Gov. Signs Uhl's Law and Amends Section 11 of the Act' 
By: Keith Herman Updated: August 9, 2011

 

On Monday, August 8, 2011, Gov. Quinn signed SB1147 into law.  This law that prohibits workers convicted of reckless homicide or aggravated drunken driving from receiving workers' compensation benefits for injuries resulting from these crimes.  Democratic Sen. Bill Haine of Alton, Illinois and Republican Rep. Dwight Kay of Glen Carbon sponsored the bill.

As many of you may recall, in 2007, two teenage girls, Kelli and Jessica Uhl, died when a police cruiser driven by former State Trooper Matt Mitchell at 126 mph slammed head-on into their car on Interstate 64.  Mitchell, who was responding to an accident, was talking to his girlfriend on a cell phone and receiving text messages.  Mitchell subsequently filed for workers’ compensation benefits as a result of his injuries in the crash that killed the Uhl sisters.  The law is known as “Uhl’s Law”.

Mitchell entered a plea of guilty to reckless homicide and received probation. He was dismissed from the state police force. Former Arbitrator Teague denied Mitchell's workers' comp claim on the basis that he took an unreasonable and unjustifiable risk.  Mitchell subsequently filed a Petition for Review before the Commission.  Uhl’s Law is not to be applied retroactively, and as a result will not affect the Mitchell case.

The law itself amends Section 11 of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  Readers may access the text of the law at
Uhl's Law- Section 11 of the Act.

According to this provision, accidental injuries incurred while by an employee who engages in the commission of (a) a forcible felony, (b) aggravated driving under the influence of alcohol, other drug or drugs, or intoxicating compound or compounds, or any combination thereof, or (c) reckless homicide and where the result is a conviction of the employee, do not arise out of and in the course of employment if the commission of that forcible felony, aggravated driving under the influence, or reckless homicide caused an accident resulting in the death or severe injury of another person. 

In addition, even if the employee is acquitted of the aforementioned crimes that caused an accident resulting in the death or severe injury of another person or if these charges are dismissed, the law states that there shall not be a presumption that the employee is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Finally, Uhl’s Law precludes penalties and fees under Sections 19(k), 19(l) and 16 when the employer terminates or refuses to pay workers’ compensation benefits to the employee after he or she has been charged with a forcible felony, aggravated driving under the influence, or reckless homicide that caused an accident resulting in the death or severe injury of another person until the termination of any pending criminal proceedings.

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