Two companies working on the renovation of an old school building in southern Illinois are in deep trouble with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration. The building, it seems, contained a significant amount of asbestos, and the companies knew it. They did not, however, share the information with their workers.
We have been talking about a Florida case involving workers' compensation. As we said, the case has a complicated procedural history, and the appeals court felt that history made it impossible for the court to rule on the central question. The question, as the title of the post suggests, is whether the workers' comp system itself is constitutional.
We are discussing a case in Florida that challenges the constitutionality of the state's workers' compensation system as the "sole remedy" for injured employees. The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case, even though the appellate court said the appellees had no case. The problem was not that the workers' advocacy organizations appealing the trial court's decision had failed to make persuasive arguments; rather, the problem was that the appellees had no business being involved in a nonexistent controversy.
Both employers and worker advocates around the country have been following a Florida workers' compensation case. The central issue, as far as analysts and legal commentators are concerned, is the constitutionality of the basic premise of the workers' comp system -- that is, that worker's comp is the sole remedy available to injured workers.
At dinner some night, try to find out how much your companions' know about workers' compensation. Chances are that they know workers' comp covers work-related injuries or occupational diseases. And chances are that they know that fault makes no difference. Workers' comp is not like property insurance: If you slip and fall at your local grocery store, the insurance company will want to know if you were responsible for the accident. Slip and fall at work, though, and responsibility -- that is, fault -- is not a factor.
The Appellate Court for the Fourth District of Illinois reversed the judgment of the Circuit Court and Illinois Worker's Compensation Commission on all issues in a case involving an inhalation injury, but most notable was reversal of the finding that the claimant had not provided notice of the work injury to his employer within 45 days, which is required by the Illinois Workers Compensation Act.
The Worker's Compensation Act provides relief for injured workers on a no fault system. This means that it is not necessary for the injured worker to prove that the employer did anything wrong in order to receive compensation. This makes it much easier than it might otherwise be for the injured worker to receive benefits. There is however a trade off for this standard. The Work Comp Act serves to make it so that more employees who are injured receive benefits but it also works to reduce the amount of those benefits.
On July 16, 2004, the Illinois Workers' Compensation Commission unanimously voted to increase the Illinois Workers' Compensation Fee Schedule for various office visits as well as various medical procedures. This is the first sign that the State of Illinois has recognized that the September 1, 2011 fee schedule cuts created a great burden on injured workers due to limitations and access to quality medical care. In the opinion of Strong Law Offices, September 1, 2011 changes to the Illinois Workers' Compensation Act devastated the rights of injured workers by slashing reimbursement rates to health care providers for medical care and treatment related to work-related injuries. Essentially, the bill signed into law by Governor Quinn which went into effect on September 1, 2011 slashed fee schedule reimbursement rates for medical care to injured workers. At first glance, the injured worker may not appear to be impacted. The reality is quite different. The injured worker was impacted by the slashes to the fee schedule because Illinois health care providers began declining to render medical care for workers' injured on the job. What has transpired since 2011 is that injured workers are forced to bear the costs of their own medical care and treatment for job-related injuries. Injured workers have been using governmental assistance programs, such as Medicaid and Medicare, to pass the costs of work-related injuries to injured workers. Likewise, injured workers have been forced to use their private group health insurance programs to obtain access to medical care for medical treatment which should have been properly billed to workers' compensation insurance providers.
After you have been injured on the job, many things will happen. Of course, you will have to deal with the pain and disability of the injury. You will have to attend numerous doctor appointments, possibly go through painful physical therapy or injections or even surgery. You may have to deal with the struggle to get your medical paid for or to get paid your temporary total disability benefits while you are unable to work. It will soon become apparent that even if you are receiving full benefits that it doesn't completely replace your income. You may have to deal with depression and with certain types of injuries you may have to deal with skeptical friends, family and co-workers' who don't believe you are hurt as badly as you are or can't understand why you haven't returned to work. It will be frustrating to know that you wish for nothing more than that the accident had never happened to interrupt your life.
Last month we discuss briefly the concepts that injured workers have about vocational rehab as well as the processes that lead up to beginning vocational rehab and even the initial assessments that are usually involved. Today, I will discuss a bit about the process of working with a vocational counselor.