In Illinois Workers’ Compensation cases the trial judge is called an arbitrator. The arbitrator is a full time employee of the State of Illinois. Her job is to conduct workers’ compensation trials, approve workers comp settlement contracts and rule on motions. She is usually assigned to one or two arbitration sites in the State of Illinois. For instance, in Central Illinois there are arbitration sites in Peoria, Bloomington, Springfield, Urbana, Clinton and Decatur. Cases are assigned to a specific site which is determined according to the location of the accident. For example, if you are injured in Champaign, but live in Lincoln, your case will be assigned to Urbana. The arbitrator remains responsible for all workmans compensation cases at her sites as long as she is assigned to the location. If she is transferred, then the new arbitrator hears your case.

Most arbitrators are lawyers, however, they do not have be a lawyer. Some have backgrounds in labor relations or insurance.

The arbitrator will hear the testimony in the trial, read the medical records and any of the doctors’ testimony, and write a decision in your case. This will usually take 60 days. Both sides have 30 days to appeal the decision to the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission if they disagree with the decision in any respect. More about appeals later.


The Chairman of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission is running for Circuit Court Judge in Madison County Illinois. The Chairman runs the Commission and sometimes decides cases at the appeal level. If elected Judge he would not leave the Commission until the end of 2008. The effect would be limited in terms of the way cases are decided. The Chairman to a limited extent drives the agenda for legislation and how fast cases move. The bottom lines is that I do not think a change in the Chairman will speed up or slow down how fast cases will move or whether decisions become more liberal or conservative.