September 21, 2010

Reckless, Negligent, Compensable

Matt Mitchell was an Illinois state trooper. On November 23, 2007, he was bombing along Interstate 64 at 126 miles per hour, on his way to an accident scene. He was chatting with his girlfriend and sending text messages. The road was somewhat clogged with holiday travelers. His speeding was not necessary, as help had already arrived at the accident scene. The distracted trooper crossed over the median and hit a car head on. Two sisters, Kelli and Jessica Uhl, were killed instantly. Two other occupants of the car were injured. Trooper Mitchell suffered severe leg injuries.

Speeding for no reason. Texting and talking unrelated to his job. Reckless. Negligent. And, it appears, compensable.

Mitchell pleaded guilty to reckless homicide and reckless driving and was sentenced to 30 months probation. He resigned his position with the state police. He has filed a claim for workers comp benefits, which is likely to be awarded because Mitchell was in the course and scope of employment. In the stipulation during a civil suit filed by the parents of the Uhl sisters, the Illinois attorney general agreed that, despite the criminal negligence, Mitchell was acting in his capacity as a state trooper when the accident occurred. Yes, the speeding was gratuitous, the texting irresponsible, the girl friend chats unrelated to work. But Mitchell was heading to the scene of an accident. He was a jerk and a menace, but he was working.

On the Hook
Illinois taxpayers face an interesting double jeopardy. They are on the hook for the deaths of the Uhl sisters. And they will soon be on the hook for Mitchell's loss of function payments and possibly for permanent total benefits.

It's worth noting that just three days after pleading guilty to the criminal charges, Mitchell testified in a claims hearing that he was not responsible for the crash.

If Mitchell had not been heading for an accident scene, if he was speeding simply because he wore a uniform that allowed him to get away with it, perhaps his claim would be denied under the concept of "wilful intent." We are reminded once again of comp's cornerstone principle of "no fault." There's plenty of fault in this sorry saga, but it does not - alas, it cannot - matter one bit.

| 1 Comment

1 Comment

As a Risk Manager, I handle claims on a daily basis. Although not as severe as this one, I see this TYPE of claim more than I would like to. The fact that this idiot was going to the scene of another accident, is no excuse for driving 126 miles per hour on a public highway. Had this been a civilian they would have been in Jail, not on probation, and certainly not being taken care of by the citizens of his state. I would have no problem testifying against a careless piece of garbage like this guy in an open courtroom, and be happy to help him go to jail for 2 counts of murder.
Reckless homicide was a defense attorney's dream plea bargain that should have NEVER been accepted.

Subscribe

Submit your email to be notified when this site is updated

Need help with your workers' comp program?

Monthly Archives

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jon Coppelman published on September 21, 2010 12:38 PM.

Virginia Comp: Bad Law, Devastating Results was the previous entry in this blog.

Cavalcade of Risk from Down Under is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID