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Workers’ Compensation for Public Safety Employees

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2016 | Workers' Compensation

Public safety employees including police officers, prison correctional and probation officers, firefighters, paramedics, and other first response workers face daily risks in their jobs that often lead to serious or life-threatening injuries. Public safety injuries are common, but many public safety workers minimize their injuries and ignore their rights under Illinois laws.

Many workers don’t file for workers compensation or permanent partial disability because they don’t understand their rights. Advice from a worker compensation lawyer in Crystal Lake who knows the specifics of public safety employee injuries is often necessary to protect employee rights under Illinois laws.

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Due to budget concerns, state and local employees often don’t receive the same worker safety guarantees as those in the private sector. Only 25 U.S. states are under State Plan laws that require public safety employers to follow Illinois OSHA standards. Approximately eight million public workers in this country go uncovered by the Occupational Safety and Health Act. Illinois became a State Plan State in 2009, so Illinois is eligible to receive matching federal funds to help cover their one million public safety employees.

Protection for the financial welfare of Illinois public safety employees and their families is covered under several laws including the Illinois Workers Compensation Act (IWCA), the Public Safety Employee Benefits Act (PSEBA), and the Public Employee Disability Act (PEDA). The Illinois Pension Code (IPC) protects public safety employees and regulates benefit payments for workers who are injured or killed on the job.

Illinois Workers Compensation Act (IWCA)

Most people employed in the State of Illinois are covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Workers who are hired in Illinois or maintain employment in Illinois are usually covered by Illinois workers compensation laws, even when work-related accidents and injuries are outside of the state. Generally, Illinois workers who are injured on the job are entitled to benefits that include medical expenses, temporary total disability, and permanent partial disability. A worker compensation lawyer in Crystal Lake can explain the specifics of these benefits and any exclusions that may apply.

City of Chicago police officers and firefighters are not covered under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act. The IWCA excludes police officers and firefighters who work for a municipality with a population of over 500,000. Since Chicago has more than 2.5 million residents, Chicago public safety workers must obtain their benefits through other legislation. While Chicago police and fire fighters are not eligible for Workers Compensation benefits, all other fire fighters and police officers in Illinois are covered.

Public Safety Employee Benefits (PSEBA)

Illinois public employees face high risks and hazards while doing their jobs. They are recognized as needing extended benefits in case they are killed or become disabled in the line of duty. PSEBA provides for payment of all health insurance benefits once the disability pension has been established. Under PSEBA, full-time police officers, correctional officers, probation officers, and firefighters who are injured or killed as a result of their duties are eligible for full payment of their health insurance plan. This benefit also extends to the employee’s family, including dependent children.

Since this benefit is often a significant amount of money, municipalities often contest the date at which benefits should begin, or if they should begin at all. In cases that reach the Supreme Court, municipalities often contest years of payments. Contested benefits often hinge on the Illinois legislature’s meaning of the word “catastrophic” as related to the employee’s injuries. Protection from a worker compensation lawyer in Crystal Lake who understands Illinois laws can often mean the difference between winning or losing benefits in a complicated public safety injury case.

Public Employee Disability Act (PEDA)

Under PEDA, a disabled public employee is entitled to a lifetime pension of between 65% and 75% of their salary once it’s been established that the employee can no longer perform his/her duties. Under PEDA, a full-time public employee will receive up to 52 weeks of salary, tax free, if injuries were sustained on the job. This is over and above any other benefits they may have accrued such as vacation or sick pay, overtime pay, or service credits. In addition, the employee can receive 65% of their weekly salary under either IWCA or the Illinois Pension Code. To comply with necessary timing for valid benefits, the assistance of a knowledgeable worker compensation lawyer in Crystal Lake is highly advised.

Illinois laws that protect public safety employees when injured on the job can be complex. Understanding employee rights through a qualified worker compensation lawyer in Crystal Lake who is well-versed on all relevant Illinois laws and codes is essential. Public safety employees in high-risk jobs must be protected from injuries on the job that are often fatal.