Under the current Illinois Workers’ Compensation System, injured workers have a strict statute of limitations that prevents them from bringing claims after 2 years from the date of injury. There are exceptions for latent diseases that are caused by occupational exposures to hazardous materials. For instance, if an employee is exposed to lead poisoning, asbestos, or other substances that do not manifest for years, there are rules in place to extend the time for filing a claim.
However, no matter how terrible the injuries or the willfulness of the employer’s conduct, employees cannot sue their employers. They must go through the workers’ compensation system. Southern Illinois workers’ compensation lawyers regularly help clients with this process, but strict rules often prohibit recovery.
Current Time Limits on Exposure Claims
Today, employees are barred from any recovery for an occupational exposure to asbestos unless they file their claim within 25 years of exposure. Of course, many asbestos victims may not realize they are suffering from an asbestos-related ailment until after that 25-year period has passed, thereby leaving them entirely uncompensated for their life-threatening conditions.
The New Law - Senate Bill 1596
SB 1596 was passed by the General Assembly and sent to the Governor for signature on March 20, 2019. It is highly anticipated that the Bill will be signed into law shortly, so it’s worth taking a look at some of the key provisions and how it will change workers’ compensation law for many injured workers.
Extending Rights to Victims
The law allows workers to file civil actions against employers after expiration of the workers’ compensation statute of repose (25 years). Make no mistake about it, asbestos manufacturers knew that they were putting innocent people in harm, and they did it anyway. Many Americans have died painful and horrible deaths, so that wealthy corporations could make profits for decades. The new law does nothing more than let average working people claim a civil action against those employers that participated in exposing them to asbestos for years.
What the Law Actually Says
Until now, there have been expressed provisions in the Workers’ Compensation Act that bar claims for benefits brought more than 25 years after exposure to a substance. So a latent disease caused by exposure more than 25 years ago would be non-compensable. It would not matter if the employer intentionally and deceptively exposed employees to a lethal byproduct or substance for profit, knowing it would kill them. So long as the health problems don’t surface within the 25-year period, the employee would be helpless to take action.
Under the new law, these bars on recovery would no longer apply “to any injury or death sustained by an employee as to which the recovery of compensation benefits under this Act would be precluded due to the operation of any period of repose or repose provision.”
Getting Help With Occupational Injury Claims in Illinois
If you or a loved one have suffered injuries on the job in rural downstate Illinois, never assume your employer will help. In fact, many of the largest employers and their insurance carriers have come out aggressively in opposition to the new law, actively taking the anticipated position that by changing the law, it will be unfair to employers.
At Jerome, Lindsay & Salmi, LLP, we stand firmly with the working people of this state. If your life has been turned upside down by a catastrophic injury or medical condition, you deserve to be compensated. Give our professional team of workers’ compensation attorneys a call today for a completely free consultation, and find out if we can help you.
by JAYE R. LINDSAY
One part combat veteran, one part former firefighter/EMT and truck driver, and 100% devoted to helping clients achieve the results they desire.
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