Articles Posted in Workers’ Compensation

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Nearly 75% of all firefighter deaths in 2016 were cancer-related.

So says data from Firefighter Cancer Support Network, an organization whose aim is to bring comfort, support, and resources to families of firefighters who have received a cancer diagnosis. Boston Fire Commissioner Joseph Finn called the number of firefighter cancer deaths in his city an “epidemic”  in a 2017 interview with NBC News’ Tom Costello.

In his NBC interview, Boston Fire Commissioner Finn recalls a 2002 explosion at a power plant. 200 city firefighters responded to a fire that left them covered with chemicals pouring from the ceiling. A quarter of those who responded have since been diagnosed with a cardiac issue or cancer.

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Said to be due to a reorganizing of the executive branch of government, the 5 advisory panels who counsel OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the Department of Labor on workplace safety and whistleblower protection have been shut down or put on hold. Even OSHA itself is significantly understaffed, said to only have enough inspectors to visit each job site once every 159 years.

The 5 committees, listed below, have not met in at least 9 months. Experts worry that the excuse of reorganizing the executive branch to increase efficiency is a cover for allowing businesses to avoid regulation that might hinder financial success. Further adding to their concerns is the number of committee members who have resigned or whose terms have expired without any attempt by the Labor Secretary, Alexander Acosta, to seek nominees or fill vacant positions. All of the committees’ membership positions will expire by the end of this year (if they haven’t already).

The 5 panels are:

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Earlier this week on our blog, we shared facts from the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) regarding the recent growth boom of Illinois businesses. Governor Rauner would like Illinois residents to believe a lenient workers’ comp program has caused too many claims, resulting in higher insurance premiums paid by employers. Rauner has repeatedly stated that these high premiums are scaring businesses out of Illinois and taking jobs with them. ITLA, citing multiple reputable sources, proved that workers’ comp claims are the lowest they’ve been in years in Illinois and that while premiums are still high, the cause is obviously not because of claims. Instead, ITLA has proven that the cause of high workers’ comp premiums is insurance companies not passing savings onto Illinois businesses.

We would also like to share ITLA’s recent email regarding workers’ comp claims and insurance premiums in Illinois. Particularly striking is the fact that workers’ compensation insurance is the second most profitable line of insurance, proving that there are savings to be passed to businesses, but that insurance companies just aren’t willing to do so.

The following information was taken directly from an email newsletter ITLA shared with our attorneys yesterday. To see more facts and figures on Illinois’ Workers’ Comp program courtesy of ITLA, please click here.

  •  The National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI – an insurance industry rate making agency which provides workers’ compensation data) has issued its workers’ compensation advisory rates for 2017. It states that Illinois employers should see a 12.9 percent cut in their workers’ compensation insurance premiums in 2017 – the third largest cut in the nation and totaling more than all of our neighboring states combined.
  •  Since the 2011 “reforms,” the NCCI has recommended a nearly 30 percent rate reduction for Illinois insurance premiums. This reduction should have resulted in a $2 billion savings in insurance premiums for Illinois employers.
  •  The workers’ compensation loss ratio – the difference between claims paid by an insurer to the premiums earned – in Illinois has drastically improved since 2011. The loss ratio decreased by 7.2 percent in 2015, drastically ahead of the national average. This drop brings Illinois’ loss ratio below the national average.
  •  Insurers in Illinois saw profits increase by 1.7 percent in 2015, ahead of the national average. Profits in the insurance workers’ compensation market in Illinois have significantly increased since 2010, up nearly 22 percent.
  •  In 2015, indemnity payments were down $39 million and medical payments were down about $30 million from 2014.
  •  Workers compensation medical payments for injured workers treatment have fallen nearly 15 percent since 2011. Illinois’ average payments are lower than Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.
  •  Between 2010 and 2014, worker benefits in Illinois fell over 20 percent, while employer costs only fell 4.4 percent. There is no evidence that further reductions to worker benefits will yield significant savings to employers.
  •  The National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI) reports workers’ compensation remains the second most profitable line of insurance after auto insurance.
  •  There are 332 insurance companies competing for and writing workers compensation insurance in our state, more than any other state in the nation.

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In his February budget address, Governor Rauner discussed the need for reform of Illinois current workers’ comp program, saying that Illinois desperately needed jobs and that companies were being scared off from setting up shop in Illinois because of the current costs of our workers’ comp premiums. According to Rauner, the factor driving high premiums are lawsuits. In reality, Rauner is making a scapegoat out of the legal system when he should be examining the facts and properly putting the blame on insurance companies.

To help separate fact from Rauner’s fictional claims, we are sharing the following information, taken directly from a recent Illinois Trial Lawyers Association fact sheet entitled ‘Illinois is Good for Business.’

