Workplace injuries are often fairly straightforward. If you are injured by operating a piece of machinery or falling from scaffolding, for instance, it’s easy to connect the injury to your work and to receive the compensation you need for medical bills, lost time at work, disability, etc. Even in repetitive stress injuries such as back injuries or carpal tunnel, most doctors will be able to trace the injury back to the workplace.
Chemical exposure injuries are a different matter, however. It can take months or even years for symptoms of chemical exposure to manifest, making it very difficult to connect your condition to your occupation.
Common Instances of Chemical Exposure
Often, proving a case of chemical exposure at the workplace is easier if there is some precedent for it. Some common examples of chemical exposure include:
- Asbestosis (from inhaling asbestos fibers)
- Radiation sickness
- Lead poisoning
- Breathing problems from inhaling fumes
- Cognitive issues
- Burning eyes
- Rash or irritation of the skin
- Chronic fatigue
If you have one or more of these symptoms, then it may be the result of chemical exposure.
Since it takes such a long time for symptoms of chemical exposure to manifest themselves, workers’ compensation for these conditions is handled differently. The Illinois Occupational Disease Act, under which chemical exposure claims are handled, allows up to three years from the time you notice symptoms for claims to be filed.
This time allows you to investigate the causes of your condition, a process that can take a while. Private investigators or OSHA can perform inspections to determine whether unsafe workplace conditions led to your chemically induced condition. This is often necessary since many of the symptoms that indicate chemical exposure could also result from other sources.
Personal Injury and Liable Third Parties
Under Illinois law, employees are not permitted to sue their employers for injuries sustained while in the course of fulfilling work-related duties. Instead, work injuries are handled under workers’ compensation, so personal injury lawsuits are not typically an option.
However, if a party other than the employer is responsible, then a personal injury lawsuit may be viable. For instance, if a material used in the workplace contains asbestos, then the manufacturer could be held liable for your injury, and you’d be entitled to compensation through a lawsuit.
Additional Legal Options
In some cases, the circumstances of your condition may warrant filing a claim through OSHA. Certain chemicals are recognized as unsafe under OSHA, and they have numerous standards set in place that are intended to protect workers from unsafe conditions. If your employer has violated these laws, then you may be able to file a complaint with OSHA.
Facing the Challenges of Chemical Exposure Cases
Since the symptoms of chemical exposure are often similar to other conditions, the connection between your health issues and your work activities may not always be clear. Legal assistance as well as careful investigation is needed, which is why consulting with an attorney is absolutely vital to proving your claim. Hart David Carson LLP can provide the legal guidance you need when filing a chemical exposure claim.