BREAKING: On April 13, 2020, the Rules of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission were amended by the approval of an EMERGENCY RULE specifically to benefit first responders and other front line workers. This emergency rule amendment provides that any claim being brought which resulted from exposure to the COVID-19 virus during a COVID-19-related state of emergency will be rebuttably presumed to have arisen out of the worker’s employment, and also rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the petitioner’s employment. The text of the new rule is as follows:
“In any proceeding before the Commission where the petitioner is a COVID-19 First Responder or Front-Line Worker as defined in Section (a)(2), if the petitioner’s injury or period of incapacity resulted from exposure to the COVID-19 virus during a COVID-19-related state of emergency, the exposure will be rebuttably presumed to have arisen out of and in the course of the petitioner’s COVID-19 First Responder or Front-Line Worker employment and, further, will be rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the petitioner’s COVID-19 First Responder or Front-Line Worker employment.”
The amendment goes on to define the term “COVID-19 First Responder or Front-Line Worker” as, “any individuals employed as police, fire personnel, emergency medical technicians, or paramedics and all individuals employed and considered as first responders, health care providers engaged in patient care, correction officers, and the crucial personnel identified under the following headings in Section 1 Part 12 of Executive Order 2020-10 dated March 20, 2020: “Stores that sell groceries and medicine”; “Food, beverage, and cannabis production and agriculture”; “Organizations that provide charitable and social services”; “Gas stations and businesses needed for transportation”; “Financial institutions”; “Hardware and supplies stores”; “Critical trades”; “Mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery, and pick-up services”; “Educational institutions”; “Laundry services”; “Restaurants for consumption off-premises”; “Supplies to work from home”; “Supplies for Essential Businesses and Operations”; “Transportation”; “Home-based care and services”; “Residential facilities and shelters”; “Professional services”; “Day care centers for employees exempted by [Executive Order 2020-10]”; “Manufacture, distribution, and supply chain for critical products and industries”; “Critical labor union functions”; “Hotels and motels”; and “Funeral services”.
Potential benefits provided could be payment of all reasonable and related medical expenses, payment of temporary disability benefits until you are physically able to return to work, and a potentially even an award for permanent impairment caused by the injury or illness.
Normally, to bring a successful claim for workers’ compensation under Illinois law, one would need to prove based upon the greater weight of the evidence, and based upon a reasonable degree of medical certainty that your condition of ill-being arose out of and occurred in the course of your employment, and that said condition is causally connected to your employment from a medical standpoint. This is a drastic amendment to those general rules which means that if you work in one of the listed occupations, and you suffer a COVID-19 related illness or injury, right out of the gate your case is presumed to be a winner. The burden is shifted to your employer and their insurance company to provide evidence that your employment somehow HAS NOT caused your illness or injury. The link to the new rule can be found here.
This is an extremely important and drastic development under law, and we will be monitoring the developments very closely. If you have suffered a COVID-19 related illness or injury, please contact Brent Eames for a free consultation and to discuss your rights.