Proving Chemical Exposure Caused the Problem

If you think that exposure to a chemical at work caused your illness or condition, you may have a case under the Occupational Disease Act.  This is similar to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act.  Both reimburse you for your medical bills and lost wages if your injury is work related.

In cases of chemical exposure, though, it can be very challenging to prove that your current health problems are related to your work environment.   The exposure is more difficult to investigate.  And because the symptoms can develop over a long period of time, it can be hard to show that other health conditions you may have are not the real reason for your illness.

If you are suffering from an illness that is related to your work, keep in mind that the chemical exposure at work does not need to be the sole cause of your illness.  You do not need to give up the idea of getting insurance benefits for your injury just because, for example, you are a long-time smoker.

Frequently the insurance company will point to other conditions or risk factors that do not related to work, such as smoking or other prior conditions.   And they will try to make the claim that because of these other factors, the chemicals at work are not to blame for your current condition.  Though the other complications may make your case for a work injury more difficult, you do not automatically lose your case.

What you do need though, is more medical proof to make a convincing case that the exposure in the work environment contributed to your disease or illness.  Cases have been won and lost on the amount and quality of the medical backing for the claim. 

For example, testimony from experts that a worker’s condition is the same at work and outside of work, and that others on the job site have similar issues can help to show a work cause.  Even if others at work only have very mild symptoms as compared to yours, that fact that your health makes your reaction more severe should not prevent you from proving a work injury.

On the other hand, a worker in Illinois recently lost a case because of the lack of medical evidence showing that the work chemicals caused the health condition.   Even though several experts pointed to the worker’s smoking as the cause of his illness, that alone would not necessarily have ended the case if there had been other strong evidence showing the chemicals made his health worse.

Because these illnesses can develop over time, you should not waste time in pursuing a claim if there is a chance that your health problems may have been affected by a chemical exposure on the job.  Most important of all of course is your health so above all else, head to the doctor ASAP no matter what is causing your problem.

We are workers' compensation attorneys that help people with Illinois work injuries anywhere in IL via our statewide network of attorneys. Contact us and we will answer your questions or find the right lawyer for your situation.

 12/28/11