Proving Occupational Diseases in Illinois Workers Compensation Cases
Proving a disease claim under the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act is often difficult because it may be hard to show that the disease was caused by the person’s working environment. Identifying the disease and tracing it back to the person’s job may require a thorough analysis of his or her medical records. Some occupational disease might also be caused by a person’s living environment or by environmental exposure, so a Chicago workers compensation lawyer may get the help of a medical expert in order to help prove that the occupational disease originated from his or her client’s job and not from elsewhere.
Common Causes of Occupational Diseases
Workers may contract occupational diseases from a variety of different sources. They may be exposed to asbestos, radiation, silica, heat, noise or other environmental conditions. While some people may think of contracting mesothelioma when they think about occupational diseases, the term is broader and encompasses other conditions, including hearing loss. Because a large number of occupational diseases can also be caused by exposure to these factors in other settings, it may be more difficult to prove that they were caused by the working environment.
Determining How a Disease Originated
Some groups of workers show greater incidences of certain diseases. For example, people who work in the health care field, including nurses and emergency medical technicians, are likelier to contract illnesses from blood-borne pathogens. Firefighters and police officers are likelier to contract conditions such as hypertension and vascular diseases. When workers in these groups contract the illnesses that have a high incident rate for their professions, their illnesses are generally presumed to be occupational diseases under the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act. Employers will then have to prove that the workers contracted the diseases at some other location other than their jobs.
Workers who contract diseases and who do not work in industries with higher risks of occupational diseases must prove that their conditions were caused by their work environments. Employees who have developed work-related illnesses may prove that their illnesses were caused by their work by doing the following:
- Keeping a written record of the workplace conditions
- Getting medical evaluations to show that the condition was caused by the person’s work
- Using the documentation to show a nexus between the condition and the workplace environment
Some workplace illnesses develop over time, making it more difficult to gather evidence of the conditions in the workplaces. When an illness develops slowly, it may also make it harder for a victim to meet the statutory deadlines that are required for filing workers’ compensation claims. A Chicago workers compensation lawyer may analyze what occurred in order to determine when the statute of limitations may run for a person’s claim so that the attorney may help to meet the filing deadline.
Illinois law requires workers to notify their employers immediately upon learning that they have contracted workplace illnesses. Victims will not be eligible for benefits if they do not file claims for benefits within the required statutory time frame. Under the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act, employees are unable to recover compensation unless they suffered a disablement within two years of first having symptoms of their work-related conditions. There is an exception for people who develop asbestos- and silica dust-related diseases or berylliosis. People whose have these conditions may recover compensation if they suffer a disablement within three years of first having symptoms. Workers who have been exposed to radiation and later contract conditions relating to their exposures may recover compensation if they suffer disablements within 25 years.
The compensation that workers may be able to recover under the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act is similar to what they might recover under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. People who file their claims within the statutory deadlines may recover compensation for their medical expenses. This includes compensation for medical office visits, prescription medications, rehabilitation and others. If they are unable to work because of their work-related illnesses, the workers may recover benefits for permanent or temporary total or partial disability. If a worker’s ability to do his or her job is affected by his or her work-related condition, he or she may also receive benefits to pay for vocational rehabilitation.
A Chicago workers compensation lawyer represents people who have suffered injuries at work as well as people who have contracted occupational diseases. The availability of the protections for workers under both the state’s workers’ compensation law and the Illinois Occupational Diseases Act is important. These laws help workers who are injured or who become ill because of their workplaces’ environmental conditions by compensating them for their related medical expenses and income losses. A Chicago workers compensation lawyer may get the help of medical and other experts to help his or her client support the client’s benefits claim.