Illinois: Recent Commission Stats and the Workers' Compensation Commission
In June 2015, the Workers' Compensation Commission released its Fiscal Year 2014 Annual Report highlighting the most recent trends in Illinois workers' compensation claims. According to the report, roughly 200,000 work-related accidents occurred last year, but fewer than 50,000 of those resulted in filed claims. Of those nearly 50,000 cases, nearly 40,000 were settled, another 5,000 were dismissed, and arbitration decisions were issued in the remaining 3,000-4,000 cases.
The report noted that roughly half of the cases arbitrated were reviewed to the Workers' Compensation Commission, which seems like an unusually low number considering the Commission is the true finder-of-fact. These reviews produce around 1,500 panel decisions per year, but surprisingly some 500 cases were dismissed by the Commission.
In a departure from years prior, the report states that only about 25 percent of Commission decisions were reviewed to the circuit court. The circuit courts collectively issued 250-300 orders and decisions per year, down only slightly from prior years. It appears that about one-third of the cases were appealed to the Appellate Court, Workers' Compensation Commission Division, resulting in a published opinion or Rule 23 order. The appellate court continued, however, to see around 200 appeals filed. As with prior years, the Illinois Supreme Court issued one workers' compensation decision.
As far as new claims filed in 2014, 18,665 claims were filed in Chicago (which has one hearing site), while 25,068 (57 percent of the total) were filed among the 18 Downstate hearing sites. Of the Downstate filings, Zone 6 (Elgin, Geneva, Wheaton) reported the largest number – 5,054 claims filed, or 12 percent of the total – followed by Zone 1 (Collinsville/Belleville, Herrin, Mt. Vernon) – 4,699 claims or 11 percent of the total. The actual number of cases opened in FY 2014 equaled 45,533, up two percent from FY 2013, but off quite a bit from the 50,854 figure seen in FY 2010. The remaining Downstate Zones rank as follows: Zone 5 (Rockford, Waukegan, Woodstock) at 10 percent; Zone 2 (Quincy, Springfield, Urbana) at 9 percent; Zone 3 (Bloomington, Peoria, Rock Island) at 9 percent; and Zone 4 (Kankakee, New Lenox, Ottawa) at 8 percent.
Looking at the number of appeals, the statistics for FY 2014 reveal that fewer appeals are being filed. In FY 2014, 2,693 arbitration decisions were rendered, 52 percent of which were reviewed to the Commission. The Commission rendered 1,069 decisions, 26 percent of which were reviewed to the circuit court. Both percentages were down from FY 2013 and FY 2012. The circuit courts in FY 2014 issued 202 merits decisions, which then produced roughly 113 appellate court orders and opinions.
From a claimant perspective, although women constitute 47 percent of the Illinois workforce, only 35 percent of the claimants during FY 2014 were female. This was up, however, from a 1985 level of 22 percent. Even so, the report notes that only 3.2-3.5 percent of Illinois workers are injured per year. According to the NCCI Annual Statistical Bulletin 2014, Illinois experienced a frequency of injury per 100,000 workers of 3,201, which is lower than the national average of 3,491 injuries per 100,000 workers. Of these injuries, only one percent lost time from work. Illinois wages remained high at $52,590 in average annual wages, which exceeded the national average of $49,808. Compared to neighboring states, Illinois' average annual wage was even more pronounced, with Missouri at $43,066, Wisconsin at $42,777, Indiana at $41,660, and Iowa at $41,107. To compound this higher rate, the duration of TTD in Illinois (20.8 weeks) exceeded the duration rates of Indiana (11.8), Wisconsin (10.8), and Iowa (10.7).