Concerns that New Senate Bill Will Change Illinois’ Workers Compensation System
By: James Bizzieri
The new Illinois State Senate Bill 3287 (“SB 3287”) has already been presented and passed by both of the Illinois legislative Houses. SB 3287 amends the existing Illinois workers’ compensation law by creating tort liability for safety service organizations that work closely with brokers, employers and insurers to make sure that workplaces are as safe as possible. Previously, such organizations had immunity, which provided them with legal protections against being sued for their work with insurance companies, employers and brokers.
Workers’ compensation laws are put in place to explicitly provide legal protection and a cause of action for employees who are injured on the job. Under current law an injured employee can only bring a cause of action for a personal injury sustained while at the workplace under the Illinois workers’ compensation law. However, the amendment presented in SB 3287 provides an alternative remedy beyond just the Illinois workers’ compensation law for injured employees to receive compensation for injuries sustained while on the job. If approved, an injured worker can bring suit against service organizations for tort liability. Tort liability includes injuries caused by both direct and indirect negligence. Typical service organizations that could face liability include mutual service organizations and other entities that provide advice, guidance and recommendations to entities that are looking to provide safer working conditions for employees.
Senate Bill 3287
This complicated amendment provides that the immunity previously held by service organizations is no longer in place for any third-party entity that is distinctly separate from the employer, broker or insurance company, and which they have retained to provide safe workplace guidance, recommendations and advice. However, if the service organization is wholly owned by the same entity that it is delivering assistance to, that service entity still maintains its immunity status. As a result, employees suffering personal injuries on the job can now bring suits to recover damages and compensation for death or injury from any service organization that provided workplace safety guidance, but only if that organization has separate and distinct legal status. Thus, if you are seeking to bring suit against a service organization for a personal injury sustained on the job, you must determine whether that organization is or is not a separate subsidiary of a common-related broker, insurance company or employer.
Concerns About Senate Bill 3287
Proponents of SB 3287 assert that removal of this immunity is in line with years of legal precedents that have illustrated an injured employee's right to bring suit for all entities responsible for the dangerous and negligent activities that led to the personal injury. However, opponents of the SB 3287, many of whom represent the service organizations, believe that if passed SB 3287 will create a precedent that will lead to the removal of the immunity of all service organizations that have affiliations with other distinct entities. This belief comes from the fact that they view this amendment as a loophole that changes years of existing workers’ compensation laws. These opponents believe that the SB 3287 will unfairly disadvantage smaller service organizations who cannot absorb liability and handle personal injury suits the way that large service organizations with large coffers would be able to do.
Workers’ compensation laws are designed to be the main means through which an injured employee can pursue damages and compensation for injuries sustained while on the job. If SB 3287 is passed, workers will have a new avenue through which to pursue personal injury claims.
Do you have any personal injury-related legal issues or questions Contact a personal injury attorney here at the Bizzieri Law Offices for any legal questions that you have. We work with individuals throughout Chicagoland, including Hickory Hills, Orland Park, Burbank, and surrounding communities.