On August 8, 2011, Governor Quinn signed Senate Bill1147 into law to prevent workers convicted of serious crimes from claiming workers compensation benefits.
Senate Bill 1147 denies workers compensation benefits for injuries sustained during the commission of 1) a forcible felony, 2) an aggravated DUI or 3) during a reckless homicide if those crimes resulted in the death or severe injury to another person.
According to a Chicago Tribune article, the new law was inspired by the Illinois State Police trooper's high-speed wreck that killed 2 sisters in down state Collinsville. The state trooper was reportedly driving more than 100 mph and using his cell phone on I-64 in southern Illinois when his cruiser crossed the median and slammed into another car killing the 2 sisters. The public was outraged that the injured officer could apply for and perhaps receive workers compensation benefits resulting from his own outrageous conduct. The trooper subsequently resigned and his workers compensation case was denied but even the possibility of collecting benefits caused the new law to be pushed into place as part of the new Illinois workers compensation reforms.
Now, after a worker is even charged with a forcible felony, an aggravated DUI or reckless homicide resulting in injury, the injured employee is prohibited from collecting workers compensation benefits until their criminal case is finally concluded. The employer can terminate or refuse to pay benefits until the conclusion of any pending criminal case.
Under the new law, an acquittal or dismissal of the criminal charges does not guarantee receipt of benefits. After the criminal case, an injured worker who is not convicted will still need to prove entitlement to benefits just like any other injured worker but, a finding of guilty will prohibit benefits for injuries sustained during the criminal conduct because the injured employee is considered not to be “in the course of employment” during the commission of any of these crimes.
Usually an employee committing a crime would not collect benefits even without the new law. Criminal activities are not considered to be in the scope of employment and workers committing crimes are generally not awarded benefits. Traffic offenses were not always included in that prohibition. It is possible that an employee entertaining business clients or traveling on business might be guilty of drunk driving and recover benefits in an accident. Now however, if the drunk driving results in injuries to a 3rd party and the employee is convicted, he or she will be prohibited from collecting benefits. Workers entertaining clients might want to think twice before driving under the influence. They may be working but their resulting injuries may not be paid and that would also include medical bills.
Conviction for driving drunk or under the influence of drugs and injuring another person will now prohibit the injured worker from collecting benefits including medical bills. This new law slams the door shut on the possibility of workers trying to collect benefits if found guilty of injuring another person during otherwise criminal conduct.
Illinois Workers Compensation Attorney -- 8-22-11