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I hope this finds all of the IAN Readers safe and well. These are surely unprecedented times. It is difficult for any living American to find a comparison. On one hand, we all face the serious risk of infection by a rampant and deadly virus and on the other, the economy has ground to a trickle due to social distancing restrictions and business closures. These are very difficult times for our families, our children and our friends and over the last few weeks we have all had to come to know a new normal, one which no one feels safe or comfortable in.  

In the midst of this chaos, one of the pillars of social order in the United States, the Court system, is closed. Lawyers take for granted the ability to bring our client’s case to court. Our advices to you are based upon the backbone of a judge’s ruling. Faith in the system depends on the system being there.
Thus, it has been a struggle navigating the best way to protect our clients’ rights in an unfamiliar legal landscape.

But please know, my colleagues and I are still here for our clients and all of you.

Thankfully, my office was set up to work on all of our cases from home before the public health crisis hit. We use a secure cloud-based case file management system that enables our lawyers and staff to access absolutely everything we need through our computers, wherever we are. It is just as if we were sitting at our desks at the Marquette Building in downtown Chicago. You can reach us through our business phone system even if we are working remotely. Our law firm is committed to doing everything we can to fight for justice for our clients.

 The Courts prohibit almost all in-person activity. But the electronic-filing system allows us to file lawsuits and other important documents. We are able to access judges for critical activities. And there is limited availability if we find a client in a true emergency circumstance that requires a judge’s intervention. Our job is to know the system and know how to operate to protect your rights and your pathway to economic justice. We are presently still working towards that every day.

Everyone’s primary concerns right now are the health and safety of their families, paying bills, and stocking their homes for the duration. Those are my concerns too. But injuries are still a very real concern to many people, even during this current crisis.

Those concerns are all the more real for those on the front lime, providing care and relief and services to all of us. Those frontline workers are truly Heroes. They leave their families every day and put their health and that of their loved ones at risk, to care for, attend to and serve others.  They cannot and must not be forgotten.

As I write this article, I can assure you that they will not be forgotten.

In April, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced an emergency change to the laws affecting workers under The Illinois Workers Compensation Act.
 The new rule sets out that COVID-19, front line workers, including First Responders, whose injury or inability to work, resulted from exposure to the COVID-19 virus, during a COVID-19-related state of emergency, the exposure will be rebuttably-presumed to have arisen out of and in the course of the injured worker’s employment.  Furthermore that exposure, will be rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the injured front line worker’s employment.

Legally, this “presumption” is a change in the usual rules for work injuries. Rather than an injured worker bearing the burden to prove that the sickness occurred as a result of their work, it will be presumed. And it would be the burden of the Employer to prove otherwise. The same applies to the “Causation” element—that the exposure caused the symptoms and the inability to work.

This is a just and welcome change in the law that that front-line workers are protected. It is right that as they risk their health—and even lives—for others, that they do so assured of protections for medical benefits and disability compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Act if they get infected.
The term “COVID-19 First Responder or Front-Line Worker” means any individuals employed as police, fire personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, all individuals employed and considered as first responders, health care providers engaged in patient care, correction officers, and those crucial personnel identified under the Governor’s Executive Order 2020-10 of March 20, 2020.

Those crucial personnel identified under the above Executive Order, include but are not limited to, store clerks in grocery stores and pharmacies, personnel involved in food, beverage and agricultural production, gas station workers and business needed for transportation, mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick up services and home based care and services.  These are only some of the crucial workers identified by the Executive Order and now covered by this new rebuttable presumption in the Workers Compensation Act.

We are heartened by this announcement by the Illinois Worker’s Compensation Commission and are here and ready to advise anyone who finds themselves with an infection that may have been the result of a work exposure about their rights. There is a limit to how much legal advice can help in an emergency, but we are committed to helping as much as we can in this way.

Please call me if you are a worker that has contracted COVID 19 and want to know your rights under this new law.  These are unprecedented times. Understand that we are here to help with your legal needs and will do everything in our power to advocate for you, even under these dire circumstances. Take heart, we will all get through this together.  Together while staying apart.  
Be well, Be safe and God Bless.

*Caroleann Gallagher is an Irish born Attorney now licensed in Illinois and practicing all types of personal injury law – including nursing home litigation, medical malpractice law, wrongful death claims, transportation injuries, premises liability claims, defective product claims, construction site injuries and Workers Compensation. She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 312-543-4642.

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