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Court issues ruling affecting occupational disease lawsuits

Workers' compensation is intended to help pay for medical and other expenses that result when an employee is either injured on the job or develops an illness or condition that is linked to the job. It is very important that workers' compensation claims be filed in a timely manner because to do otherwise could prohibit the injured employee from receiving benefits.

Of course, when an employee is injured, his or her symptoms are typically obvious and in need of immediate care. But what happens if a worker develops a condition or illness that has symptoms that are not so readily apparent?

Recently, the Illinois Supreme Court dismissed a man's tort claim that was filed in relation to his being diagnosed with peritoneal mesothelioma. The man alleged that the disease was due to asbestos exposure he experienced when he worked at a plant 41 years prior to the diagnosis.

The statutes of repose in the state's Workers' Compensation Act, that pertain to asbestos-related injuries and diseases, time-barred the man from collecting benefits. So the man filed a tort claim against the company that owned the plant.

After a series of trials in the lower courts, the case wound up in the Illinois Supreme Court. The resulting ruling bars all workers from attempting to file similar tort claims that are prohibited under the time statutes of the state's Workers' Compensation Act.

This case demonstrates a couple of things. First, if you suspect you may have developed an illness caused by the conditions at your workplace, it is important to have a doctor diagnose your symptoms as soon as possible. And if the diagnosis confirms your suspicions, then you are best served by filing your claim in a timely manner.

If you have filed a workers' compensation claim, or want advice on doing so, an attorney may be able to give you guidance that will help you get an appropriate level of recompense.

Source: The Madison Record, "Illinois Supreme Court narrows ability to sue over occupational diseases, "Anna Aguillard, Nov. 20, 2015

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