Ex-State Trooper Denied Workers' Compensation Benefits

iStock_State_TrooperIn this case, a Workers' Compensation Arbitrator has denied that a former State Trooper's injuries arose "in the course of" his duties. While this may seem to be a straightforward determination by an Arbitrator, it seems to be anything but, as the article featured in the Belleville News Democrat demonstrates. http://www.bnd.com/2011/02/18/1596922/former-state-trooper-mitchell.html

Generally, a worker is entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits for injuries that "arise out of" and "in the course of" his or her regular job activities. While both of those terms of art have been parsed by the courts of this state for decades, it is generally assumed that one doing what one is supposed to do at his or her job who gets injured doing that should be compensated.

Which is what brings us to the increasingly strange case of the ex-state trooper decided by the Arbitrator who is now "on leave."

Factually, it involves a police chase by the officer, which, logically, would seem to be covered. However, there were some facts brought to light in the hearing that would lead one to believe that perhaps this officer might have overstepped his normal job duties. Specifically, the officer was found to have traveled up to 126 miles per hour at times on a busy highway, taking a personal telephone call, and writing emails on his car's computer, all during the chase. He ultimately jumped a median and crashed into a car, killing two sisters. He sustained serious leg injuries in the crash for which he sought compensation.

To make things even fuzzier ethically, this is the case about which we've previously reported, where the arbitrator emailed the court reporter indicating her discomfort holding the hearing in public (a no no under the Workers' Compensaton Act). But wait, it gets even better when we learn that the arbitrator involved, Jennifer Teague, was one of eight (of 32 in the state) arbitrators who had recently filed for and received benefits from the very system they were hearing cases on and administering.

Needless to say, the day after Teague's decision on this case, she was placed on administrative leave, along with another arbitrator who had collected benefits for his own injuries.

Rightly or wrongly, this calls the integrity of the entire system into question. Clearly, arbitrators are working when they can trip on sidewalks on the way to hearing facilities, strain backs picking up briefcases, and such. If the law allows them to recover under the present system, there should be no problem. But it does create a perception problem, doesn't it?

I will refrain from making any inferences or comments in this regard but will say this case creates a curious situation that the workers' compensation administrators should look into before it is too late.

If you have any questions about an Illinois or Chicago Personal Injury or Illinois or Chicago Workers' Compensation matter, do not hesitate to call at 773-944-9737.

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