Can I Sue My Employer if I Get Sick at Work?

Illinois workers’ compensation law prevents employees from suing their employers in the event of a workplace injury, including illnesses contracted on the job.

However, employees may be able to recover benefits if they become ill as a result of performing workplace duties.

Workers’ Compensation and Employer Liability

Illinois’ workers’ compensation law is a no-fault system, which means negligence and fault does not come into play when determining whether you can receive benefits or not. Your illness simply needs to have resulted from fulfilling your workplace obligations.

It’s worth noting that there are ways to be disqualified from receiving benefits, such as if you are late reporting your illness or if you were acting particularly recklessly. That said, occupational illness generally results from the nature of the job itself, and the time it takes an illness to develop may allow for a little more leeway on time frames since they’d be measured from the time you noticed that you were sick rather than from whatever incident initially caused it.

With all that said, the fact that workers’ compensation is in place means you can’t sue your employer for damages if you get sick on the job.

Workers’ Comp Benefits for Occupational Illness

The benefits one can receive through workers’ compensation include coverage for:

  • Medical bills
  • Medications
  • Lost wages
  • Disability benefits

This means that if you’re hospitalized or miss extended periods of time from work as a result of an illness contracted on the job, you should have those costs covered.

Of course, having an illness covered by workers’ compensation is fairly rare, and generally not even necessary. In most cases, insurance and sick pay will cover the costs of an illness unless it’s particularly serious. In those cases, you may need to seek additional benefits through workers’ comp.

Challenges of Receiving Worker’s Comp for Occupational Illness

While you are technically entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you fall ill at work, that doesn’t necessarily mean your claim will be automatically accepted. There are a number of challenges inherent in occupational illness, primarily when it comes to proving that it’s connected to your job.

It’s difficult to pinpoint where you may have contracted a given illness. There are many places where you might be exposed to infectious disease, so unless your occupation involves working directly with people who are sick, such as in a hospital or other healthcare facility, there’s a strong chance your claim will be denied.

Covering the Costs of Illness

As already stated above, most illnesses can be easily covered by your own health insurance and any sick days or earned time off your employer gives you. That said, if you fall seriously ill as a result of fulfilling workplace obligations, you’d need to make sure you have a solid case to back up your claim. Some of these items can help with that:

  • Seek medical attention to get your doctor’s opinion
  • Keep a careful timeline of how your illness developed
  • File all workers’ compensation paperwork on time
  • Talk to a workers’ compensation attorney

If you work with an attorney and have enough evidence to connect your illness to work, then you’ll stand a decent chance of receiving benefits. Otherwise, it may be best to rely solely on your own insurance.

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