Illinois bill: Employers should not be responsible for commuter accidents

19 Mar, 2014
By: Donald W Fohrman
Illinois bill: Employers should not be responsible for commuter accidents

Sometimes people in Chicago are unable to find work in their own community. This requires them to seek work elsewhere and often this means a long-distance commute. If the employee is in an accident during that drive, it can be difficult to determine whether they should be approved for workers’ compensation benefits.

Proposed amendment

Sen. Kyle McCarter recently introduced a new bill that would amend the Workers’ Compensation Act in Illinois. The bill seeks to prevent employees from receiving workers’ compensation benefits when they are injured in an accident, while on the way to work.

The proposed legislation states: An employee who is required to travel in connection with his or her employment and who suffers an injury while in travel status shall be eligible for benefits only if the injury arises out of and in the course of employment while he or she is actively engaged in the duties of employment.

This means employees will need to show that the company reimbursed them for one of the following:

  • Lodging
  • Gas
  • Costs of travel
  • Oil

Furthermore, injured employees will have to prove that the travel was related to their job responsibilities or was required by the employer. For instance, if an employee is asked to run an errand for the employer before coming into work, that employee would qualify under the proposed amendment. Long-distance commutes, although necessary for the employee, would not be considered employer-related.

Differing opinions

The new legislation is based on a recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court. The high court ruled that a man was not a traveling employee when his injury occurred. The man took a temporary job 200 miles from his home. He decided to stay at a motel located closer to the place of employment. During a morning commute the man suffered serious injury when he was involved in a car accident.

He filed for workers’ compensation benefits and was awarded them by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The commission decided the injury qualified for benefits under the current law. The company disagreed, filed an appeal and won. One state Supreme Court justice dissented from the other five, stating that the man’s temporary status qualified him as a traveling employee.

Definition changes

In addition to addressing commuting accidents, the new bill includes a definition for the words “accident” and “injury.” An accident would be an event connected to employment-related risks, employment hours, employment-related circumstances and employment-related locations.

The term, injury, would be redefined as an employment-related condition requiring medical care, or an impairment. Diseases or conditions without a proven cause would not be considered eligible for compensation. Furthermore, employees would need to prove that their injury did not come from a possible external source.

About The Author

Photo of Donald W Fohrman
After completing law school Donald became an assistant Attorney General for 7 years and was assigned to the Industrial Commission Division. During that time he spent evenings establishing his own firm. Donald became a founding partner of a large workers’ compensation/personal injury firm but decided to leave the firm in 1990 to start a smaller “boutique” firm with the belief that bigger isn’t always better!
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