COVID-19 Update: How We Are Serving and Protecting Our Clients

Employer Required Covid Vaccination Injury Issues under IL Workers’ Compensation Law

This discussion is a continuation of our firm’s information regarding your rights for COVID related injuries. Please view Part 1 on the firm’s YouTube Channel at: https://youtu.be/dO7G6MBxNR4 for Richard Johnson’s discussion of COVID injuries being covered under The Illinois Occupational Disease Act and Illinois Workers’ Compensation Law.

As our nation is seeing a rapid rate of COVID vaccinations being administered, unfortunately some individuals will have adverse reactions that result in serious injury or death. In Illinois, it is well established that adverse reactions as a consequence of employer required vaccinations may be compensable and entitle the injured worker to workers’ compensation benefits.

Legal authority for this type of injury is set out in Section 11 of The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. The Statute provides as follows:

Vaccines

Any injury to or disease or death of an employee arising from the administration of a vaccine, including without limitation smallpox vaccine, to prepare for, or as a response to, a threatened or potential bioterrorist incident to the employee as part of a voluntary inoculation program in connection with the person’s employment or in connection with any governmental program or recommendation for the inoculation of workers in the employee’s occupation, geographical area, or other category that includes the employee is deemed to arise out of and in the course of the employment for all purposes under this Act. This paragraph added by this Amendatory Act of the 93rd General Assembly is declarative of existing law and is not a new enactment.

When an accident or event that causes an injury is deemed to have had arisen out of and in the course of one’s employment, that injury is considered compensable and the injured worker is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Presently, many employers are requiring their employees to obtain COVID vaccinations, especially frontline workers including nurses, doctors, medical technicians, nursing home workers, maintenance and janitorial workers, first responders, including paramedics, firefighters and law enforcement officers along with corrections and prison officers. Additionally, many other workers including grocery store clerks and delivery drivers, teachers, school maintenance and janitorial workers, bus drivers, flight attendants, pilots, manufacturing workers and many others may be required by their employers to have COVID vaccinations.

Although uncommon, serious adverse reactions do occur causing the need for additional medical treatment, hospitalization, and other medical expenses, temporary total disability from work, and permanent partial disability. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission and courts have awarded workers’ compensation benefits in the past to injured workers injured due to adverse reactions to employer required vaccinations. Case law is well established with a particularly noteworthy case from 1944. The Illinois Court of Claims awarded benefits in the matter of Ida Hyneman v. State of Illinois, 13 Ill. Ct. Cl. 150 (1944). Ms. Hyneman worked in the dining rooms at a state hospital in Elgin, Illinois. On the day she was required to be inoculated against Diphtheria, as required by her employer, she sustained a serious adverse reaction in her inoculated left arm which required additional medical treatment, temporary total disability from work and resulted in permanent partial impairment. In awarding benefits, the court specifically noted “the infection was not expected and is traceable to the act of vaccination and is compensable.”

In a more recent case, The Workers’ Compensation Commission again awarded compensation benefits to an injured worker whom sustained an adverse reaction due to an employer required vaccination. In the case of Mary Vaughn v. State of Illinois, Centralia Correctional Center, 01 I.I.C. 0855, Ms. Vaughn was a prison guard at Centralia Correctional Center who tried to break up a fight between two inmates and in the course of doing so sustained bruises, a torn rotator cuff and exposure to an inmate’s blood. Due to the exposure, she was required by her employer to have a Hepatitis B injection. Following the injection, she suffered numerous symptoms requiring additional medical treatment and temporary total disability. Despite the employer’s challenge to compensability, the Commission concluded the adverse reaction was compensable and awarded workers’ compensation benefits.

Despite legal authority and medical evidence, your employer and its insurance company may deny responsibility for your claim. Differing facts, testimony, medical records and doctor’s opinions may significantly affect the outcome in individual cases. The above discussion and brief summary of cases is not meant to be relied upon as legal advice. Should you have any questions, or need help with an employer required COVID vaccination, adverse reaction or injury, please contact us for a free consultation.

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