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When Does Workers’ Compensation Cover Workplace Illnesses?Sicknesses have a way of spreading around the workplace, due to the close proximity of co-workers and difficulty in killing all of the germs that can contaminate common areas. Communicable diseases such as influenza are rarely a reason to file a workers’ compensation claim. It is difficult to attribute the illness to your work, and using sick days will cover most of the cost to you. However, there are more serious illnesses that could prevent you from working for weeks or months and require hospitalization and expensive care. For some workers, the threat of illness at their workplace allows them to claim workers’ compensation benefits.

Occupational Disease

A serious illness that you contract from work may be an occupational disease, which workers’ compensation insurance will cover. For instance, Legionnaires Disease comes from bacteria that may contaminate a workplace, and nasty viruses can spread from person-to-person. Most occupational diseases do not come from viruses or bacteria but from long-term exposure to hazardous conditions, such as:

  • Airborne contaminants
  • Radiation poisoning
  • Lead poisoning
  • Loud working conditions

These workplace hazards can cause chronic conditions, such as respiratory diseases and cancer. An illness from a virus or bacteria can also cause permanent damage if the symptoms are severe.


What Are the Most Common Workplace Safety Violations for Public Employees?Many employees of the state of Illinois and its municipalities put themselves in hazardous situations in order to perform a public service. Some employees, such as firefighters, may have to literally put their lives in danger in order to protect civilians. Others, such as employees with public works departments, use potentially dangerous equipment and materials.

Public employees are entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim when they are injured on the job. Some workplace injuries are unavoidable, but others occur due to safety violations. The Illinois Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for inspecting the workplaces of the state’s public employees and enforcing safety standards. The Illinois OSHA recently released lists of the top five safety violations in the fiscal year 2019 for Illinois fire departments, public works departments, and water and sewer departments. The different departments shared several common violations:

  1. Hazard Communications: This was the top violation for public works and water and sewer departments, as well as the third violation for fire departments. Public workplaces are required to label their hazardous materials, maintain a database of the materials, and train their employees about the hazards.
  2. Protective Equipment: Respiratory protection was the top violation for fire departments, while personal protective equipment was the fifth violation for water and sewer departments. Firefighters need respirators to prevent them from breathing in harmful substances that fires can create. Water and sewer workers may need protective covering and respirators when they are working in unsanitary environments.
  3. Safe Walking Surfaces: This was the fourth violation for public works departments and the fifth violation for fire departments. The departments are supposed to clear walking surfaces of slip, trip and fall hazards, such as wet spots, sharp objects, and loose boards.
  4. Emergency Preparedness: Medical services and first aid was the second violation for water and sewer departments. Departments must have someone who is trained to administer first aid and adequate supplies, in the event that there is not an infirmary nearby. Emergency action plans were the fifth violation for public works departments. Employees must be trained in how to respond to an emergency, such as a fire.

Contact a Crystal Lake Workers’ Compensation Lawyer

You do not need to prove that a safety violation caused your injury in order to receive workers’ compensation benefits. A McHenry County workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, will help you prove a connection between your injury and your work. To schedule a free consultation, call 815-338-3838.


Why You Need an Attorney for Your Workers’ Compensation ClaimYour first step when considering whether to file a workers’ compensation claim should be to consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer. Some workers may wonder whether a lawyer is necessary in order to receive benefits. Technically, you could complete the claim yourself, and the process may go fine if your injury is minor and your employer is cooperative. However, many workers’ compensation cases are not that simple, and you risk having your claim denied or not receiving full benefits if you are unprepared. Here are four reasons you need an attorney for your workers’ compensation claim:

