New Proposed Legislation for Illinois Workers Exposed to Toxic Substance Injuries Now Sits with Governor Pritzker
The Illinois General Assembly has passed Senate Bill 1596, which is now at the hands of the new Governor awaiting passage to become a law. The legislation will allow workers to file a claim for benefits after being exposed to harmful substances (such as asbestos or beryllium) and later develop symptoms of injury or disease after the statutes of limitations has run out. The current 25-year time bar has made it nearly impossible for those workers to seek support thru the Illinois civil courts for assistance in recovery from their occupational diseases. SB 1596 would amend sections of the state’s current Workers’ Compensation Act and the Workers’ Occupational Diseases Act and applies to cases in which the statutes of limitations preclude recovery.
25-Year Timeline for Toxin-Related Employer Liability
Today, Section 6 of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act explains an employer’s liability after a set period of time, and reads as follows:
“In any case of injury caused by exposure to radiological materials or equipment or asbestos, unless application for compensation is filed with the Commission within 25 years after the last day that the employee was employed in an environment of hazardous radiological activity or asbestos, the right to file such application shall be barred.”
And, the current Occupational Diseases Act states:
“In cases of disability caused by exposure to radiological materials or equipment or asbestos, unless application for compensation is filed with the Commission within 25 years after the employee was so exposed, the right to file such application shall be barred.”
Some state lawmakers and influential business leaders believe the proposed legislation would complicate Workers’ Compensation programs further and have encouraged the Governor to Veto the bill.
New Law Could Impact and Overturn Current Workers’ Compensation Cases
Although employees can seek compensation under traditional tort claims for damages, including pain and suffering or loss of consortium, they may soon be able to recover higher damages for exposures more than 25 years ago if SB 1596 becomes a law. In 2015, the Illinois Supreme Court made a decision in Folta v. Ferro Engineering, a case keeping a worker from bringing a lawsuit against a former employer 41 years after he worked for the business for his injuries. The potential new law will effectively overturn the case and could help others who suffered latent injuries and disabilities due to occupational diseases and related exposures.
It’s Not Too Late to Seek Justice for Your Workplace Injury
These can be complicated cases and the new law will speak to very specific types of claims, but anyone who suspects exposure to toxic chemicals at their job and a decline in health as a result, may be entitled to compensation. Levin & Perconti has been behind many of Illinois’ successful personal injury, workplace and disability cases for nearly three decades.
Every employee in Illinois has the right to a safe workplace and if not, you may be able to file a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Illinois in order to hold wrongdoers accountable for their reckless or negligent behavior.