When one suffers an injury at work that arises out of and in the course of employment and provides proper notice to the employer within the statutory allowed time limit, such an employee may qualify for benefits under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act. However, with the exception of claims based upon repetitive trauma, injuries claimed under the Illinois Workers Compensation Act are often sustained as a result of an identifiable single traumatic event. So, what remedy does the employee have if his or her injury develops over time and does not result from a single identifiable event? For example, if an employee is continuously exposed to harmful chemicals, toxins, fumes, or radiation, such exposure is likely to manifest itself in serious disease and/or health condition. If this happens, and an employee develops an occupational disease, then the Application for Adjustment of Claim shall be filed with Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission under the Illinois Occupational Disease Act rather than under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.
The Occupational Disease Act, 820 ILCS 310/1, defines an “occupational disease” as any disease “arising out of and in the course of employment or which has become aggravated and rendered disabling as a result of the exposure of the employment.” Although the Act does not provide an exclusive list of diseases compensable under its provisions, some examples of such diseases are lung cancer, mesothelioma, silicosis, berylliosis, hepatitis, tuberculosis, etc. Injuries suffered from exposure to COVID-19 at the workplace can also be compensable under the provisions of the Act.
In general, to obtain compensation for an occupational disease, there must be a causal connection between the disease and/or illness suffered and the employment. Further, if a claim for the benefits under the Act is made on the basis of aggravation of existing condition and/or illness, the employee has to be exposed to a risk peculiar to the employment and not faced by the general public. Nevertheless, if one is employed as a firefighter, an emergency medical technician, an emergency medical technician-intermediate, an advanced emergency medical technician, or a paramedic, and becomes ill from bloodborne pathogen, lung or respiratory disease, heart or vascular disease, hypertension, tuberculosis, or cancer, then there is a rebuttable presumption that such individual’s illness arose out of and in the course of employment. This means that the causal connection is presumed in the above-referenced examples. It is also worth mentioning, that the exposure to the hazardous condition does not have to be prolonged to establish the causal connection and qualify for the benefits under the Act. Rather, an employee just needs to corroborate that he or she was employed in the occupation or process where such hazardous condition exists.
In addition to establishing the causal connection, the employee needs to prove that the disease sustained in the course of employment resulted in disablement. The Act defines disablement as “temporary or permanent impairment in the function of the body or any members of the body, or the event of becoming disabled from earning full wages at the place of work where an employee was last exposed to hazards. Notice of the disablement shall be given to the employer as soon as practicable.
Finally, in order to obtain compensation, it is important to timely file for the benefits under the provisions of the Act. In particular, the Application for Adjustment of Claim can be filled within 3 years after the last exposure. However, if one was exposed to radiological materials or asbestos in the course of employment, such person has 25 years since the last day of exposure to hazards to open a claim.
Usually, the last employer where the exposure occurred will be liable for the damages. However, there are some exceptions to the general rule.
If an insurance company has denied your work comp claim or refused to pay work comp benefits, you owe it to yourself to contact one of the best work comp attorneys in Chicago, Brent Eames, to discuss your rights. If you have been injured, you should immediately contact Brent Eames for a free consultation to discuss your options.
The content of this blog is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute or establish an attorney-client relationship, nor constitute legal advice. If you wish to discuss any further aspect of the material contained herein, please contact an attorney at Eames Law Group, Ltd.