Injured while going to work? Legislation aims to clarify who pays

2014-01-08T00:00:00Z Injured while going to work? Legislation aims to clarify who paysKurt Erickson Lee Springfield Bureau nwitimes.com
January 08, 2014 12:00 am  • 

SPRINGFIELD | Illinois lawmakers could debate a proposal this spring designed to clarify what happens if you are injured on your way to your job.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, has introduced legislation mirroring a recent Illinois Supreme Court decision in a case involving a man who was severely injured in an auto accident while en route to his workplace.

The measure is among a number of tweaks to the state’s workers compensation law introduced by McCarter and fellow Republicans, including state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon.

The proposal centers on the 2006 experience of pipefitter Gerald Daugherty, of Springfield, who accepted a temporary job at a power plant 200 miles from his home.

Rather than commuting from central Illinois to the power plant near the Quad-Cities, Daugherty rented a motel room near the plant. As he and a co-worker drove to work one morning, their vehicle hit some ice and crashed, resulting in serious injuries for Daugherty.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, which mediates disputes over workplace injury settlements, agreed he should receive compensation for his injuries.

But the state’s highest court ruled last month that Daugherty had made a personal decision to take the job in Rock Island County with full knowledge of the commute it involved.

“Daugherty was not a traveling employee,” Chief Justice Rita B. Garman, a Republican, wrote in the 6-1 decision.

Justice Tom Kilbride issued a dissenting opinion in the case, saying Daugherty should have been classified as a “traveling employee” because of the nature of his temporary job at the power plant.

McCarter’s legislation says an injured worker could receive compensation only “if the injury arises out of and in the course of employment while he or she is actively engaged in the duties of employment.”

McCarter said he introduced the proposed law before the high court decision was announced. He said his plan mirrors what the court decided.

“It makes practical sense,” McCarter said. “If the employer is not responsible for an accident, why would you make him pay?”

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