I have been a work comp lawyer for over 20 years and pride myself in talking in “plain English.”  That said, there’s no way to talk about pneumoconiosis in plain English because that word seems like something the winner of the Scripps Spelling Bee would have to go through.

Pneumoconiosis is a lung condition that coal miners get due to exposure to coal dust over a period of time.  When this happens and you work in Illinois you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

Pneumoconiosis is also known as black lung disease and as you may know, there is no cure for it.  While there are Federal benefits available for this problem, if you file for work comp within three years of your last exposure, you can get Illinois workers’ compensation benefits too.

There was a recent case where a coal worker for the American Coal Company won his case. This worker was in coal mines for almost 40 years, the last 22 with the same employer.  About ten years before he stopped working he noticed that he was having some breathing problems.  After a chest x-ray, a diagnosis was made and the treating doctor told him that he should avoid additional exposure to coal and rock dust.

Quite honestly, for most coal workers this would be the expected result after a long history of working.  The best advice I can give you in this situation other than to get medical care is to not quit or resign from your job.  In the case I talked about, the worker retired and as a result while he won his case, the value of the case went way down.  He still got a five figure result, but it would have likely been in the six figures had he not quit.

When you are medically required to change your job and your employer can’t accommodate your restrictions, the value of your case goes up. In this case, unless they were going to make him an office worker at a similar pay rate, he likely would have been found to be an odd lot permanent total. Based on his age, health and employment history there wouldn’t have been a stable job market for him.

If you have questions about a possible black lung claim for Illinois workers’ compensation benefits please contact us.  While we are based in Chicago, we work with numerous lawyers in central and southern Illinois who have helped coal workers win benefits for years.  There is no fee unless the claim is successful.