SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Trial lawyers won another victory last week when Governor Pritzker signed into law a bill that expands the state's workers' compensation program – making an already-dreaded liability monster even bigger and more powerful. Pritzker signed SB 1596, lengthening the time for which Illinois employers will be responsible for employees' medical conditions connected with toxic substance exposure.
The new law lifts the 25-year statute of limitation on claims for people diagnosed with latent diseases after exposure to toxic substances (such as asbestos, radiation, beryllium) in the workplace. And that's a good thing, the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association says.
"Workers’ rights should be at the forefront," the ITLA website says. "Injured workers should not be subjected to reduced benefits."
The business community complains of the high cost of the premiums they pay for workers’ comp insurance. The premiums are high and continue to get higher even though pending claims having dropped in the last decade, from approximately 80,000 to around 50,000, in a state of nearly 13 million people.
"Insurers continue to rake in excessive profits, despite the new law and promises of rate reductions for employers," ITLA says.
The lawyers association says a closer look at the insurance industry and its lack of regulation is needed, and they urge state legislators to focus on insurance reform.
"In any potential future rewrite of the law, Illinois lawmakers should look closely at the insurance industry’s lack of regulation. Insurance reform, not further diminishment of injured workers’ rights, is the key to reducing employers’ workers’ comp costs," the groups says.
As to SB 1596, in some cases, the governor's office says, the 25-year limit imposed by the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act is shorter than the medically-recognized time period in which some diseases generally manifest. SB 1596 protects victims’ access to justice beyond that time limit.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Elgie R. Sims, Jr. and Representative Jay Hoffman, and takes effect immediately.
Our legislators voted to made it possible for Pritzker to sign.
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