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Workers' comp reform efforts make for legal challenges

If you are an up-to-date Illinois adult, you probably are aware that there's a major political struggle underway over ways to reform the state's workers' compensation system.

For many this might seem to be a case of déjà vu. Didn't we just go through some major reforms back in 2011? The answer, of course, is yes. But the question politicians in Springfield are wrestling with is whether those changes are enough or whether something more is needed.

In simplified terms we have the Democrat-controlled General Assembly on one side saying that the 2011 changes are working and should be allowed a greater test of time to see if even more improvements can be achieved. On the other is the Republican governor who says the changes have been too little and too slow. The governor wants more and he is refusing to negotiate the next state budget unless his desires are addressed.

The governor says more drastic changes to workers' compensation are needed to spark business development in the state. Critics of change point to reported declines in the amount of money insurers have been paying for claims since 2011.

Meanwhile, legal observers note that workers' compensation insurance companies have been reporting increased profits since 2011. That, they suggest, is an indication that the system already favors insurers and that any changes should focus on restoring transparency to the insurance industry.

What seems to be missing in all of the rhetoric is the place workers hold in the picture. Workers' compensation is supposed to be based on a presumption of no-fault. Very often, though, workers who are hurt on the job don't even report their injuries out of fear of employer retaliation.

Regardless of where the law might be headed, the system in place now is premised on ensuring the rights of injured workers to get the care they need without risk of lost wages. To pursue that when it's necessary, workers should consult an experienced attorney for a case evaluation.

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