supporting the abrogation of legitimate rights of workers to be compensated for their injuries, you do a disservice to the workers, businesses, attorneys, arbitrators, and others who do their best to keep this system fair for all.
The point is to help injured workers, not find more ways to deny them compensation.
Stephen L. Hoffman
What a perfect day for a letter championing the rights of individuals to be published!
Have a wonderful, safe, happy, and healthy Fourth of July with you and yours.