Illinois Appellate Court Reverses Commission Order Sanctioning Employer for Failing to Pay Medical Expenses to Injured Worker

In a recent case from the Illinois Appellate Court for the First District, the plaintiff requested workers’ compensation benefits following an injury he allegedly incurred during his employment at a hotel. The parties agreed to a lump sum settlement, which indicated that the employer had compensated the employee for all of his medical expenses. Two years after the settlement agreement was approved, the employee filed a motion seeking to enforce the contract and associated penalties. Specifically, the employee claimed that the employer had failed to pay some of his medical expenses and refused to do so when the employee made a demand for payment of the outstanding bills. In addition to requesting an order requiring the employer to pay all of the outstanding medical bills, the employee asked the court to issue penalties against the employer.

In the workers’ compensation system, an employee who suffers injuries as a result of his or her occupation is entitled to receive benefit payments to compensate him or her for his or her lost wages, as well as receiving compensation for any medical expenses associated with the injury. The worker can opt for a weekly benefit payment reflecting a certain percentage of his or her average income, or opt for a lump sum settlement. A dedicated and knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine which option is better for you.

The Workers’ Compensation Commission issued an order in favor of the employee, requiring the employer to pay over $16,000 in medical expenses and awarding the employee roughly $8,000 in penalties as well as over $3,000 in attorney fees. The employer appealed to the circuit court, which upheld the Commission’s determination. The employer appealed again, asserting that the Commission did not have proper jurisdiction to hear the employee’s motion. In the alternative, the employer argued that even if jurisdiction was proper, the Commission interpreted the contract incorrectly. Finally, the employer alleged that the action was time-barred.

In reviewing the employer’s appeal, the appellate court concluded that the Commission lacked jurisdiction and that the appropriate venue for the employee to seek enforcement of the settlement was in circuit court. The court noted that under Illinois’ workers’ compensation law, the Commission lacks authority to enforce payments mandated in its orders. Instead, the parties’ only recourse for enforcing a final award is through the circuit court.

Additionally, the appellate court stated that while the Commission can issue orders assessing penalties and attorney fees against a party that breaches the terms of a settlement agreement, the employee abandoned his request for the Commission to assess penalties and attorney fees. In reaching this conclusion, the appellate court referred to a transcript from a hearing in which the employee’s attorney stated that he was not seeking penalties.

If you have suffered a work-related injury, you may be entitled to compensation. At Therman Law Offices, we understand how devastating a work-related injury can be, particularly if it keeps you from working for a substantial period of time or results in permanent, life-changing injuries. Understanding how to file a workers’ compensation claim and ensuring that you receive the full amount of benefits that you deserve can be difficult, but it is critically important. Our dedicated team of Illinois work injury lawyers can guide you through the process. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 773-545-8849 or contact us online.

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