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Bill would nix pay for nonwork accidents

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014 12:18 a.m. CDT

SPRINGFIELD – Lawmakers will consider legislation this spring that aims to clarify who is responsible for injuries sustained in a traffic accident on the way to work.

Lee Enterprises Newspapers in Illinois reported Tuesday that Sen. Kyle McCarter, Rep., Lebanon, has introduced a measure that exempts an employer from paying for injuries if the worker is not traveling specifically for work purposes.

“It makes practical sense,” McCarter said. “If the employer is not responsible for an accident, why would you make him pay?”

McCarter’s legislation stipulates that an injured worker could receive compensation only “if the injury arises out of and in the course of employment while he or she is actively engaged in the duties of employment.”

The initiative mirrors a recent Supreme Court decision. In that case, a Springfield pipefitter, Gerald Daugherty, took a temporary job at a power plant in Rock Island County, near the Quad Cities. Instead of commuting 200 miles from his home, Daugherty rented a motel room.

One day as he and a co-worker drove to work, the car in which they were riding hit a patch of ice and crashed and Daugherty was severely injured.

The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, which decides disputes over payment for workplace injuries, declared Daugherty would receive employer compensation.

But the Supreme Court decided in December that Daugherty made a personal decision to take the job with an understanding of the commute involved – and therefore was not traveling for work.

The court ruled on the case 6-1 with Justice Thomas Kilbride dissenting.

He decided Daugherty should have been considered a “traveling employee” because the job at the power plant was temporary.

McCarter’s proposal was introduced in November, before the Supreme Court ruling. It has not been assigned to a Senate committee for action.

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