Where the best Illinois work comp attorneys really separate themselves from the ones that dabble in it or don’t give great effort is when there are unique cases and injuries. If a type of injury is so rare that a lawyer either hasn’t seen it or rarely sees it, they add value to the case and help the injured worker by their dedication and research abilities. A clear example of a rare case is Baker’s Asthma.
Asthma is a common respiratory condition that makes breathing difficult. Asthma symptoms include wheezing, coughing, shortness of breath and tightness in one’s chest. Asthma is a minor nuisance for some people, but for others, it can be a major problem that interferes with daily activities and may lead to a life-threatening asthma attack. Most people and lawyers are familiar with this.
Occupational asthma, or work-related asthma, occurs when a person breathes in fumes, gasses or dust on the job that leads to asthma symptoms. These cases are often fought hard by insurance companies as they will allege that the problem is either pre-existing or not work related.
A number of professions are on the list for being high-risk for developing asthma. The occupation we are focusing on here is baker. At first glance, that doesn’t seem like a job that could potentially hurt one’s respiratory system. You don’t see barrels of noxious chemicals in a bakery. Baker’s asthma is real though, and all too common.
What are the potential exposures in a bakery environment that can lead to baker’s asthma? The possible lung irritants include wheat, rye, barley and soy flours (and the dust from these grain flours), yeast, eggs, sesame seeds, nuts, mold, dust mites, and enzyme additives like cellulose. Those exposures may sound innocent enough on the surface, but when someone is weighing, sieving, and mixing those ingredients (and inhaling the dust generated from those tasks) on a daily basis over a prolonged period of time, the risk is certainly there.
If you are a baker, grain miller, school cook, or a teacher who conducts baking demonstrations regularly, and you believe you have developed baker’s asthma, it is important that you report this to your employer and seek treatment from a doctor.
Your doctor will perform a physical exam, and you may be given lung function tests. These tests may include a spirometry test, which checks how much air you can exhale after taking a deep breath and how fast you can breathe out, and a peak flow test, that measures how hard you can breathe out. Allergy testing may also be recommended.
Where a lawyer comes in is asking the right questions to your doctor in order to prove that the problem is work related and understanding the science behind how your job can expose you to this risk. It doesn’t matter if you have a prior problem as long as you can prove that your job made the asthma worse or accelerated the issues you were facing.
I’d bet there have been less than five of these cases ever filed in Illinois, but I’d also bet that there have been hundreds of other potential cases that were never filed because the injured workers didn’t know it was a possibility. We love to educate the public and if even one person reads this and gets work comp benefits then it will be worth it.
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