Jurisdiction is a court’s power to decide a case or issue a decree. Remember that the Commission is a state agency, not a court. In a workers’ compensation claim, jurisdiction relates to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission’s power to decide a case or issue a decree.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act gives the Commission jurisdiction over workers’ compensation claims if the accident occurred in Illinois, if the contract for hire was made in Illinois, or if the injured worker’s employment was principally localized in Illinois. Jurisdiction will be an easy hurdle if the accident occurred in Illinois, or if your contract for hire was made in Illinois. It might not be so simple if you get stuck having to prove that your employment was principally localized in Illinois.
Did the accident occur in Illinois?
On its face, this would seem to be an easy question for the Commission. And most of the time you would be right. But what if an injury occurs on a bridge between Missouri and Illinois?
That question was addressed by the Commission in the case of Mosby v. MTA. The Commission looked to the civil case of Schaeren v. Querner Truck Lines, where the court found that both Illinois and Missouri had concurrent jurisdiction. Concurrent means “having authority over the same matters.” The Commission reasoned that “the State keeps its jurisdiction over that which is attached to it.” That means that if a bridge is attached to a State, then the State may exercise legal authority over what happens on the bridge.
If the accident occurred in the State of Illinois, the Commission has jurisdiction. Likewise, if an accident occurs on a bridge or other structure that is attached to Illinois, the Commission will likely find that it has jurisdiction to hear the case.
Was the contract for hire made in Illinois?
If you were hired in Illinois, the Commission has jurisdiction over your work accident even if happen to be injured in another state. This is important because many states have workers’ compensation benefits that are far less generous than benefits you can receive in Illinois. The contract for hire is made where the last act necessary for the formation of the contract occurred. For example, if the employee is required to pass a drug test before being hired, and that drug test is performed in Indiana, then Indiana might be the state where the contract for hire was made because the last act required for employment was passing a drug test. If a job is offered by telephone and the worker is in Indiana when he or she receives the call and accepts the offer, then the contract is formed in Indiana, because an oral contract consummated over the telephone is deemed made where the words of acceptance are uttered.
If the contract for hire was made in Illinois, the Commission should find that it has jurisdiction to hear your case.
Was the worker’s employment principally localized in Illinois?
In a perfect world, you want to show that either the accident occurred in Illinois, or that the contract for employment was made in Illinois. But if you can’t prove either of those, then you still might have a shot at winning a jurisdiction argument. Your last argument is the “principally localized” argument. An injured worker’s employment is principally localized in a particular state when the employer has a place of business in that State and the injured worker regular works at or from that place of business. Alternatively, the injured worker’s employment could still be found to be principally located in a State if the worker lives and spends a substantial amount of time working for the employer in that State.
The alternative test above requires the Commission to look at 5 factors. Those five factors are:
- where the employment relationship is centered, i.e., the center form which the employee works.
- the source of remuneration to the employee.
- where the employment contract was formed.
- the existence of a facility from which the employee received his assignments and is otherwise controlled; and
- the understanding that the employee will return to that facility after the out-of-State assignment is complete.
These types of questions often arise when an individual has a job that requires lots of travel, such as a truck driver, pilot, or traveling salesperson. You want to be able to check as many of the 5 factors as you can if you’re trying to prove that your employment is principally localized in Illinois. Your jurisdiction argument will be much easier if your accident occurs in Illinois and / or your contract for hire was made in Illinois. If you are not sure whether you have an Illinois Workers’ Compensation Claim, contact me for a free consultation.