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Workers’ compensation insurance is a critical protection for both employees and employers, providing financial support and coverage for medical expenses and lost wages in the event of a workplace injury or illness. However, the rules and regulations surrounding workers’ compensation can vary significantly from state to state.
In Illinois there is a significant difference in the way that workers’ compensation benefits are calculated. They are based on an employee’s average weekly wage for the 52 weeks before the injury or illness occurred, whereas many other states calculate benefits based on wages at the time of the injury. Essentially, their benefits may be lower than if their benefits were calculated based on their wage at the time of the injury.
One of the most significant differences in Illinois workers' compensation law is the standard for causation. In most states, a workplace injury must be the "proximate cause" of an employee's injury or illness in order for them to receive workers' compensation benefits, but in Illinois the standard is much more liberal. Here, an injury need only be a "contributing cause" to an employee's condition to be compensable. This means that even if an employee's pre-existing condition was a factor in their injury, they may still be eligible for workers' compensation benefits in Illinois.
This leads into another unique Illinois workers' compensation law which is the provision for "repetitive trauma" injuries. This refers to injuries that result from repeated stress or strain on a particular body part over a period of time, rather than a single traumatic event. In Illinois, such injuries are considered to be compensable, provided that they are work-related and that the employee can prove that their employment was a significant contributing cause of the condition.
Worse yet is the issue of fraud. In recent years, the state has seen a significant increase in fraudulent workers’ compensation claims, particularly in the construction industry. This has led to higher insurance premiums for employers and decreased benefits for legitimate claims.
Workers’ compensation insurance in Illinois differs in several significant ways and the state faces unique challenges. Understanding these differences and challenges is essential for employers to ensure that they are adequately protected.