Workers in Illinois are subject to a wide range of workplace-related injuries and occupational diseases, both nonfatal and fatal. Illinois state law provides injured employees with the opportunity to seek and receive benefits for such conditions. In the case of diseases, it may be helpful to understand what qualifies them for workers’ compensation benefits.
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act covers both injuries and diseases that arise during the course of employment. Examples could include a hospital worker contracting a contagious disease from an ill patient or a warehouse worker exposed to harmful chemicals at work. In such cases, the Act would cover associated damages, such as lost wages or medical costs.
Aggravated diseases eligible
In addition to diseases that were originally caused during the course of employment, the Act enables workers to seek benefits for diseases that may have originated elsewhere, but were aggravated during the course of employment. To illustrate, if a worker entered the workforce with a preexisting condition of asthma, which then worsened due to worksite conditions, the worker would be entitled to damages as if the condition originated in the workplace.
Another important consideration to remember is that no disease may qualify for workers’ compensation if the required administrative responsibilities on the part of the claimant have not been punctually performed. Specifically, for any disease to qualify for benefits, the injured employee or a party on his or her behalf must submit the proper documentation.
First, the employer must be notified, in most cases within 45 days of the injury. Second, a claim must be filed with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, in most cases within three years of the injury. Failure to execute these two steps could cost the injured employee any further opportunity to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Respiratory disease provision
There are, however, exceptions to the traditional timetables for filing a claim with the IWCC. State law recognizes that, while some workplace-related injuries have external or more immediate effects, such as fractures or sprains, others have internal or more delayed effects, such as respiratory diseases.
One of the changes associated with the recently revised Act is a provision for respiratory diseases contracted by workers with specific roles in specific industries. Section 6(f) presumes that any lung or respiratory disease or condition contracted by a Firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician or Paramedic, employed as such for at least five years, was related to that employment. In other words, for this type of disease in these fields, the burden of proof shifts from the employee to the employer.