Thursday, June 23, 2011

Illinois' Flirtation with ADR a Positive Step

The Illinois reform bill pending signature before Governor Quinn provides for a pilot program of "carve out" alternative dispute resolution (ADR) for workers' compensation claims involving collective bargaining agreements.

As noted in the WorkCompCentral story this morning (Illinois Explores Pilot Carve-Out Program in New Bill: Top [2011-06-23]), presently there are 12 other states that provide for ADR in collective bargaining situations.

Here's the argument against Illinois carve outs, expressed by Robert Maciorowski of the Chicago law firm Maciorowski, Sackmann & Ulrich:

“Plaintiff attorneys are concerned about turning over responsibility for pursuing a claim to the employee’s union rep,” he said in the WorkCompCentral story. “On the defense side, construction companies were required to be represented by attorneys, and now it could be handled by non-attorneys, usually HR (human resources) people.”

Do I detect a position being taken to protect a special interest?

Indeed, the states that do have ADR systems in place have experienced significant success in controlling litigation costs and improved system performance overall with respect to medical treatment and return to work.

Some of the most powerful labor unions in the country prefer ADR systems because, frankly, it is better for workers with better treatment, less acrimony, and most importantly better return-to-work statistics.

Why? Maciorowski hits the nail on the head with his quote above - because in a traditional workers' compensation system decisions are taken out of the hands of both the injured worker and the employer and are made by third parties with entrenched financial interests that conflict with prompt case resolution.

Workers' compensation has only three real stakeholders: the injured worker, the employer and the State. All others are just vendors.

ADR returns the management of a claim back to the stake holders, where it belongs.

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