According to the American Cancer Society, more than 1,600,000 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the U.S. in 2014. Thousands of workers in Illinois are temporarily or permanently disabled by cancer each year. In many cases, their diagnosis can be traced to adverse conditions on the job. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act provides for the needs of these workers, offering them benefits to cover medical expenses, lost wages and rehabilitation costs.
Why is cancer a complicated issue for workers’ compensation providers?
Some work-related traumas, such as broken bones, are relatively simple to diagnose and link to working conditions. Workers’ compensation for cancer is often a complicated matter, for some or all of the following reasons:
- The connections between work conditions and cancer can be complicated and hard to trace
- Cancer often takes many years to develop
- After a diagnosis, patients often need to consult with multiple medical specialists
- Recovery can be a long and arduous process
Despite these difficulties, employees should remember that they are always eligible for benefits under Illinois law if they contract work-related cancer.
The burden of proof may be on the worker
The burden of proof is often on the worker to show that an occupational illness is genuinely linked to harmful situations on the job. In many cases, the employee must show a direct causal relationship between carcinogenic agents in the workplace and a cancer diagnosis. Some Illinois employees, such as firefighters, paramedics and EMTs, are protected by a recent revision of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act that automatically assumes these illnesses are caused by exposure to dangerous substances in the line of duty.
What should workers do after a cancer diagnosis?
If a worker suspects that a cancer diagnosis might be related to chemical exposure or radiation exposure on the job, it is important to document every detail of the case. Speak with supervisors and co-workers to determine the exact level of harmful agents in the work environment. Invite testimony from as many medical providers as possible. The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act permits disabled employees to see their choice of up to two doctors. Doctors’ referrals to further specialists are also covered, and these specialists can often be helpful in making a case for additional compensation.
A cancer diagnosis can be life-changing. To find out more about your options as a disabled worker in Illinois, get in touch with a workers’ compensation lawyer today.