Illinois is Good for Business

Groups trying to assist corporations and other wrongdoers in avoiding accountability when they wrongly injure or kill people claim falsely that lawsuits and high workers’ compensation premiums are driving business out of Illinois. The reality is Illinois remains a strong state for business.

  • Illinois is headquarters to 37 of the nation’s largest companies on the 2016 Fortune 500 List. Of those companies, 22 rose in the rankings in 2016.1
  • Only three states have more Fortune 500 companies than Illinois. 2
  • There are 124 major corporations with their global headquarters in Illinois.
  • For three consecutive years (2013-2015) the Chicago area was named the country’s leading metro market for “new and expanded corporate facilities.”3
  • For three consecutive years (2013-2015) Illinois ranked third in the nation as a top performing state for capital investment attraction.4
  • Illinois has more workplaces per 1,000 residents than Indiana, Kentucky and Wisconsin.5
  • Between 2010 and 2016 Illinois gained 391,000 jobs, essentially the same percentage growth in Wisconsin and well above that of Missouri for the same time period. Illinois job growth exceeded Michigan and Ohio.6
  • Business costs in Illinois are lower than they are nationally and have been trending downward for the past few decades. Business costs are lower her than in states that have similarly large metropolitan areas, such as California and New York.7
  • Businesses in Illinois tend to pay less in taxes. The state’s tax burden has been consistently below that of the Midwest and national averages since the 1980’s.8
  • Utility costs in Illinois are about 15 percent below the national average and noticeably less than the regional average.9


Top 5 Illinois Businesses for 2015 10

Company Location Fortune 500 Rank 2015 Profit
Walgreens Boots Alliance Deerfield 19 $4.220 billion
Boeing Chicago 24 $5.176 billion
State Farm Bloomington 35 $6.229 billion
Archer Daniels Midland Chicago 41 $1.849 billion
Caterpillar Peoria 59 $2.102 billion


1 Fortune Magazine.
2 Ibid.
3 Site Selection Magazine, March 2016.
4 Site Selection Magazine, March 2016.
5 Illinois Economic Policy Institute. “Stop Saying that Illinois is Bad for Business.” January 26, 2016.
6 “The truth about job growth in Illinois.” Crain’s Chicago Business. March 19, 2016
7 State of Illinois Economic Forecast, January 2017.
8 Ibid.
9 Ibid.
10 Fortune;

*Illinois has a flat personal income tax rate of 3.75 percent.  It is lower than the top tax rate of 40 other states – some which go as high as eight to thirteen percent.


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Governor Rauner’s Budget Address Ignores Insurance Company Greed in Workers’ Comp Program

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Last week, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner gave his annual budget address to the state. In the lengthy speech, Governor Rauner spent most of the time addressing the need for job creation in the state and the reasons for businesses leaving. Spending only one sentence of his entire address on workers’ compensation, Rauner stated that high workers’ comp insurance costs are causing higher property taxes and businesses to leave Illinois. What Rauner didn’t say should speak louder than the few words he actually expressed. There’s one type of business that’s flocking to do business in Illinois. Our state has the most workers’ comp insurers of any state in the country. 332 insurers, to be exact.

Illinois a Favorable Environment for Insurers

In Illinois, profits for workers’ comp insurers have been on the rise since 2010. Since 2011, however, the dollar amount they’ve paid out for claims has decreased while their premiums have steadily gone up. So where is all the extra money going? It’s probably not a shock to hear that insurers are pocketing the extra income instead of passing on the savings to businesses in the form of lower premiums. Insurers are also empowered by state legislation that allows them to deny claims and cut back on available benefits.  However, businesses see workers’ comp as a necessary evil. By providing workers’ comp insurance, they are essentially free of responsibility for injuries sustained on the job. Governor Rauner hopes that by cutting back on workers’ comp premiums and payouts, companies will see Illinois as a favorable place to do business and will set up shop in the state.

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Serious accidents may strike in almost any setting. However, some of the most common, yet preventable accidents involve workplace injuries, when employees are seriously injured or even killed as a result of incidents that occur when they are on the clock.

The Illinois injury attorneys at our firm understand the significant hardship these situations present not only to the victim, but to their families as well. As an illustration, not only might an accident and resulting injury create significant medical bills, but the injured party is often unable to work afterwards. This, in turn, results in significant financial problems for all of the people who depend ion the injured employee’s paycheck as a primary source of income. Additionally, when a worker is killed, the consequences are even more severe. Beyond the permanent lost wages, surviving family members are forced to deal with the immense pain and suffering that inevitably comes with losing a loved one.

It goes without saying, therefore, that everything reasonable needs be done to prevent workplace injuries.

