In June 2011, Illinois lawmakers approved a bill reforming the state’s workers’ compensation system. Lawmakers aimed to cut costs and reduce premiums with the reform bill. Part of the bill required Gov. Pat Quinn to appoint new Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) arbitrators. These arbitrators play a vital role in the Illinois workers’ compensation system.
The workers’ compensation reform bill terminated the employment of all the sitting WCC arbitrators on July 1, 2011. Gov. Quinn then had to appoint people to fill those positions, with the assistance of a 12-member Illinois Workers’ Compensation Advisory Board. The Governor re-appointed all but 10 of the former WCC arbitrators and appointed a total of 28 arbitrators. A spokeswoman for the governor reported that the governor will probably appoint more arbitrators to bring the number back to 31, as it was before the reform bill went into effect.
WCC arbitrators in Illinois function like judges for workers’ compensation claims. They hear claims filed under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act and render decisions. Under the rules in the reform bill, arbitrators have to be attorneys. However, five of the arbitrators the governor appointed were not attorneys but were allowed to assume the position due to the number of years that they had already served as arbitrators.
Other changes that the reform bill put into effect were that arbitrators will now rotate among hearing sites every 90 days and computers will randomly assign cases to arbitrators.
When workers are injured on the job and file claims for workers’ compensation benefits, employers and insurers sometimes refuse to pay — and the matter then needs to go to a hearing. Arbitrators play a pivotal role in the process. If you have been injured at work, contact a workers’ compensation attorney who has experience with the Illinois workers’ compensation system and can help you get the benefits you need.