Does asbestosis qualify under the Illinois Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act?

Doctor examining a lung radiographyAsbestosis is covered under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation and Occupational Diseases Act. In other words, Illinois workers who develop this condition as a consequence of employment are entitled to benefits under state workers’ compensation law. Specifically, Section 6 of the Act, which addresses notice and filing parameters, explicitly mentions “injuries caused by exposure to asbestos,” which includes asbestosis.

What is asbestosis?

Asbestosis is a noncancerous condition that develops in response to exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a fibrous material that was regularly used in the construction of buildings between the 1950s and 1990s. Therefore, workers operating in buildings containing asbestos are at risk of developing this condition.

The effects of asbestosis are serious, ranging from mild symptoms that could be mistaken for a common illness to structural problems that could potentially become life threatening. The condition occurs when asbestos fibers enter the lungs and proceed to tear away at them, which prompts the development of scar tissue. Over time, this scar tissue blocks the channel through which oxygen is supplied to the body, resulting in suffocation.

Beyond the risk of respiratory failure, symptoms of asbestosis may include the following:

  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Finger deformity

Additionally, workers who suffer from asbestosis incur a higher risk of lung cancer and mesothelioma, as well as weaker resistance to pneumonia.

Time lag brings complications

Because of the time lag between exposure and diagnosis, many occupational diseases, such as asbestosis, become more complex in workers’ compensation cases. The fact that asbestosis may fail to produce any symptoms for many years is problematic in itself. Moreover, this condition is only detectable by an X-ray of the lungs, which compounds the potential delay in a diagnosis.

For this reason, Illinois workers’ compensation law specifically exempts workers from the standard notice and filing requirements. In most cases, claims must be filed with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission within three years after the date of the accident. However, if the injury was caused by exposure to radiological materials or equipment or asbestos, workers may file with the Commission within 25 years after the last day employed in an environment of hazardous radiological activity or asbestos.

Legal assistance may prove valuable

As is the case for all petitions for benefits under workers’ compensation in Illinois, the key to a successful outcome is establishing the causal relationship between employment and injury. For victims of asbestos exposure, especially those for whom a diagnosis was not feasible for many years after employment-based exposure, the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney may be valuable.