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Workplace injuries are far too common in Illinois, devastating thousands of families each year. In fact, according to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, approximately 250,000 work-related accidents occur each year in Illinois alone. The statistics are overwhelming, and the injuries often overwhelming.

In Chicago workplace injury cases, companies are responsible for ensuring that they provide a safe working environment for their employees. Further, when a company hires a person to perform the job of safeguarding the workplace to keep it safe on behalf of that corporation, the company can potentially be held legally responsible when that person acts negligently; liability falls to the company because it was the duty of that company to either provide proper training and supervision to the person in charge of safety, or hire someone who was better qualified to perform the job. Workplace injury is a serious matter. With so many cases occurring in Illinois each year, is essential for employers to maintain safe working environments, and for workers to follow proper safety procedures. When a worker is injured because of someone else’s negligence, it is important for victims to seek justice, not only to recover damages, but also to motivate employers to change their practices to avoid future litigation.

Nevertheless, despite the responsibility to maintain a safe working environment, the latest survey of U.S. workers by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that workplace environments continue to be blamed for causing or worsening cases of asthma. Indeed, approximately nine percent of adults who have asthma reported having work-related asthma, the CDC discovered from its telephone survey, which included information from 38 states and the District of Columbia. Ultimately this means that more than 1.4 million people across the country have been affected by work-related asthma.

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It’s absolutely astounding when it’s put into perspective: a new report from MSNBC revealed that more Americans died as a result of workplace accidents in 2009 alone, than during the entire course of the nine-year Iraq War.

The number of people killed on the job in the United States in 2009 was 4,551. As of May 18, 2011, the number of servicemen killed in combat totaled 4,770. Nevertheless, an estimated 50,0000 people also die each year of work-related diseases such as illnesses suffered from asbestos exposure or chemical inhalation. As one MSNBC reporter put it, “it’s as if a fully loaded Boeing 737-700 crashed every day” for a year.

Seemingly contrary to these statistics, special laws are in place to protect the rights of workers: the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 entitles American workers to “safe and healthful” conditions in their workplaces, and in Illinois, persons or companies responsible for maintaining a safe work environment may be held legally responsible in Chicago workplace injury lawsuits.

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We all have the right to a safe and healthful workplace, and special laws are in place to protect the rights of workers if they are harmed on the job, or as a result of their workplace environment.

Bearing this in mind, our Chicago personal injury lawyers were especially concerned to read about the results of a 20-year study from the National Cancer Institute showing new evidence that exposure to exhaust from diesel engines at work significantly increases employees’ risk of lung cancer.

A report this week published by MSNBC detailed the results of the investigation; although diesel exhaust has long been classified as a probable carcinogen, the extent of the danger was not fully understood. The analysis of more than 12,000 workers in different kinds of mines (facilities that mined for potash, lime and other nonmetals) were found to have three times the risk of death from lung cancer from having breathed exhaust from diesel-powered equipment at work, compared to workers with lower levels of exposure to diesel exhaust. Nevertheless, even mine employees with lower levels of exposure had a 50% increased risk of death from lung cancer, as compared to the general population.

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An Illinois man alleges that he was hurt by a falling piece of concrete while working at a refinery. The man filed an Illinois personal injury lawsuit earlier this month in Madison County Circuit Court against the construction company and other defendants. He was working as a pipefitter and welder and was working in a trench when a large section of concrete built to hold the excavating machinery broke off and fell into the trench. The personal injury plaintiff alleges that he was unable to escape the falling debris and it knocked him to the ground. He states that he sustained serious injuries to his back during the injury. The Illinois plaintiff is asking to be paid more than $400,000 in damages for medical expenses and lost wages along with court costs.

Individuals have a right to a safe and healthful workplace and may receive benefits under workers’ compensation if they have suffered an injury on the job. Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage and should give their employees a workers’ compensation claim to complete and return. According to state law, a workers’ compensation claim is the remedy when an employee sustains an on-the-job injury, which means that an injured worker cannot file a negligence lawsuit against his or her employer or co-worker. But, if a workers’ compensation claim arises as the result of the negligence of another person, a door opens to another area of recovery. A personal injury lawsuit can be filed against the third party in addition to the workers’ compensation claim. For example, our Chicago personal injury lawyers represent clients in cases where negligence caused their serious personal injury or wrongful death. We recently represented a 27 year-old roofer in an Illinois workplace injury who was paralyzed when he fell from a roof as a result of the general contractor’s failure to provide appropriate safety devices. The workplace negligence lawsuit was resolved with the 27 year-old injured man receiving a $5.7 million settlement.

To read more about the Illinois personal injury lawsuit, visit the Madison Record.