Key Illinois Supreme Court Workers Compensation Case Decided – Gruszeczka v. IL Workers’ Comp. Comm’n

A case that has a number of implications for the rights of injured workers and the compliance obligations of employers has recently been decided in a case known as Gruszeczka v. IL Workers’ Comp. Comm’n which involved a man that was suing the Worker’s Compensation Commission in Illinois because an arbitrator of the commission and a lower court had wrongfully denied him benefits to which he was entitled. The case particularly highlights the need for worker’s claiming compensation benefits to ensure that their claims are filed as quickly as possible.

The man than applied for the decision to be reversed but calculated the exclusion period for the application against when he mailed the application rather than when it is received by the court. It was the view of the court that the existing case law was of the position that the application could not be heard because of the “mail box” rule. The court also viewed it as relevant that there was no guidance provided by the legislature on the interpretation of the statute and therefore the rule of case law must stand. The original reason that the applicant had been denied compensation was that the arbitrator didn’t accept that the events in the workplace caused the injury of the plaintiff. The case had a somewhat contorted judicial history because the lowest court that heard the case basically agreed with the arbitrator. However, the problem that was identified by the appellate court was that this was not a subject on which the court could rule. This meant that the appeal was not accepted and the judgment of the lower court was removed.

From the facts and outcome of this case, it is clear that getting a successful result in a workers compensation claim is dependent on a variety of factors. Although the details of the causation elements of workers compensation are not particularly clear in this case, it is certainly a requirement that the injury suffered is one that was caused by the work environment established by the employer. In reality, in many workers compensation claims, the employer is covered by worker’s compensation insurance and therefore the dispute is between the insurance company and the injury worker with the insurer attempting to deny liability on the basis of a technical legal argument like causation. It is obviously also important to seek appropriate professional legal advice in relation to any application like this because of the complexity of such a matter and the possibility that it could result in a serious abridgement of your legal rights if you are unable to claim successfully. Also, a legal professional will usually have a good grip on the statutes of limitations which apply to a matter like this enabling a claimant to avoid the situation which occurred in this case where an injured worker appears to have been denied compensation purely on the basis of a very minor technicality.

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