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Workers’ compensation causation standard: change would harm workers, P.2

Last time, we began looking at the current causation standard here in Illinois, noting that the standard is currently at one percent. Because employers must pay workers’ compensation benefits in full anytime they are at all responsible for the injury, the current law is favorable to employees. The proposal to change the causation standard to the percentage corresponding to an employer’s degree of responsibility would, therefore, be a step backward for employers.

The adoption of such a proposal could mean that injured workers in many cases do not receive adequate compensation for their injuries. Even if it would encourage employers to reduce workplace hazards, it would also encourage employers to argue their lack of responsibility. Surprisingly, Governor Bruce Rauner would apparently offer an even harsher causation standard in which employers would only pay workers’ compensation benefits if the employer is at least 50 percent responsible for the injury. 

Whatever benefits such proposed changes might offer to economic growth, they would ultimately be opposed to the interests of injured employees. As it is, causation is one of the most frequently litigated issues dealt with by the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Whether or not a medical condition was caused or aggravated by a workplace incident is a point that simply comes up a lot. Reducing the causation standard so that employers could more easily argue their lack of responsibility would make the causation issue even more up for dispute from an employer’s perspective.

There is another reason such a proposal would be troubling: it seems to go against the whole rationale of the worker’ compensation system. We’ll speak more about this in our next post.

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