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What lesson is really being taught?

In discussing issues of workers' compensation in Illinois, a "policy analyst" noted that the state could learn from Wisconsin and some of the changes that have occurred with its workers comp laws.

His state should follow Wisconsin's lead and make causation, according to this "analyst," a one-to-one factor. If the workplace is responsible for 50 percent of the injury, this line of thinking goes, the insurance should only pay for 50 percent of the compensation.

At first glance, this seems almost reasonable. Until you realize that in many workplace accidents, the workplace is likely to be 100 percent responsible for the damage. If a roofer falls off a roof, all injuries that result are work related.

Where this becomes a problem for workers is when they suffer a type of injury where it is "arguable" that some portion of the injury occurred outside of work. An insurance company will be able to argue that such an injury was not work-related and create long, drawn-out evidentiary battles over how much of the injury is attributable to the work.

The insurance company will have no incentive to settle, after all, the longer they delay, the more desperate the employee will become. The insurance provider can stonewall until the worker settles for inadequate compensation or worse, nothing.

The "analyst" comments "we give people incentives to do the wrong things," which appears to imply that injured workers "fake" their injuries to avoid work. Apparently, giving insurance companies the incentive to do the "wrong thing" is okay.

He also suggests that the nature of work is changing. If that is true, and there are fewer physical jobs that cause injuries, then workers' compensation should become less of a problem as there will be fewer workers injured on the job and workers' comp won't burden employers.

We all must remember that workers' Compensation needs to provide for injured workers. The "grand bargain" is based on eliminating the complexities of litigation with an insurance product. Changes that lessen the ability of workers to receive the rapid medical treatment and income compensation they need will eventually only transfer the costs to the taxpayers and away from the employers who caused the injury.

Source:, "Policy analyst: Illinois could learn from Wisconsin's workers' compensation reform proposals," Emma Gallimore, Feb. 23, 2016

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