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Work Injuries Can Extend Beyond Normal Working HoursInjuries that are covered by workers’ compensation insurance extend beyond what many employees realize. For instance, you may believe that you needed to be working “on the clock” for an injury to be work-related. Your employer’s responsibility for your health can continue even after your official work hours. The workers’ compensation insurance provider will likely contest any injury claim that occurs outside of your paid hours or the workplace. This should not discourage you from filing for workers’ compensation benefits.

Qualifying for Benefits

Job requirements can dictate your actions beyond your documented working hours. Many employees are required or compelled to take their work home with them or perform work-related tasks after work. Even the requirement to travel to and from a work site can potentially expose you to danger. When wondering whether an injury is work-related, you should ask:

  • Was I performing a task that was required as part of my job?;
  • Was my employer benefitting from my actions?;
  • Was my employer aware or could my employer have been expected to be aware that I was at a work site during my free time?;
  • Does my employer own or maintain the property where the injury occurred?; and
  • Would I have been in the situation that caused my injury if not for my work?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, it is worth exploring whether your injury would qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

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Using Proximate Cause, Circumstantial Evidence in a Personal Injury CaseThe strongest argument that you can make in a personal injury case comes from having direct evidence of the actual cause of an injury. Your first-hand account or the testimony of a witness can directly connect the negligence of another party with the incident that led to your injury. Unfortunately, some cases lack direct evidence of what caused an accident, such as a wrongful death incident that no one witnessed. You can use proximate cause and circumstantial evidence to prove the defendant’s liability, but the court will need to be convinced that it is the most plausible explanation.

Proximate Cause

As opposed to the actual cause, proximate cause is a factor that led to an injury or death, even if it was not the direct cause. The proximate cause may be an act of negligence or recklessness that set in motion the events that resulted in an injury. Courts determine that a factor is the proximate cause of an injury if the injury could have been avoided if not for that factor. For instance:

  • When you are in a car accident, the other vehicle may have been the actual cause of your injuries; but
  • If a faulty car part caused the other driver to lose control of the vehicle, the equipment malfunction would be the proximate cause of the accident and the party that made or installed the equipment is liable.

Circumstantial Evidence

When you do not have direct evidence of what caused an accident, you can present circumstantial evidence that you believe infers the cause of the accident. Circumstantial evidence may be observations or witness testimony that reasonably points towards the cause of an injury. A court will accept circumstantial evidence as establishing a fact if that fact is the only probable conclusion that it can draw from that evidence.

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Illinois Looking to Strengthen Penalties of Move-Over LawIllinois lawmakers have introduced new legislation that would increase the punishment for drivers who violate the “move-over” law, also known as Scott’s Law. The existing law states that drivers must use caution when approaching a stationary emergency vehicle on the side of the road. Scott’s Law is a traffic violation that requires a fine, though it can also be an aggravating factor for charges such as driving under the influence. The changes to the law would expand the punishments for incidents involving property damage or personal injury.

Scott’s Law

The state created the move-over law to protect emergency responders after several had been injured or killed when motorists struck them by the side of the road. The law was named after Chicago Fire Department Lt. Scott Gillen, who died after being hit by an intoxicated driver while responding to a crash. The law states that drivers who are approaching a stationary emergency vehicle must:

  • Proceed with caution;
  • Reduce speed; and
  • Change lanes in order to give the vehicle room, if possible.

The law defines a stationary emergency vehicle as any vehicle that is authorized to be equipped with flashing lights, including the red and blue lights and yellow lights. A conviction is a business offense, punishable by a fine of $100 to $10,000. For incidents involving vehicle damage or personal injury, the offender’s driver’s license can be suspended for 90 to 180 days.

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Activities That Distract You From Divorce StressWhen going through a divorce, it is common for the process to consume your thoughts, even when you are supposed to be taking a break. Some divorce anxiety is understandable and shows that you appreciate the importance of the decisions you are making. However, you could be building towards a nervous breakdown if you cannot occasionally distract yourself from that stress. Simply relaxing may not be enough to help you temporarily forget about your divorce. You need to find activities that are both physically and mentally engaging.

Exercise

A fitness routine helps many people treat their daily anxieties. It is tempting to forgo regular exercise because your divorce, work life, and personal life leave you exhausted. However, exercise can benefit you in ways that normal relaxation cannot, such as:

  • Expelling your built-up stress;
  • Making you feel healthier;
  • Releasing endorphins that can improve your mood; and
  • Improving your sleeping.

Exercise comes in many forms besides running on a treadmill or lifting weights. You can join classes for aerobics, yoga, dance, or martial arts. Outdoor activities, such as hiking, cycling or rock climbing, can be a source of fun and exercise. Joining classes or groups will also add a social component to your experience that can help distract you.

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New Illinois Law Would Allow Latent Injury Claims Past Statute of ReposeThe Illinois General Assembly has passed legislation that extends the opportunity to receive compensation when people suffer from work-related occupational diseases. If signed by the governor, the law would allow plaintiffs to file civil lawsuits against employers if the statute of repose for workers’ compensation has expired. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that workers’ compensation was the only recourse for people seeking compensation for occupational diseases and that the 25-year statute of repose is a strict time limit for when a plaintiff must file a claim. The new law would effectively circumvent that ruling.

Occupational Diseases

Unlike most workplace injuries, an occupational disease develops from long-term exposure to a contaminant and not from a specific event. Common causes of occupational diseases include:

  • Exposure to radioactive materials; and
  • Inhalation of harmful substances, such as asbestos.

The period of repose is the length of time after the worker’s last known contact with the contaminant that a plaintiff has to file a workers’ compensation claim. Depending on the cause of the occupational disease, the statute of repose could be as little as two years or as long as 25 years. However, it can take years to decades for a worker to become aware of an occupational disease, such as cancer or respiratory diseases.

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