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Workers' compensation targeted by Illinois city

Workers' compensation claims are costing the city of Springfield, Illinois a lot of money. Its city manager wants to do something about it. The city has paid some $16 million over the past three years to cover medical bills, final workers' compensation settlements and attorney's fees to city workers injured on the job. Lost wages have been paid as well.

While acknowledging there are many individuals legitimately injured while working, the manager hinted there may be others that are trying to cash in on easy money. He proposed the city and county hire a case management company to follow workers' compensation claims. A company representative would contact the employee within 24 hours of a claim filing. The case would then be monitored until its conclusion, with a representative attending the worker's doctor appointments and compensation hearings.

Other initiatives were suggested as well at a recent city council meeting, including publishing on the city's website the names of each employee filing a workers' compensation claim. Medical information would not be included, but the idea is that publishing the general information would lead an individual to think twice about filing a false claim. It was suggested that anyone filing a legitimate claim will not worry about what other people think.

The city manager also believes pre-employment screening should include medical examinations, as well as a medical history questionnaire. If a hired worker were later found to have lied in answering questions, he or she could be subject to dismissal or termination. It was also proposed that an employee's supervisors be included in the claims process. The gist of that suggestion is that a director or supervisor may have relevant information concerning the employee's job performance that may weigh on the claim investigation.

While economic times have caused families, businesses and governments to review their budgets carefully, it is important to emphasize an employee injured on the job is entitled to file a claim without intimidation from the employer. Certainly an employer is entitled to take reasonable steps to ensure claims filed are legitimate. Equally, employees are entitled to a fair and impartial determination of those claims, without regard to a city budget or public scrutiny. An Illinois attorney experienced in handling worker's compensation matters for governmental employees may help keep the parties focused on doing the right thing.

Source: The State Journal-Register, "City considering changes to stem millions in workers' comp claims," Deana Stroisch, Aug. 20, 2011

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