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Can I get workers’ compensation for a work-related illness?

Many people wrongly believe that workers' compensation benefits are only available to victims of on-the-job accidents. This is not true. In fact, Illinois has a specific law on the books to protect workers who acquire diseases that arise from their employment. The Illinois Occupational Disease Act sets forth a series of rules regarding workplace illnesses as well as laying the groundwork for what constitutes a valid claim.

For example, there are general requirements for your illness to be considered as having arisen from your employment. It must be apparent to a reasonable person that there exists a causal connection between your injury and the work you performed as part of your job. However, it's not necessary for you to have foreseen that your work activities would have aggravated an existing condition to the point of disabling you.

A good example of this might be Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. In a nutshell, CTS occurs when there is pressure on the median nerve and tendons in your wrists and hands. Although it remains unknown exactly what causes CTS, the syndrome is prevalent among assembly-line workers and others who use their hands to frequently complete repetitive tasks. CTS is also a good example for another reason. According to the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Strokes, some people may simply be more genetically predisposed to acquiring CTS than others. In fact, CTS is prevalent in three times as many women as men.

Although CTS is just one example of an occupational disease it's easy to see how your employer's insurance company may attempt to deny your claims or limit the amount of medical care you receive to treat your injuries.

Fortunately, Illinois allows injured workers to retain legal counsel during workers' compensation appeals. Your attorney can assist you by appearing alongside you and speaking on your behalf during appeal hearings. Your attorney can also put you in touch with medical experts with experience dealing with your specific type of illness.

Source: Illinois General Assembly, "820 ILCS 310-Workers' Occupational Diseases Act.," accessed June 04, 2015

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