  1. You Do Not Know the Law: It is unreasonable to expect you to understand all of Illinois’ workers’ compensation laws and how they apply to your case. On the other hand, your employer and its insurance company have experience with workers’ compensation cases and their own attorneys to advise them. Your employer may take advantage of your inexperience by trying to convince you that you lack the grounds to file a claim or offering a settlement that is much less than what you would receive through a claim.
  2. You Are Injured: In the best of circumstances, it would be difficult for someone to teach themselves workers’ compensation law and represent themselves in court. Recovering from an injury is far from you being at your best. The stress of handling your own case could negatively impact your health and delay your recovery.
  3. You Need Someone Savvy to Represent You: Claimants can get themselves in trouble when they take action on their own without guidance from an attorney. You may say or do something that will inadvertently hurt your claim. A workers’ compensation attorney knows what to say – and what not to say – and how to present your claim in arbitration, in front of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, or in court.
  4. Completing Your Claim May Not Be the End: After your case is finished, your attorney will follow up to make sure that the insurance company does not delay paying your compensation. It is also possible that your employer may retaliate against you for filing the claim by demoting or firing you. Retaliation for workers’ compensation claims is illegal, and you would need an attorney to help you file a lawsuit against your employer.

Contact a McHenry County Workers’ Compensation Attorney

The cost of hiring a lawyer is worth it to ensure that you receive the full workers’ compensation benefits in your claim. Schedule a free consultation with a Crystal Lake, Illinois, workers’ compensation attorney at Botto Gilbert Lancaster, PC, by calling 815-338-3838.



Workers’ Compensation Limited in the Gig EconomyAdvances in digital technologies have caused a growth in the gig economy – a job market based on freelance work and short-term contracts. Uber, Airbnb, and Postmates are three examples of gig economy employers who are driven by apps and digital platforms. Employees like the gig economy because it gives them flexibility in when and where they work. Employers benefit from decreased personnel costs because most of their employees are independent contractors. One of the disadvantages of being an independent contractor is that you lack employee benefits, such as workers’ compensation insurance. If the gig economy becomes a larger portion of the workforce, states such as Illinois may consider adjusting their employment laws.

Independent Contractor Rights

Illinois requires employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance in case one of their employees is injured at work. Independent contractors do not qualify for workers’ compensation benefits under Illinois law. However, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission has awarded benefits to independent contractors when it determined the employer treated the contractor as an employee. Examples of evidence include:

  • The contractor works fulltime and exclusively for the employer;
  • The employer determines the contractor’s schedule and work assignments;
  • The employer owns the equipment that the contractor uses;
  • The employer pays for expenses related to the work; or
  • The contractor must pass a drug test before they can start working.


The lack of workers’ compensation benefits for independent contractors will become a larger problem if more workers rely on jobs from the gig economy as their sole income. Even for those who use the gig economy to supplement their main income, there is a concern that they will not receive benefits if injured while doing their independent contract work. State legislative action may be the only way to provide workers’ compensation benefits to gig economy employees. For instance, California recently passed a law that will classify independent contractors for gig economy companies as employees. The law states that a worker is an employee if:


Will a Positive Drug Test Sink Your Workers’ Compensation Claim?A workers’ compensation insurance company will search for reasons that they can deny your claim, including blaming your conduct for your injury. That is why some employers will ask you to submit to a drug test after an injury. According to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, an employee is ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits if their intoxication was the proximate cause of their injury. You can still qualify for workers’ compensation benefits if you failed a drug test, but you will have to prove that your injury was unrelated to the intoxicating substance in your body.

Drug Testing

In September 2011, Illinois changed its burden of proof for intoxication claims in workers’ compensation cases. Previously, employers had to prove that an employee was intoxicated and that the intoxication caused the injury. Now, employees who test positive for drugs bear the burden of proving that they were not intoxicated or that whatever effect the drug had on them did not cause their injury. According to state law, employers can use results from a blood, urine, or breath test as evidence of the presence of:

  • Alcohol;
  • Cannabis;
  • Controlled substances; and
  • Intoxicating compounds.

Intoxicating compounds are otherwise legal substances that can cause intoxicating effects, such as huffing chemicals. The law presumes that you were intoxicated if you refuse a drug test after your injury.

Illinois State Bar Association State Bar of Wisconsin Crystal Lake Chamber of Commerce Illinois Trial Lawyers Association McHenry County Bar Association
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